Nov. 5, 2022

Gangsta rapper Eazy-E and me – Part II [Explicit]

Gangsta rapper Eazy-E and me – Part II [Explicit]

Rap mogul Eazy-E's death from AIDS complications in 1995 was a shock. Hear reactions at the time from  Wu-Tang's Method Man and others. Plus, hear Michael's 1992 talk with Eazy while driving in Compton during the L.A. riots.

In a million years, I never would have predicted Eazy-E's sudden and totally unexpected death from complications related to AIDS in 1995.  When I interviewed him in 1991, he even said to me specifically that he'd be very careful not to get AIDS.

As we mentioned in the episode, his death generated a lot of controversy -- most of all, this 2003 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live where Dr. Dre's former cohort Suge Knight seemed to get pleasure from hinting that he was somehow involved with Eazy-E's death.

The 2015 hit movie Straight Outta Compton also seemed to promote some misleading details about Eazy-E's life and death.  Based on my experience, I'd say that this very entertaining movie does not tell the full story.  To find out why, you can listen to Eazy-E's manager Jerry Heller tell his side to TMZ. (Jerry filed an unresolved lawsuit about the movie before he died of a heart attack in 2016.)

The relationship between Eazy-E, Jerry, and NWA was complicated, constantly agitated by the fact that rap songs and communication are full of joking insults, as well as scary threats.  When you watch Ice Cube's response to Jerry -- where he links the feud back to the way he insulted Jerry in the song No Vaseline -- Cube actually confirmed my feelings that the movie was created with a strong bias against Jerry and, to some extent, Eazy-E.


Meanwhile, it was comforting to listen again to my phone interviews for the PEOPLE Magazine article about Eazy's death, especially because of the kindness and generosity of the rappers I interviewed.  I spoke with Wu Tang Clan's Method Man -- who has since become a terrific actor on The Wire, Oz, CSI and many other shows.  He built a memorable personality as a rapper, which you can see in his clips on Youtube.  Here are a couple of standouts:  Method Man and Bring the Pain.

I also heard from Rodney O., a rapper who never reached the same level of fame as Eazy-E or Method Man -- though he certainly has a way with words and great beats from his partner Joe Cooley.

Both Sally and I wish we could start a Rodney O. revival.  So here's another clip of his for you:


In 1992, a year after I first met him, I called Eazy-E during the L.A. riots and asked if he'd take me on a tour of the riot area for coverage in PEOPLE.  Not only did he agree, but he picked me up in his Mercedes with two bodyguards in the back seat -- and we spent the day together.  I know the audio quality of my tapes is not perfect.  But it was such an unusual angle on a major event that I decided to include as much as I could in the episode.

Thirty years after the riots, some of the details may have dimmed for those who watched it on the news.  So here's a clip from CBS that captures some of the violence and destruction:


Surprisingly, the NFL also produced a clip linking the riots to the Black Lives Matter movement, which you can watch on Youtube.

And here's a very interesting clip by a UCLA student, giving the history behind the little-reported conflict between black people and Koreans in South-Central Los Angeles:

Eazy-E's death puts a different spin on my own memories of that time.  It emphasizes for me the value of the objects I've saved that remind me of him.

In case you missed the first episode about Eazy-E, which includes my never-heard interview with him, you can listen here.

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Will anything get tossed? Could happen. THANK YOU for listening!


I Couldn't Throw It Out, Podcast Episode 8

Part 2: Gangsta Rapper Eazy-E and Me, Part II [Explicit]

 I couldn't throw it out
I have to scream and shout
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out

MICHAEL SMALL: Hello Sally Libby!

SALLY LIBBY: Hello Michael Small!

MICHAEL: In the last episode we did about Eazy-E, you heard my first interview with him, most of which ended up in my book about rap music.

SALLY: Break it Down!

MICHAEL: I wonder if you're gonna shout the title every time I say the words "my book about rap music."

SALLY: Break It Down!

MICHAEL: I guess we have your answer.  Anyway, this time, I want to try sharing some of my other audio interviews and artifacts about Eazy-E – the things that didn't make it into my book or my articles.

SALLY: Hey!  If it didn't get in the article, why save it for 40 years so we have to hear it now?

MICHAEL: Did I just hear the Royal We?  Consider this, Oh Queen Sally!   When I listened again to the tapes and looked at the papers, it brought back another time in a really powerful and surprising way.  Would you at least be willing to give a listen and tell me if you agree.

SALLY: Well, since you're my loyal subject, I'll grant your wish.

MICHAEL: Why thank you, Sire!  And since I'm experimenting, I want to start at the end and move backward. 

SALLY: You're a madman!

MICHAEL: Unfortunately, the ending is an unhappy one.  Eazy-E was so important to anyone who followed gangsta rap.  When he died in 1995, it was a huge shock.  Very upsetting. 

SALLY: It really was surprising that he died of pneumonia related to AIDS.  Back then, a lot of people still thought AIDS was limited to gay men.  Or people who shared needles.

MICHAEL: The consensus is that Eazy got AIDS from heterosexual sex.  He sure did brag about his skills with women.  He rapped this…

Well I'm Eazy-E, I got bitches galore
You may have a lot of bitches but I got more

SALLY: It's not QUITE as convincing, coming out of your mouth.

MICHAEL: That boasting might have been Eazy's fatal flaw.  Remember how he told me that he used condoms -- but had a bottle of tetracycline and he thought he'd take it if he ever ran into trouble?

SALLY: That was NOT going to work for him.

MICHAEL: Of course, there were alternate theories about how Eazy got sick. In Straight Outta Compton..

SALLY: The movie I watched at your command...

MICHAEL: Remember the scenes with Suge Knight?

SALLY: Yeah.  Big tough guy!  A friend of Dr. Dre's, right?  He's the one who beat up Eazy.  In the movie, anyway.

MICHAEL: Apparently, that scene has an element of truth.  It's been said that Suge threatened Eazy to try to get Dr. Dre out of his contract.

