Eric “Eazy-E” Wright had a multitude of fans that respected him as a rapper and for his business acumen. However, in the eyes of his No. 1 supporters—his wife and children— none of his roles was more important than that of a family man.

As an artist, Eazy is often remembered as a gangster rap pioneer but in his personal life, he was funny, loving, quirky and a motivating force in the lives of those who knew him best.

On the 15th anniversary of the rap icon’s passing, caught up with Eazy’s widow, Tomica Wright, who has taken up the helm of Ruthless Records since her husband’s passing. Here she explains how she’s constantly working to keep Eazy’s legacy alive, while providing a rare glimpse into the heart of Eric Wright. What’s one of your earliest memories of Eazy?

Tomica Wright: I remember being on our first date and driving. He had a sunroof and I asked him why he wouldn’t open the sunroof and I went to go open it and he got scared [Laughs]. He was like, “Don’t open it because something is gonna fall in.” He got scared and swerved over. I thought it was funny because it’s like, why get a car with a sunroof if you’re scared of it? That let me know that [he was] human. You look at a person from a different perspective and those little nuances is what brings you close to an individual to see that they have fears, insecurities, strong points and weaknesses. What are some things that you miss most about him?

Tomica Wright: His laughter, the genuineness, his smile, the friendship and that person that you have that you can talk to who genuinely cares whether you’re happy, or sad or whatever—the friendship mostly. Eazy was such a trailblazer for not just hip-hop but the music industry in general. What do you think he would be doing career-wise if he were still alive today?

Tomica Wright: Artist-wise, I think that once a person has it in them, it’s something they don’t let go. I think he’d probably be making the same contribution that some of the other older legends and icons and people that are in this industry who have sustained the test of time have done by contributing, whether it’s a verse here or there… I don’t know if he would have solo project after solo project [but] I think he definitely was a person who sought out other talent and saw things before their time.

I believe he definitely would have done film, merchandising, television—all sorts of things and due to the short demise some things didn’t happen in that time but a lot was accomplished and many doors have opened that allowed opportunities for other people and an example to go off of. So I think he would be doing the same thing he did in the beginning, which is hustling and going against the grain and making his mark even larger than what it is today. In your eyes, who was Eric Wright?

Tomica Wright: He was a lot to a lot of people⎯a mentor, a father, a son, a friend, a fellow band member, an artist. [He was] many, many things and definitely opened doors and deserved a lot of credit but he was very humble at the same time. He worked hard for all he had and learned a lot along the way. Anybody who ever had the opportunity to cross his path had the opportunity to deal with a person who was down-to-Earth, straightforward but had a lot to offer…

He’s missed but his spirit is here. With everybody comes good, bad, ugly and beautiful. He was a real person and he’s truly missed in this era, especially with how music has transitioned. I think he would have had a lot more to be able to contribute; give guidance to a lot of the younger peers and people that are coming up. What were some of the most important lessons you learned from him?

Tomica Wright: What you put into something is what you get out. It doesn’t matter if you’re going against the grain as long as you’re holding strong to that drive, dream plan or whatever it is, there’s going to be an outcome. The other biggest thing I’ve learned from him is there’s not anything you can’t achieve but you have to put forth the effort. No one’s going to give it to you; you have to pave your own way. How are you helping to keep Eazy’s legacy alive?

Tomica Wright: By keeping things that are part of him viable and secure to where they place and have a value in the industry⎯not in just the music side but in other forms that have branched out that he may not have had the ability based on the short demise to be able to accomplish. I’m educating people more about him as a person, an artist, a businessman, an entrepreneur and some of the philosophies and the ideas and accomplishments he achieved. Not just being a gangster rapper, not just dying of AIDS, but really what his contribution was to this genre of music. —Starrene Rhett