No more Mr. Nice Guy

In 1991 Ice Cube waged war on Ruthless Records label founder Jerry Heller with one the most vicious diss tracks of all time, “No Vaseline,” claiming that he was cheating N.W.A.

Now, hip-hop’s most vilified mogul has released a tell-all memoir, Ruthless, to clear his name. It’s hard to imagine that anyone cares anymore, being that it’s a full fifteen years later. It kinda makes you wonder why Heller bothered to fire back now. The answer to that question seems to depend on which day you ask.

In his book, Heller claims that he kept quiet all these years cause the allegations were so easy to dismiss. (“If I had stolen from them, why hadn’t they ever sued me?”) One of Heller’s contacts eventually hipped him to an important “street code”: any rumor that isn’t denied is assumed to be true. [1] As a result, dude finally stepped up to tell his side of the story.

Either that or it was pure opportunism. Heller may have chosen to publish now because—as he explains in Part 1 of an interview over at allhiphop—he picked up a copy of Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop and realized there was a market for hip-hop books. Or maybe it was just a simple case of sour grapes. It may have been that—as Heller explains in Part 2 of that same interview—it has always eaten him up that XXL named “No Vaseline” one of the top diss tracks of all time.

Whatever the reason, Heller’s autobiography turns out to be a fascinating, um, piece of work. Heller is an engaging storyteller and he’s had a front row seat for more than four decades of music history. (Before founding Ruthless Records with Eazy-E, Heller worked with the legends like Bruce Springsteen and Marvin Gaye.) The book weaves together Heller’s life story and the Ruthless/N.W.A. narrative with various entertaining anecdotes from the industry. (Helping Van Morrison get over stage fright. Kicking Charles Manson and his hippie groupies out of his house.)

Throughout the book, Heller’s intense love of music is clear, and there are some powerful moments in which he describes the top concerts of his life. Equally as potent are his recollections of Eazy-E. If Heller is to be believed, he loved E like a son.

Of course, Heller doesn’t exactly make for the most trustworthy narrator. He constantly paints himself as an altruistic figure as opposed to a savvy music exec (even claiming that he refused E’s offer to split everything 50/50, and instead opted to collect 20% of the profits at Ruthless.) Obviously, this is a little hard to believe.

Heller’s angelic self-portrayal occasionally lapses, though, and the reader gets glimpses of his other side. At one point, he notes the mercenary nature of the music business, and states that he, like all music moguls, would sign Hitler if he could find a way to make him profitable. At another point, he mocks Dr. Dre, pointing out that after he left Ruthless Records, the label collected 15% of everything Dre released, including the diss tracks that were aimed at them. Contracts like this may have something to do with why the former members of N.W.A. were so pissed at Heller in the first place, but Heller doesn’t seem to get it. His main defense is that he didn’t break the law. He can’t seem to comprehend that business can be exploitive without necessarily being illegal.

The most interesting element of the book comes in the form of a glaring omission. Heller states that he and E had a strong relationship while his mental faculties were still intact. The pair had a falling out during the last few months of Eazy’s life. The fact that Heller breezes by this rift without sharing any of the details tells the reader that there’s much, much more to this story.

As such, this memoir isn’t a particularly believable account of the rise and fall of Ruthless Records. It probably won’t be the last word on the subject either.

If anything, the book simply demonstrates the power of a scathing diss track. In this case, “No Vaseline” is clearly still eating away at its target—a decade and a half after Cube recorded it.


[1] C-boys: can you confirm?

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • soopadoopa

    THIS DUDE IZ STILL ALIVE!!! Does he mention how Dre got off ruthless? I mite check this book out.

    co-sign on rumors and non denials, the must b true.


  • content

    hit’em up

  • content

    agreed it’s harder for exec’s to fire back lacking that conveinant stage (mixtape or otherwise) to voice their side of the story.

    but damn 15 years

  • Fernando

    My only mental picture of this guy is the fat fuck in the “Dre Day” video. lol

  • e

    It looks like a intresting book but I’d rather not hear a music execs side to a story. “No Vaseline” was probably the most vicious diss ever.(although Prodigy hasn’t been the same since “Takeover”)

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    Wow…I never knew Heller was down with the Boss and Charles Manson, that is crazy.