SALLY: Right.

MICHAEL: Side note:  If that fight ever happened, Suge may have won it.  But he lost the war.  Eazy assured me that he still got royalty checks from Dre's records.  Every time Dre wrote lyrics that attacked Eazy, it meant more money for Eazy.

SALLY: So Eazy-E was crying all the way to the bank.

MICHAEL: In 2003, Suge went on Jimmy Kimmel Live after getting out of prison for a parole violation, and he joked that someone could get AIDS by being injected with infected blood.  He even said "Like that Eazy-E thing."


MICHAEL: I put a link to the clip on our site at  .  You can watch it and decide. 

SALLY: Is it possible?

MICHAEL: Some people thought so.  A few medical experts weighed in and said that it couldn't happen that way.  Poking him with needles wouldn't do it.   

SALLY: Either way, I can't believe anyone would joke about that.     Where is Suge now?

MICHAEL: Oh, he's in prison again, serving a 28-year sentence for hitting and killing someone with his car.  It happened after an argument about the movie you saw.

SALLY: I can't even believe that happened.

MICHAEL: It sure did.

SALLY: But there's no proof that Suge was involved with Eazy's death.  So is it possible that Eazy knew he was sick for a long time and he didn't tell anyone?

MICHAEL: That seems unlikely, based on what I heard from a few people, including Russell Simmons.  You know who he is?

SALLY: In this case, I actually have a clue.  I think he ran the Def Jam Comedy Hour on TV, right?

MICHAEL: Well yes, but that shows your bias for comedy.  He was better known as the producer of Run DMC, the creator of their record label.  He created the Phat Farm clothing line, he was a movie producer.  I don't know.  He had a ton of other businesses.  Unfortunately, his reputation shifted in 2017 when 13 women accused him of sexual misconduct.  That included Louanne DeLessips.

SALLY: The Real Housewife?

MICHAEL: Yup.  Then Jenny Lumet, who's an actress and screenwriter, wrote a detailed article about her experience with him in the Hollywood Reporter.  After that, Simmons stepped back from his businesses.

SALLY: Every angle of this story involves controversy.

MICHAEL: Yes. And I can already hear some people saying, "Rap music caused all these problems."  Which is total bullshit. I spoke with more rap stars than most people on this planet.    The vast majority of them were among the most ethical, thoughtful, generous people I've ever met.  You cannot pin the actions of Suge Knight or Russell Simons on rappers and rap music any more than can blame all movie producers for whatever Harvey Weinstein did or all actors for what Bill Cosby did.

SALLY: Your point is taken.

MICHAEL: Okay then! Getting back to Russell Simmons... when I interviewed him, he added another surprising detail about Eazy's last months.


RUSSELL SIMMONS: Four weeks ago, I had dinner with Eazy at the Bowery Bar.  He looked 100% healthy.

MICHAEL: Were you meeting to talk about business, or…

RUSSELL SIMMONS: Yeah.  He licensed a record from Bone Thugs and Harmony for the soundtrack I'm producing. We had a five-hour dinner.

MICHAEL: You had a five-hour dinner.

RUSSELL SIMMONS: Yeah, we started at 7 and it was over about 12:30-1:00.  No one knew he was sick.  He didn't say he was sick. 


SALLY: So that dinner was in February – and Eazy went into the hospital when?

MICHAEL: That was Feb. 24 and then he died on March 26.

SALLY: It doesn't seem possible.

MICHAEL: This is why so many people didn't believe it was AIDS.  But I spoke at length with a public relations officer at the hospital where Eazy died – it was Cedars Sinai – and she confirmed the details.  She also said that Eazy was admitted for bronchial problems.  They found out that he and his family had a history of asthma.

SALLY: So that's why they showed him coughing near the end of the movie.

MICHAEL: But you have to keep in mind what Russell Simmons and what other rappers told me. Eazy didn't seem sick, right up until early February.  That's why I think it makes sense for me to share a little  bit of my interview with the hospital.  Just so you can get it from a neutral source.  Unfortunately, with all my phone interviews after Eazy died, you can hear me clacking on my computer keyboard. But I'll keep it short so it doesn't drive you crazy.  Here's what she said:


HOSPITAL PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER: The way the doctor put it – "symptoms of progressive breathing problems."  And five days later the test came back and they saw he had full-blown AIDS.  And then he got much sicker very quickly.  His health worsened dramatically.  The doctors moved him to the intensive care unit on the 15th of March. There was a lot of rumors that he was going to get better.  It never was true.  It was always fairly evenly critical.

MICHAEL: The rumor going around is that someone saw his medical records and he knew he had AIDS for a long time.  Is there any response to this particular rumor?

HOSPITAL PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER: That's totally news to me and to anybody else.  And I know the doctor had said that from what he had known that it had not been established that he had AIDS.  And according to what the doctor said yesterday, there is no record of that.


SALLY: That's scary.  He went so fast.

MICHAEL: Yes, but doctors confirmed that there are cases where AIDS progresses at this speed.  It was rare but it happened.  Also, along with the asthma, Eazy had another challenge that may have contributed to the speed of his  death.  I got a hint of that from Eazy's former business partner Jerry Heller.  He had this to say about Eazy before he died:

JERRY HELLER: There's just a lot of questions here, Michael.  I don't know what to tell you.  It would be hard for me to believe that he did know.  I can tell you that I sure didn't know.  And I know that a couple years ago, he started getting sick.  Colds.  Then he got that bad flu.  The man never slept.  He would work 16, 18, 48 hours in a row.  It turned into bronchitis.  I can't explain it, Michael.  I just go around in circles. You know, when I try to think it through.  You know, and then all of the sudden, and he died!


SALLY: I never would have pictured Eazy as a workaholic.  He seems so laid back.

MICHAEL: I told you.  He was complicated.  And his death was a real warning to the rap community.  I talked about that with Method Man.

