It’s been 15 years since hip-hop lost one of its true pioneers—Eric “Eazy-E” Wright. As the brains behind N.W.A, he was more than just a poster child for the streets of Compton, but he, along with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella, singlehandedly ushered in the gangsta rap movement and introduced a much-needed West Coast perspective to hip-hop.
Eazy’s impact didn’t end there. After N.W.A disbanded, the enterprising MC set out to expand his Ruthless Records empire. As one of the first Black label owners, Eazy thrived outside of the major label system and introduced listeners to acts like B.G. Knocc Out, Dresta and Cleveland quintet Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. (Eazy even signed Black Eyed Peas, then known as Atban Klann, prior to his death).
With an unmatched business acumen and clear ear for talent, Eazy was one of the best at what he did. Bone Thugs, in fact, sold over five million copies of their 1995 debut, E. 1999 Eternal.
In celebration of the life and legacy Eazy, XXLMag.com caught up with Krayzie Bone to reflect on what Eric Wright meant to hip-hop, his favorite moment with the O.G. and how different the game would be if the Father of Gangsta Rap was still here.
XXLMag.com: Today marks 15 years since Eazy-E passed; do you feel as if his legacy is still prevalent in the game right now?
Krayzie Bone: His legacy is still prevalent because his legacy is gangsta rap. Eazy-E is the one who pioneered the freedom of speech on wax and if it wasn’t for him [paving the way] a lot of these rappers wouldn’t be doing anything. I mean, because if you look at it, Eazy is the one who created the movement on the West Coast. He is the one that really put out Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, so if there had never been an Eazy-E, there wouldn’t be a West Coast movement.
XXLMag.com: Gangsta rap has always been shunned to a certain extent my mainstream media. Do you think that the genre is as impactful as it was in the ’90s?
Krayzie Bone: I think so, because people don’t understand that Eazy-E wasn’t just gangsta rap; he was actually one of the first Black men to own his own record company. Really, he and Russell Simmons were the only ones doing that at one point. So he sparked a lot of movements in the game that people overlook or credit to someone else.
XXLMag.com: A lot of people only know the music side of Eazy, which was shrouded in controversy but he was so much more than that. As one of his protégés, can you shed some light on how he was as a father, mentor and friend?
Krayzie Bone: Eazy was like a big brother to all of us. When we first signed with Eazy, man, we were fresh off the streets and didn’t care about nothing. But Eazy used to always try to teach us things and try to help us realize what we had and taught us how not to take it for granted. People don’t know this, but when we first signed with Eazy, he was in the middle of his beef with Dr. Dre and Death Row. Us being young, we was ready to jump right in because we were riding for our team, but Eazy told us that he didn’t want us to get involved with that stuff because we were going to be bigger than that; and I think that if he was still here we would definitely be way bigger than we are because you couldn’t stop his vision.
XXLMag.com: What’s something that people really need to know about Eazy-E?
Krayzie Bone: A lot of people look at Eazy as a gangster and he was so much more than that. Eazy was a great businessman and promoter, if it was about money Eazy was all over it. But also he was a prankster; he was a very funny dude, like, he was the type that would pull jokes on you in front of hidden cameras. Really, he did Punk’d before Ashton [Kutcher] because the stuff you see on Punk’d, Eazy was doing back in the early ’90s.
XXLMag.com: What is the funniest prank you remember Eazy pulling on someone?
Krayzie Bone: Man, there were so many. [Laughs] He wasn’t a heavy drinker, but when he was buzzed we always got laughs, and the funny thing is that he would get buzzed on the lightest drink, he would be sippin’ on Alize and getting drunk. [Laughs] We used to tell him, “Man, how you gettin’ drunk on that weak ass shit.” But he kept the laughs coming.
XXLMag.com: Where do you think Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would be right now if Eazy was still alive?
Krayzie Bone: I definitely think that we would be on the forefront because we would have had more opportunity, because, to be honest, no one has ever understood us like the way he did. To be real, if we were signed to any other label, I don’t think that we would have been as successful as we are today, because they couldn’t deal with us. Eazy really cared for us because we were rough and he still kept us around. I mean we tore up almost every hotel in Los Angeles and were kicked out of all of them and Eazy still kept working with us and trying to develop us as artists.
XXLMag.com: What do you think it was about Eazy that he could see Bone Thugs’ talent when others couldn’t?
Krayzie Bone: He really liked the fact that we were tight and stuck together. When we were in LA, we never went anywhere without each other, so if I went to the store so did everyone else. I remember him saying to us one time that if N.W.A had been as tight as we were that they would have never broken up. —Tiffany Hamilton
R.I.P. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright – September 7, 1963 – March 26, 1995
BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY “CROSSROADS”