    The book seems interesting, never knew how deep he rolled over the years.

    Does he talk about anyone from Bone Thugs? If he does I will cop it.

  • thebestout!!


  • thoreauly77

    nice post miss henley- as for the no-denial-must-be-true thing, i have very little knowledge of “the streets”, but its pretty obvious that in everyday life this rule does apply, even though it is a stupid one.

  • Belize

    Im surprised that u didnt mention how he used the word “nigga” gazzilion times in the book..(he calls himsef one too)

    Good post ma

  • rizzop

    Nah dude had to be fucking with the money. Why cube get off first and then dre later after the fact. Hes white trash trying to make a buck after all these years…. Cube did niggas like Game doing G-unit now. Except 50 the fat white man!

  • The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE

    It is strange how he speaks out over a decade later…but from what i have observed…the dude is a snake

  • Nelson Abbey

    No Vaseline is THE greatest diss record of all time. Hands down.

    Hit Em Up is nothing without Tupac’s long speech after it. Cube stuck to the points and hit the target well. It was ether before Ether. Heller still struggling to wash of the shame juice a decade and a half later. Whilst Ice Cube probably cant recite the words to it anymore.

    NWA was definatley the black Beatles. Infact, if anything they’re the black Rolling Stones. They’re still rocking shit on!

  • Danja29

    That shit is makin’ Jerry’s soul burn slow.

    And how didn’t his old ass know that any rumor not denied is assumed true?

    And yep, Tara- what’s good with him writing a tell-all and telling nothing of the fallout he and E had? Hmmmm…

  • Spark

    Yara u on fire! good blog fuk Heller,
    damn he still on that shit loooooser

  • Rey

    Yeah, Unless it’s something outrageously stupid, you gotta address false claims being levied against you. I imagine Eazy wanted to reconcile with Dre and Cube near the end of his life and Jerry Heller was against it. Heller was probably afraid E was gonna reform NWA and blast him over what happened. In any event, this book is probably gonna generate as much sympathy as a Suge Knight autobiography. Rest In Peace, E.

  • Enlightened

    “Contracts like this may have something to do with why the former members of N.W.A. were so pissed at Heller in the first place,”

    What do you mean? I was a big fan of N.W.A. but niggas gotta play by the rules like everybody else. Why shouldn’t Ruthless have still been getting 15% from Dre? They were supposed to let him leave for nothing?
    It’s the same thing today, those contracts are standard slavery and everybody knows it. If you don’t like it, DON’T SIGN THAT SHIT AND STAY INDDPENDENT.
    And I don’t wanna hear about niggas not knowing or being able because this is around the same time J PRINCE STARTED RAP-A-LOT and TOO SHORT WAS DOING HIS THING WAS DANGEROUS MUSIC, AND LUKE WAS DOING HIS THANG WITH LUKE RECORDS.

  • Young A. Simmons

    “He loved E like a son” (no birdman and lil Wayne)

    Props on a good read Tara.

    and while you’re all dick riding Cube for his ability to diss, lets not forget Common bodied him on ‘bitch in yoo.’

  • Fernando

    Then Common bodied himself when he wore clogs & a green sweater while rapping to a disabled deaf bitch



  • Meka Soul

    > One of Heller’s contacts eventually hipped him to an important “street code”: any rumor that isn’t denied is assumed to be true.>

    fuck a “street code.” if you deny something, people assume you’re a liar. if you don’t, people assume it’s true. it’s a lose-lose situation.

  • Mr.Me

    Tara has a “edgy” post for a change.
    Jerry Heller has mob ties an he also had someone inject Eazy wit aids cuz Eazy discovered that Heller was really rippin him off (like Cube an Dre said). Eazy was gonna get rid of him but Heller got rid of Eazy 1st.

  • Global Macro

    Her columns have been getting better but her writing still begs for an editor. To wit: “Before founding Ruthless Records with Eazy-E, Heller worked with the legends like Bruce Springsteen and Marvin Gaye.”

    I see, I never realized Bruce Springsteen and Marvin Gaye were legends, thanks for pointing that out.