SALLY: There you go, name dropping again.

MICHAEL: Truth be told, when I interviewed him, I had no idea who he was.  But I should have known.  He was already famous for performing with the Wu-Tang Clan.  Later, he went on to a lot of major acting roles.  He played "Cheese" on The Wire, he played Rodney on the Deuce.  This is one of those types of interviews that wouldn't normally get shared.  The writer would grab a  quote and toss the rest.  But his voice is so rich and he has such a vivid way of putting things.  So I want to share it.  Here's what he said:


METHOD MAN: I met him before it happened, and stuff.  Yeah, he gave me a joint.  (laughs).  Word.  Me and Redman, and stuff.  But yo man, it's deep.  Know what I'm saying?  It's even deeper now because it's hitting home.  You know, in the hip-hop community.  So it's hitting us.  It's like, yo, 'cause Eazy-E, he like the brother next door.  You know what I'm saying? So when you see it happen to him, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. That's why as for myself – I speak for myself – I don't… I don't… When I go on the road man, I strictly write rhymes or I bug out with my peoples.  Females do be around.  You know what I'm saying?  But as for me, doing that thing-thing, if I'm gonna do it, man, I've got to be protected at all times.  You play yourself going up in any of them things raw deal, man.

MICHAEL: I did a book about rap and I interviewed Eazy-E and he said the same thing. He said he protected himself too.

METHOD MAN: Yeah.  Well, it's one thing to say it and another thing to do it.  Now.  I feel for him.  I was heartbroken. You what I'm saying?  Big up to his family.  Hopefully they ain't got it either.  His babies that he just had.  'Cause he's gonna live on forever through his children. That's the best thing that came out of this whole thing for Eazy-E.  And that's just about it, man.  All I can do is to tell these brothers to protect they neck.  For real.  Yeah.  They joint.  Protect your neck. In a whole different aspect now.  Because if it could hit him, it could hit anybody.  If it could hit Magic, it could hit anybody.  And it don't discriminate.


SALLY: I wonder to what extent his reaction represented the rap community.  And if anyone listened to him.

MICHAEL: Of course, I can't speak for everyone.  But I interviewed a rapper named Rodney O. He was a friend of Eazy's.  And his reaction was also really thoughtful.  Check this out.


MICHAEL: Do you think this is gonna open people's eyes, or not?

RODNEY O: You know what? You know, I really can't say that.  Because I mean… it's like.  You know how people are.  "It could never happen to me."  Just that type of attitude.  I think it's an individual thing.  You know what I'm saying?  You can tell people to use a condom or not to.  And they're gonna do what they want to do.  And suffer the consequences later.  You know what I'm saying?  I'm a realist. And I hate to say it but people are hard-headed.  And we all know that we can get 50 people in a room and there's gonna be 40 people who say the sky is blue and there's gonna be 10 assholes who say it's green.  And it's always gonna be like that.  Man, I mean I would like to see this world change for the better and all that.  But I honestly feel it's too late.  Those who go down the right path and choose to do the right thing will be okay.  But everybody else, I just don't see it.

MICHAEL: Is there any indication that he was taking drugs?  Or what?

RODNEY O: Nah.  I just think… you know, I mean of course somebody might say they was.  And this and that.  But I really doubt it. I've heard stories about the little parties and things like that.  So I can easily see what… You never know what people do. You never know what people like.  You know what I'm saying?


SALLY: I keep thinking about the mothers of Eazy's children.  There were about 10 of them, right? 

MICHAEL: Ten might be an exaggeration.  In his obituary in the Washington Post, the official word was that he had eight kids by seven mothers. 

SALLY: And none of the mothers contracted AIDS, right? 

MICHAEL: Which is extremely lucky.  Especially for his girlfriend Tomika Woods.  She was pregnant with their son.

SALLY: Whoa.  That must have been terrible for her.

MICHAEL: Yes.  Definitely.  But Tomika ended up better off  than other people in Eazy's life.

SALLY: Another twist?

MICHAEL: A big one. It all started back in 1991.  That's when Eazy met Tomika at a nightclub.  Back then.   she was working as an assistant to a guy who had been in the music business forever.  His name was Clarence Avant.  And he later became chairman of Motown.  So Tomika definitely knew something about the music business, which she learned from him .  In a later interview, she said she wasn't interested in Eazy when they first met.  But something  must have changed because she was his girlfriend – really, his main girlfriend – for years after that.

SALLY: He sure didn't give the impression of being the kind of guy who would settle down with one woman.  In the interview he did with you, he pretty much told you that he was sleeping around.

MICHAEL: But he also said he had one main partner, remember?  Now we don't know if that was Tomika or someone else.  What we do know is that just one or two months before his death, EZ broke off his business relationship with Jerry Heller.  Apparently, Eazy knew a lawyer named Ron Sweeney.  So Eazy hired Sweeney to help with all the legal details of the break with Jerry.  A few weeks later, Eazy went into the hospital.  And that's when Sweeney's role expanded suddenly.  All public communication came from him.

SALLY: Eazy was sick and needed help.  So he hired him.

MICHAEL: That sounds plausible.  But then Sweeny became closely aligned with Tomika Woods. Twelve days – twelve days --   before Eazy's death – when he was either in the ICU or about to go in the ICU -- they held a wedding ceremony in the hospital and Tomika became Eazy's first wife officially.  Around the same time, Eazy's will was rewritten.

SALLY: And you said you have a copy of the will.

MICHAEL: I do. I'm not sure how I got it.  Someone must have sent it to me when I was reporting my story.  It's right in my hand. 

SALLY: What does it say?

MICHAEL: Well, it says a lot.  Everything Eazy owned was put into a trust: his money, his business, his royalty agreements, his many cars – he had  a Chevrolet that was red from 1964 and another one that was white from 1964.  His jewelry was listed, his houses.  There's one in Norwalk, one in Calabasas.  His furnishings are listed, collectibles.  All his possessions.   And the executors of the trust:  They were Ron Sweeney and Tomika Woods.  Not his parents.  Not his brother or sister.  And we know from what the hospital told us, he made this decision when he was REALLY sick.

