It’s hard to believe, but today (March 26) marks 15 years since Eric “Eazy-E” Wright passed away. The gangsta rap pioneer and N.W.A pioneer was one of hip-hop’s first casualties of AIDS, proving just how deadly and unbiased the disease is. Rather than focus on how Eazy died, wanted to reflect on what he accomplished while he was alive. Laying the blueprint for entrepreneurship, his impact can still be felt today as independence is the name of the game. Here, those influenced and inspired by the Godfather of Gangsta Rap share their thoughts on his everlasting legacy.

“One of the biggest things that Eazy-E brought to hip-hop, in my opinion, was just the attitude of L.A. I feel like he was part of the group N.W.A and that was the best representation of what he was about. He was about the attitude of a young dude growing up in Los Angeles, or Compton, or Watts, or Long Beach, during that time frame. You know, we got a distinct culture in L.A. of gang bangin’ and it developed a certain type of attitude and mentality and I just feel like he embodied that. From the way he dressed to the way he talked to the type of records he made and just his whole perspective on what he stood for on rap music, so I think he just embodied the attitude of a young dude growing up in L.A.”

Image by Travis Shinn

“Without Eazy there would be no Bone Thugs or no Eminems, no Dr. Dres, no Snoop Doggs… There wouldn’t be none of them without the Godfather of Gangsta Rap. It’s always love so when it’s the anniversary of his passing we celebrate it like he was still here, but if he was still here we can’t say how things really would’ve went but we definitely miss him. Rest in peace, there’s always love there.”

“Eazy-E meant that hip-hop had finally had a West Coast gangster in the music business. Someone that had thrown gang signs, smoked sherm, and had been in numerous bare knuckle street fights, yet he had the mouth piece of a salesman and was proud of his city and being from the West Coast. Eazy-E was always thinking three years ahead; I never heard him use the word failure, he just believed that in his heart he could achieve anything… Even though there was negative things in Compton, N.W.A was proud of where they came from. Eazy-E traveled the world and took Compton with him… Gangster rap [and Eazy] gave the West Coast a voice and a chance to be something different.”

“Eric was a pioneer, not just of gangsta rap, but of this music game as a whole. He raised the bar in the business aspect of music, as well. Eazy will always be missed and his legacy will be respected and loved!”

“I respected [Eazy] because he was one of the first artists to say I can put on other MCs under one umbrella of Ruthless Records. He started this well before you even heard of Master P/No Limit or even Buckshot/Dru Ha and Duck Down. He set the pace for what I came to know of as being truly independent.”

Image by Travis Shinn

“[Bone Thugs] was like the climax or the peak of Eazy’s business career to a sense after N.W.A, because he came with a strong twist… We carry on his legacy, plus we know his son, Young E. He take up a lot after his pops so his legacy lives on through all of us. The youngster is amazing, and we definitely gonna keep carrying on that legacy and everybody get they props as he deserve because Eazy paved the way as a straight pioneer. Straight king of it.” —Anslem Samuel