    Also I laughed at the concept of consulting internet comment-leavers regarding a supposed “street code.”

  • Dat Nigga Tago

    I like your work baby. Tara. I especially like the piece you penned of Tupac – in celebration of his Death Anniversary (if U can even call it a celebration or a Anniversary for that matter). But the homeboyz and I are trying to figure out what is your ethnic bckgroun’. Holla back. Oh yeah fuck BOL

  • sacred cow

    how many copies of this tome has this column sold? is there a disclaimer anywhere regarding the publishers of XXL also being publishers of the book in question? If you don’t deny it , it must be true.

  • H-MAN

    N.W.A. iz a priority, round’em up so we can hitt’em up

  • lar

    you hit it on all point tara- i just finished the book…although it’s a great read there are some things that make ya go hmmmm

  • Bang

    damn, Heller is full of shit. NO ONE in the record industry is “nice peoples.” after heller, there was Puffy, Suge, Master P, shit – everybody is robbing artists. people don’t just these multi latinum labels because it’s all good. shit is nothing new in hip hop or the music industry in general

  • Bang

    ^^^^”everybody is robbing artists. people don’t just leave these multi-platinum labels because it’s all good. “

  • H-MAN

    I got a question???? What wont U sonz a Bush’s do 2 make a buck???

  • H-MAN

    Dre. sayz it best…Itz that hez not 2 big to listen 2 tha rumorz, itz just that hez 2 damn bigg to answer 2 them

  • alleyeCNtower

    the main points are:

    Cube probably didn’t get ganked as bad as he claims, cause Jerry is right about that “why didn’t he sue?” excuse.

    and yes, even when I spoke to Jerry, there was a lapse in time when discussing Eazy’s last days and his why he wasn’t close to Eazy then, when they were so close for so long before that. Unsolved mystery, indeed.

    Regardless, I want to read this book soooo bad, and Jerry Heller is to at least be given some respect. Him and Eazy SHOULD have been paid the most, they ran the business. Eazy gets 2 checks as label owner and rapper, Dre gets two checks as producer and rapper, Jerry gets one check as label exec, and Cube gets one check, as rapper… which is a lower paying job than label exec and it always has been. Cube never said how much he was being robbed. Was he just being greedy? hmmmm….

    After so long, it’s nice to see people know the full story has yet to be told, and the truth needs to still come out.

    this whole damn game is RUTHLESS
    nice post, Tara. one love!

  • I Fux

    You have been on your J.O. lately Tara good read, hey link up NO Vasaline I havent heard it in a minute

  • Poisonous Dart

    I won’t be reading Jerry Heller’s book and I disagree about “No Vaseline” being the illest diss track ever…It definitely was one of the most anticipated, considering the popularity of N.W.A., but not the BEST all time. Ruthless was famous for screwing over it’s artists like the West Coast version of Wild Pitch…why would I read a first hand account by one of it’s execs? Selective memory on Heller’s part would be an issue…he waited long enough that Tomica Wright would have to reply SECOND. Smart idea, but I don’t believe you…you need more people. Good one, Tara. One.


    First of all, E has only been gone for 11 plus years, not 15–

    Heller deserves his props and I have heard stories of Cube n everyone else supposedly rippin people off.

    Dats how record companies make money–

    I read this book and its tyte–

  • Trae Bizzo

    This guy has an answer to everything except “did you gank Dre, Cube, Ren and Yella. and the only reason why they didn’t sue probably is because they where between labels and didn’t have the funds. He actually says he wants to get back into the business, so this is some type of right of passage ghetto pass type shit. You can’t fool us your like the rest we like your son until the money stops.

  • aftermath

    idk if i respect him or not i mean he helped some of the best rappers and prby the best rap group ever but if he really stole from them hes as big a villian as suge knight

  • Automated Blog Posting

    This is a great blog!

  • Automated Blog Posting

    This is the best Automated Blog Posting Software I have used!

  • BillyTheKid

    I’m not quite sure I understand that?
    Then again, it’s probably just me.

  • Guillermo

    What does that have to do with anything?
    I’m just confused I guess.

    Oh wel…