SALLY: If he thought he was going to die, he could have made a lot of decisions he wouldn't make if he felt fine.

MICHAEL: True.  And  Rodney O. – the rapper I mentioned earlier – talked to me a bit about the scene and the hospital.  Because he went to visit.  I think it's worth sharing that.  Here it is.


MICHAEL: Did you go by the hospital when he was sick?


Yeah.  We went by and, you know, his family and stuff was there.  We just brought him some flowers and basically, you know, a little card just saying that our thoughts was with him then.  Because, you know, nobody expected this of course.


MICHAEL: So he confirmed that Eazy's family was there.  But none of them were executors of the will.

SALLY: Maybe he was estranged from them?  But I get where you're going.  It's a bit odd.

MICHAEL: Yeah, and there are other details that kind of explain it.  Tomika said in a later interview that she gave notice at her job right before Eazy got sick – and that she was planning already to become General Manager of Ruthless.  So that explains some of what happened.  But it did not stop the lawsuits that followed.  In my box, I also found a copy of a suit by Mike Klein who was a manager at Ruthless Records, the label that Eazy and Jerrry started.  The suit claims that Eazy was in a weak physical and mental state when he was forced – and it says – "with undue influence" to get married and change his will.  Now that suit was settled out of court.  But some of the mothers of Eazy's children also filed suits for more support. And Jerry filed a suit.  And it was messy.

SALLY: Were any of the lawsuits successful?

MICHAEL: Not as far as I could find.

SALLY: So maybe there's a simple explanation.  Tomika and Eazy were surprised by the speed that he went downhill.


SALLY: They didn't plan for it.  They couldn't plan for it.  So they had to make a lot of financial arrangements at the last minute.   Now here's what I wonder: In Straight Outta Compton, they made it look like Eazy was poor at the end.  If he was so poor, why did everyone sue for his money?

MICHAEL: Good question.  When Tomika was named the head of Ruthless Records, it certainly had value.  Look the value that came out of the movie.  Tomika was a producer.  She must have made a nice sum.

SALLY: Eazy did okay by Tomika.

MICHAEL: And that's another unexpected thing. Eazy did okay by a lot of people.  He was known as a drug dealer who then was a gangsta rapper.  But that wasn't the real person.  He actually was very generous to friends and family, and he was a big supporter of many charities, especially one called Athletes and Entertainers for Kids.  I called that charity.  And I have a tape where they list event after event where Eazy gave his time and lots of money.  Here's what Jerry told me about it.


JERRY HELLER: Eric loved children more than anything.  He loved children.  He would think nothing of renting a half a dozen busses, taking 500 kids to the black rodeo or Raging Waters or Magic Mountain or Disneyland.  And he was never really happy unless he was with young people, you know.  He loved children.  He loved his children.  He was a wonderful father.  It's hard to say he was a good husband because he had so many girlfriends that he had children with. But he took care of his children. And I know because that was one of my jobs.  The children went to the finest schools. Were dressed right.  You know, there was always birthday parties and Christmas parties.  He loved his children.


SALLY: Hearing Jerry speak makes me think of the way  Paul Giametti played him in the movie.  So similar.

MICHAEL: If Jerry were here today, he might not take too kindly to that.  When he died of a heart attack in 2016, he had seen the movie – and he filed more lawsuits about the way he was portrayed.

SALLY: Yeah.  It wasn't exactly complimentary.

MICHAEL: That movie did a great job of conveying how Ice Cube felt and Dr. Dre and Tomika.  But there was a lot that they left out.   Such as...  maybe Jerry was a difficult person.  But he was no fly-by-night huckster.  Before NWA, he worked as an agent or manager with tons of big artists.  I looked it up.  There was…  Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison, Ike and Tina Turner, Black Sabbath, Journey, Crosby Stills & Nash.  He also set up the first U.S. tour for Elton John.  Of course we have no idea if he had good relationships with all these performers.

SALLY: Either way, he was no stranger to the music business and how all the deals are set up.

MICHAEL: Right.  And guess who was the first to make a connection with Jerry.

SALLY: Um….  Barbra Streisand?

MICHAEL: Ha ha.  It was Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, NOT Eazy.  Yeah.  Jerry was manager of Ice Cube's group C.I.A. and Dre's group World Class Wreckin' Crew – and it was their friend Alonzo Williams who introduced Eazy to Jerry.

SALLY: But they hated Jerry!

MICHAEL: Not at first.  And by the way, World Class Wreckin' Crew was no gangsta rap group.  Dr. Dre's first group wore gold lame and lace and bikers shorts onstage – and made a kind of disco rap.  The gangsta thing didn't happen until Eazy-E started Ruthless Records.  If you don't believe me, you can find a Youtube clip of the Wreckin' Crew on our website, .  

SALLY: Didn't Ice Cube and Dre say that Jerry and Eazy were cheating them?

MICHAEL: When I asked Jerry about that, he made a good point.  He claimed that they never sued him.  And if they were getting cheated, why didn't they sue?  Here's how Eazy explains the situation:


EAZY-E: Okay, we all started together and everything.

MICHAEL: I know.  You were really good friends, weren't you?

EAZY-E: I own… I own the company.  I formed NWA.  And I'm a solo artist myself.  So he couldn't take me getting paid from the company, plus I'm in the group, plus I’m my own solo.  So that's like me getting paid three different times, you know? And they couldn't see that.  I mean, if I put up all the money, I run the company, I do this, I do that…  I mean, there was five of us in the group.  So we split shit five ways.

MICHAEL: But didn't he… did he write the songs?  And he wanted song-writing royalties?

EAZY-E: He got song-writing royalties.  Whatever he wrote on, he got paid for whatever he wrote on. Everything.  There wasn't no screwing.   Nobody telling them, you know, this… I guess it was a big group.  And everybody got they share of it. I probably got twice as much.  Because I got the company and myself.


SALLY: Fascinating.

MICHAEL: And here's how Jerry explains it – in a way that's actually quite generous.


JERRY HELLER: I still say that the reason NWA broke up wasn't because of any alleged transgression on the part of Ruthless.  It was because there was too much talent in this one group.  It would be like if Magic Johnson and Michael Jordon and Anthony Hardaway were in the same back court.  I mean, it was just too much talent.  It couldn't exist.  It was busting at the seams.  So, you know, when guys like Dre were saying that he had been not accounted to properly, what they're really saying is, "Hey man, we're just too big and too talented to be in this group.  We deserve to be on our own."  On the other hand, Eazy was really saying, "Hey, I found ya.  I discovered ya.  I conceptualized.  I put you together.  And, um, you've gotta live up to your contract.


SALLY: So if Jerry was so positive about all this, why did Eazy break off with him two months before he died?

MICHAEL: That we'll never know.  It's always possible that the disagreed about the direction of the business.  But when I interviewed Jerry, he would not even confirm that they  had a split.  I have my own theory.  Want to hear it?

SALLY: Go for it.

MICHAEL: Jerry told me that Eazy was obsessed with staging an NWA reunion in 1995.  And he knew that Dre and Ice Cube would never join a reunion as long as Jerry was involved. 

SALLY: So he ended their relationship to pull off this project?  That's slightly plausible.

MICHAEL: Just remember – they would have made a lot of money from that project, and it might have been worth it.  Anyway, now that I've piqued your interest, I want to play you a little more from my interview with Jerry.  Maybe I'm naïve...

SALLY: You said it, not me.

MICHAEL: Okay, but it sure sounds to me as if Jerry still had great love for Eazy-E – no matter what happened between them two months before I got this interview. 


JERRY HELLER: What this young man was able to do – and he was virtually a child when I met him – what he was able to do was…. You know, Ice Cube would write a lyric and Eric would say, "Hmmm… That's a little corny." Or Dre would produce something and Eric would say, "Well, maybe we should do it this way."  In his own understated way – even though he wasn't the writer in the group, even though he wasn't the producer in the group – he would push people to achieve things that they couldn't do on their own.  He would do it in a very understated way, without saying "Hey asshole – this is the way you should do it."  And he had the ability to make the total more than the sum of its parts. He could make two plus two equal five.  And he did.  He pushed me to make the same deals for a rap artist that heretofore had been reserved only for white groups – the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and people like that.  He had this vision.  He also had this incredible ability to believe in people before they believed in themselves.  You know, he was very very insightful.  He was bigger than life.  He was the little big man. He was a wonderful person.  He was a terrific guy, Michael.

MICHAEL: One thing we didn't really touch on is how all this has left you feeling.

JERRY HELLER: You know, every day I got up for the last eight years – I got up and my life was Ruthless Records and, you know, Eazy and NWA's career.  And all of the sudden now, he's gone.  I can't even explain it, man.  Just can't explain it.  I'm devastated by it.


SALLY: I think I'm with you.  I believe it too.

MICHAEL: It seems like such a contradiction.  But this major figure in gangsta rap was loved by many people.  When he entered the hospital, they received 5000 calls in two days – more than ever before, more than when Lucille Ball and George Burns were there.  To try to give a betters sense of how people felt about him, I want to go back to that interview with the rapper Rodney O.  He never become a huge rap superstar.  But, man, the way he talked.  His use of language is so beautiful.

SALLY: That’s no surprise.  Rappers are all about language.

MICHAEL: But what really gets me is his empathy, his kindness.  This is not what everyone expects from rappers.  It's kind of a long clip.  But I love to hear him talk.  I hope you will too.


RODNEY O: It's been hard for me to sleep, man, and stuff like that. For one, the reason being is because we started out together.  You know, when my first record came out, his first record came out.  And this was the time when the West Coast rappers were really starting to put the records out, really starting to make a dent in the music business.  And, you know, it just hits real close to home, man.  'Cause you know if you started out together with somebody from day one and then something happens to him – and you were so close to him, and doing the same thing and had the same goals – it hits close to home.  You know, it made me feel sad and then on the other hand, it made me feel humble too.  Because you know I haven't reached the success of a Eazy-E and made as much money as a Eazy-E.  But would I trade places with him now?  No.  So it made me humble and sad at the same time. I think the main thing that made me feel funny about the whole situation was just, you know, how did he react to the news and, you know, for him to have taken the music business so far and make all that money, that all that went out the drain I'm sure.  You know what I'm saying? I mean personally to him, once he found this out. I was really trying to basically put myself in his shoes because I was so close to what he was doing. You know what I'm saying? I just put myself in his shoes.  And man, that's something terrible to have to deal with.

MICHAEL: When you're telling people about Eazy-E, do you have a particular memory?

RODNEY O: Any encounter that I've ever had with him, I remember now.  You know what I'm saying? We basically stayed within the same 10-mile radius.  So I would see him driving along down the street. So we'd see each other and pull over and talk.  I would do shows.  Matter of fact, we just did this low-rider show at the sports arena – it was like 50,000 people.  We had a concert there.  And, at that time, this  was about four or five months ago.

MICHAEL: Did he seem sick to you at the time?

RODNEY O: No.  Not at all.  Because I would say to myself, you know even if he was, I'm sure he wouldn't have been there and I'm sure he wouldn't be as happy as he was, or seemed to be.  But it was like almost every situation that I was in with him now is just weird to me.  I just look back on it and now and it's just weird. I've lost a brother before.  But it almost feels like I've lost another one.  We didn't hang out  on a day-to-day basis.  So I can imagine the people that's closest to him…. I even called Jerry Heller.  You know, he wasn't no longer workin' for Eazy.  I called him 'cause I just said to myself, "Anybody who's been with somebody for nine years, it's got to affect you."

MICHAEL: When you went to the hospital, he was too sick to see people at the time.

RODEY O: Right.  He was unconscious.  Basically, what I wanted to do was just go by there and let him know that I was there, let him know that we did care and I did respect the man.  I think everybody did.  Even Dre, Death Row Records.  Everybody that he's had contact with. You have to respect someone who did the things he did.  And if you don't, something's wrong with ya.


SALLY: You're right.  I loved that.  I wonder where he is now.  I hope he's doing well.  Let's put a link to his music on the website – maybe he'll find some new fans.

MICHAEL: Excellent idea. Now I have one last tape to share with you.  And it's a biggie.  I had one more experience with Eazy-E that was different from almost every interview I ever did.  It goes back to 1992 and the verdict for the Rodney King trial.  What do you remember about that?

SALLY: I remember that Rodney King was beaten by L.A. police officers and it might have been the first time that someone caught it on tape. 

MICHAEL: It was one of the major events that led up to the Black Lives Matter movement.  Daryl Gates, at that time was head of the LAPD.  And he encouraged the force to be aggressive in a way that was terrible for the black and Latin communities. So in March 1991, Rodney King had his car pulled over after a police chase of some sort.  T hen he was beaten for many minutes, resulting in skull fractures and brain damage.  Do you remember the verdict from the jury which – by the way – was mostly white.

SALLY: The police were acquitted, right?  And then riots broke out in L.A.

MICHAEL: Those riots were intense. Large parts of South-Central were burned.  Tons of looting.  Thousands of  people were injured.  Thousands were arrested.  Something like 50 people died.  It lasted five days, even after the National Guard and federal troops were brought  in to bring peace.  I was recruited to help with the coverage for PEOPLE.  So they flew me to L.A. and on May 3 – which happened to be my 35th birthday – I met Eazy, who drove me around Compton and South-Central in his Mercedes on the last day of the riots.  I happened to have my tape recorder.  So I recorded it.  And I found the tape in one of my boxes.

SALLY: Okay.  I no longer think that everything you've kept in those boxes is junk.

MICHAEL: Thank you, Sally.  In what I'm about to play, I took out some parts that were too hard to hear, or just repetitive.  But I left in as much as I could, so you could get the feel of what it was like for  two of us to witness this.  He was driving.  You can actually hear when he uses the blinker or puts on his seat belt.  I was in the front seat.  And we had two guards in the backseat who – apparently – were armed.  I hope you find it interesting...


MICHAEL: …both black and white people saying that it made them sick to see what was going on.  And other people saying, "I was glad at everything that happened."  It just made me happy.

EAZY-E: I wouldn't say I'm glad at everything that happened.  Because a lot of shit didn't make no sense. As far as them doing all the looting.  For they took it from one thing…. I could see them acting up at the verdict.  They was disappointed at that "not guilty."  That make them act the fool.  But then it got out of hand, starting getting to where people started looting and tearing up stuff.  Figured if they could get it free, why not keep doing it.  Then it went away from the Rodney King thing.  And they figure, can get all this shit free, why not take it?  And that's when everybody started taking more and taking more.  And police not stopping nobody from doin' nuthin'.  So they took advantage of it.  You see on TV somebody goin' in and out of the store and the police standing right there and they just watch them get out, making sure they're not going to burn it down.  But they could take everything they want.  I was wondering if it was Gates.  He didn't have them doin' nuthin' – he was sayin' they they didn't have to do nuthin'.  I figure he don't give a fuck about the community anyway.  "Let 'em just tear it down. I don't have to be here."

MICHAEL: Wasn't he just trying to avoid another police brutality thing?

EAZY-E: They could have stopped 'em.  They didn't have to sit there and beat 'em.  Could stop 'em from doing it.

MICHAEL: If that's the looting, what about the people who were pulled out of their cars and beaten?

EAZY-E: That was unnecessary.  A lot of those same people that they pulled out of cars probably was upset about the verdict theyself.  A lot of them -- just like in the papers – a lot of them was going to visit black friends or whatever.  You know, a lot of them didn't have nothin' to do with it.  What they should have did, they should have went to Simi Valley and did everything while they was having that verdict.  They should have tore up down there.  They should have got the police officers that they was really upset at.  Everybody tearing up their whole neighborhood, it didn't make no damn sense.

MICHAEL: One of the other things I heard is that you got a house in Simi Valley.

EAZY-E: Not no more.

MICHAEL: Did you move out of there because of the racism you felt there?

EAZY-E: They came by and did a little shit at my house.  "N-- go home"  and "Go back to Compton". Shit like that before.

MICHAEL: They wrote "Go back to Compton"?

EAZY-E: Yeah.

MICHAEL: Have you ever personally had run-ins with the police?

EAZY-E: Getting harassed and shit like that?  Yeah.  That's why we made that song.  "Fuck Tha Police."

MICHAEL: Can you remember a specific thing that happened?

EAZY-E: Not really. I mean, it really don't matter.  You're getting harassed is harassed, no matter how it happened or whatever.  They fuck with you just to fuck with you.

MICHAEL: At the time when you were harassed, did they pick you up for a legitimate thing like not stopping at a stop sign or did they just pick you up for nothing?

EAZY-E: Stereotyping.

MICHAEL: Was it like you're in your car and they pull you over?  Or when you're walking down the street?

EAZY-E: It could be in the car.  Could be walking down the street.  It don't matter.   

MICHAEL: Would a cop say something racist?  Or would he hit you?  What would he do?

EAZY-E: Yeah.  Some of them do.  This shit been going on for years.  But it's nothing different.

MICHAEL: Did you see this coming?  Did you think this was going to happen?  Or was it a surprise?

EAZY-E: I thought it was going to be a lot worse.

MICHAEL: You did?

EAZY-E: No surprise.  To nobody really. 

MICHAEL: Do you see that this whole thing could make it worse between people?  Or is there a chance that it could make things better because it will open their eyes?

EAZY-E: Seem like it made it worse right now.  This must be some shit going on .  Look. You got this motherfucking helicopter right here.  You got this motherfucking helicopter right here.  Right here, you got national guards. Up here, they got a road block up here.  (to his bodyguards) Where that shit at, in the trunk?

MICHAEL: Do you know anybody who owned a place that was hit?

EAZY-E: There's the liquor store I used to go to right here.

MICHAEL: Oh, that one?

EAZY-E: Sparks Liquor.

MICHAEL: Yup.  We could do a photo right here.

EAZY-E: You want to do a photo right here?  Gotta hurry up.  Can't be like hanging around.  Let's do it and get the fuck out.


MICHAEL: There was a pause here so we could get out of the car to take a photo. It turns out that there was some kind of shotgun in the trunk.  I don't know anything about guns.  It looked like a toy to me.  But it wasn't.  Eazy wanted to pose with the gun.  Now I knew that we'd never use that photo in PEOPLE.  But I wasn't about to start interfering.  I figured we'd get other pictures later.  But I did ask him about why he did it and here's what he told me after we started driving again


MICHAEL: Why did you decide… Why did you make that decision to go out with the shotgun?

EAZY-E: It means that I'm ready at all times.  No matter what goes down.  Ready for police, or whatever.

MICHAEL: To be perfectly honest, that seems like party of your stage show.  But in real life, you don't seem to me like someone who'd carry around a gun like that.

EAZY-E: Oh yeah, I carry around guns.  Matter of fact, we have several right now. 


EAZY-E: Just like the national guards are ready, we ready.

MICHAEL: I mean, obviously, you were that way before this riot happened.

EAZY-E: Yeah.  All the time.

Is it partly to protect yourself against police?  Or is it mostly to protect yourself against gangs? Or what?

EAZY-E: I don't have nuthin' against gang, or whatever.  I mean right now I just figured since the police got away with beatin' Rodney King, they figure they can go around and beat on anybody else and they can get away with it too.  So it's like open season on whoever.  I don't just say open season on all blacks because it's everybody.  Mexican, black, Samoan, whatever.   (honks the horn – yells to another car). They're from like a different side of the gangs.  They're from like the Bloods, different areas.

MICHAEL: And they're together in the same car?

EAZY-E: Yeah.  There's two of them from different areas.

MICHAEL: Did people hang out together like that before the truce?

EAZY-E: Very few.  (honks the horn and yells to a group by the road) What's up? That's Shaheed.  He's the head of the Muslims.

Come on here, brother.  They're with Eazy.  They're with Eazy.  How you brother's doin'?  Aw-ight.


MICHAEL: I want to pause again to explain what you hear next.  Because it's not what we would expect.  At least back then, the car culture of Compton was so different from what we know in the East.  If you drove by someone you knew, you'd pull over and chat.  Eazy knew everybody.  So we honking and waving, pulling over to talk with people.  In this particular case, we drove by some of his neighbors in the Nation of Islam who ran a mosque in Compton.  It was definitely an uneasy feeling for all of us when we got out of the car, just because of what was going on in the neighborhood at that time. But one of the speakers who was gonna talk at the service that day was very open with me and  he was willing to talk. I thought his words were so powerful.  I really want to share them here.  And just kind of bear in mind that this is someone talking on the last day of the LA riots, on the streets of Compton:


MICHAEL: How are you gonna address the issues of what's just happened here?

ANONYMOUS SPEAKER: Our teacher told us about this one year ago.  What he said is that America has been unjust.  They have been our 400-year-old open enemy.  And they are unjust.  They have never gave us justice.  They give us crumbs, Kibbles and Bits.  But they never address the problem right here in America.  They address the problem every place else in the world.  They address the problem in any other country.  But they don't deal with their own.  We have built America.  We have fought for America.  We have bled for America.  We died for America.  And America treat us like dogs. They're dogs get fed better than us and their cats get fed better than us.  They care for their cats and dogs better than us.

MICHAEL: Do you think there's going to have to be more fighting?

ANONYMOUS SPEAKER: I think there should be a peaceful resolution to the problem and it will be the solution. But us as a people need to separate.

MICHAEL: So you don't think blacks and whites can are gonna be able to do it together?

ANONOYMOUS SPEAKER: Blacks and whites been together for years and we've always been at the bottom.  We've always been the walking mat for white people.  We've always been the enemy to white people no matter how much we've tried.  Martin Luther King tried to tried to bring blacks and whites together and whites killed him.  Now why would we as a civilized people with the knowledge of the honorable Elijah Muhammed and Minister Farrakhan even think that white people are gonna give us justice. They didn't give Rodney King justice.  They didn't give Oliver Beasley justice.  They didn't give none of our people justice.  Any time we go into their court system, their court system work for white folks.

MICHAEL: Are you aware that lots and lots of white people are furious about the result of the King case?

ANONYMOUS SPEAKER: Yeah.  Because they understand it's a time of change. They understand that the white government is unjust themselves.  They understand it's a time for wickedness to come out of power and for God's rule to come in power.

MICHAEL: Now in this particular neighborhood, are there particular plans on what to do about the destruction, what the next step is gonna be?

ANONYMOUS SPEAKER: The next step SHOULD be, we build up our own communities.  We take control of our own communities.  We should love our own communities better now than other people who come into our own communities and dog us out, bottom us out, and slew us with our dollars.

MICHAEL: Now are you a native of Compton or from somewhere else?

ANONYMOUS SPEAKER: Yes.  I'm of Compton.

MICHAEL: And, um, what's your name?


MICHAEL: Is that a problem?

ANONYMOUSE SPEAKER: Yes, that's a problem.  "State your name."

MICHAEL: Well, what do you want me to call you in the article?

ANONYMOUS SPEAKER: Just say "The brother.  The brother from Mosque 54."


SALLY: Thank you for that.  I'm glad I heard it.

MICHAEL: Thank you for listening to it with me.  After that, we got back in the car.  There's just a little bit more to our drive.  So, h  ere it is: 


EAZY-E: So where we goin' now?  You want to go to LA a little bit?

MICHAEL: Yeah.   Wherever you want to go.

EAZY-E: That was mine.  So…

MICHAEL: That was your territory.  Do you think people have an opinion about Compton that maybe isn't true?  It doesn't seem to me that it's like the war zone that everyone declares it to be.  It sort of depends, doesn’t it?  Can you live a safe life there without worrying about crime? Or do you have to worry about it?

EAZY-E: I think you always got to worry about crime.  I think no place is safe to live without worrying about crime.

MICHAEL: You've just never been to Topsfield Massachusetts.

EAZY-E: They don't worry about nuthin'?

MICHAEL: They don't worry about crime. 

EAZY-E: They don't worry about breakin' in?  I bet you they got alarms on their house.

MICHAEL: Not alarms.  Well maybe it's changed since I was growing up.

EAZY-E: No bars?

MICHAEL: No, we used to lock the door most of the time.

EAZY-E: Lock the door.  You had a lock on it.  You were worried about something.


EAZY-E: Okay. But rather than that, you wouldn't have had it locked.

MICHAEL: But I don't think I met one person in my entire childhood who was a victim of a crime in Topsfield Massachusetts.

EAZY-E: Everybody must know each other and everything else…

MICHAEL: No, they don't all know each other.  But you would have been bored out of your mind there, so…

EAZY-E: I wonder if it's like that now.

MICHAEL: Yeah.  It is.

EAZY-E: Some of the kids that you knew turned into mass murderers.

MICHAEL: You mean, other than me?  I tried to kick the murdering habit a few weeks ago.  But I don't know.  Oh, look at this!

EAZY-E: What more can they do to this building? Look (reading) Black owned.  

MICHAEL: Should we go into the… Should we pull over there?

EAZY-E: No, that say "Black Power.  Black and Mexican Power."


MICHAEL: And that was the absurd range of our conversation.  One minute we were talking about Topsfield Massachusetts, where you and I grew up.  The next minute we're talking about business owners in Compton who had to put up a sign about being black owned so their businesses wouldn't get burned down in a riot.

SALLY: It was a little strange that you decided to talk about Topsfield.

MICHAEL: I don't think Eazy saw it that way.  He talked about his home and I talked about mine.

SALLY: I guess it makes more sense if you see it as two people who have known each other for a year, riding through L.A. together during one specific moment in time.

MICHAEL: So much has changed since then.  Because of cell phones, there have been so many more cases of police brutality that were caught on video.  And things must have improved a least a little bit in L.A. because the riots caused police chief Daryl Gates to resign.  And then there was a follow-up to the Rodney King trial where the verdict was overturned – and the officers retired from the force. Even Compton has changed a lot. Now it's a mostly a Latin-X city.  And there are new leaders who've helped to lower the crime rate. A lot, by the way. And then there's the personal stuff.  Eazy's gone.  Jerry's gone.  And I'm no spring chicken. The only thing that hasn't changed is… I put those things in a box and didn't want to throw them out back then and I still don't want to throw them out.

SALLY: I'm not sure what you want me to say.  I'm supposed to be helping you get rid of it.

MICHAEL: Can we talk about that later?  For now, I want to pay one last tribute to Eazy-E by reading words that will be familiar to many rap fans. Maybe they'll tie things up things too for anyone who is just learning about him.  This is from his song, Eazier Said Than Dunn...

My name is Eazy or just call me E
But it doesn't really matter to me
'Cause I'm the same person
Whether serious or rehearsin'
I just gotta keep cursin'
This is for the radio so I better chill
They won't play it if I could get ill
But I'm like that and that's an actually fact
Because the street is where my heart is at
Yo I don't do dope but I'm dope not a dope
But I'm doper than anybody who tries to cope
With the rhyme I'm displayin'
And the beat that's playin'
Yo you could try all day
And you still won't match up with the ruthless P.O.W.
'Cause Eazy's doin it Compton style
That's the city and you say you could get some
Yo it's Eazy-er said than dunn.

And that's it for my Eazy-E memories.


I couldn't throw it out

I had to scream and shout


MICHAEL: Thank you to our brilliant audio advisor Willie Mandeville who made those old clips sound better than they would have sounded.  And to the Very Famous Nancy for storing those tapes in her very famous garage.  Sally, will you do the honors to entice listeners to give us another chance?

SALLY: If anyone out there wants updates and online-only extras about our podcast, please go to Twitter or Instagram and follow us at throwitoutpod. Or you can go to our website and look in the right column -- where you can sign up for our newsletter.  Then you'll always know when new episodes come out.  And while you're at it, check out our playlist of essential songs by Eazy-E and NWA.  You'll find all this and more at

MICHAEL: Okay, Sally, that's a…    rap!   

SALLY: I told you the puns are my department!

MICHAEL: We can argue about that next time.

SALLY: Absolutely.   Bye Mike!


THEME SONG:  I Couldn't Throw It Out
 Performed by Don Rauf, Boots Kamp, and Jen Ayers
 Music by Boots Kamp and Don Rauf
 Lyrics by Don Rauf and Michael Small
 Out here in Nancy's – her big garage
This isn't a mi-  This isn't a mirage
Decades of stories, memories stacked
There is a redolence of some irrelevant facts.
But I couldn't throw it out
I have to scream and shout
 It all seems so unjust
But still I know I must
 Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out
Before I turn to dust
I've got to throw it out

Well, I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I'll sort through my possessions
In these painful sessions
I guess this is what it's about
The poems, cards and papers
The moldy musty vapors
I just gotta sort it out.

Well I couldn't throw it out
 I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out
I couldn't throw it out