On This Day in Hip-Hop History, N.W.A. Founder Eazy-E Died of AIDS in 1995

Photo credits: Mike Miller

A quarter of a century ago on this day (March 26), Ruthless Records co-founder Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (pictured) died of full-blown AIDS at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

Wright was just 31-years-old when he died. However, he achieved many unprecedented feats in the music industry prior to passing away. As the founder of the late 1980s and early 1990s hip-hop group N.W.A., Wright is considered by many to be a pioneer of what American society branded as “gangsta rap.” Through his foundation of Ruthless Records and the legendary N.W.A. group, Wright introduced the world to other major stars.

DJ Yella, producer Dr. Dre, MC Ren, and Ice Cube were also members of Wright’s group. All four of these men went on to become big-time names in the music industry even after their days at Ruthless Records. Songs like “F**k the Police” and “Express Yourself” did not just tell the story of five guys who grew up around the rough edges of Southern California. These songs told the story of young black males in every American inner-city.

“Yeah, I was a brother on the streets of Compton doing a lot of things most people look down on but it did pay off. Then we started rapping about real stuff that shook up the LAPD and the FBI. But we got our message across big time, and everyone in America started paying attention to the boys in the hood,” Wright said, according to Source Magazine.

In N.W.A.’s heyday, the group was selling millions of records despite never having any of their songs played on the radio. This was due, in part, to censorship activists having their way. Nobody in mainstream America wanted to believe that hundreds of thousands of white suburban teenagers in numerous cities had caught wind of such a polarizing cultural revolution, which had catapulted outside of black urban America.

In addition to N.W.A., Wright was a talented visionary who shepherded the likes of other notable acts at Ruthless Records, such as J.J. Fad, Above the Law, and even Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. However, after N.W.A. disbanded, Wright signed a new five-man rap band from Cleveland, Ohio called Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Over the course of a few years, this group won a Grammy and sold tens of millions of albums worldwide.

However, on February 24, 1995, Wright checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after experiencing a bronchitis flare-up and severe coughing spell. The legendary rap entrepreneur was forced to remain at the hospital when he was diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes the AIDS disease. On March 16, 1995, Wright released a statement to the public, which announced his grim diagnosis.

“I’ve got thousands and thousands of young fans that have to learn what’s real when it comes to AIDS. Like the others before me, I would like to turn my problem into something good that will reach out to all my homeboys and their kin, because I want to save their a**es before it’s too late,” Wright said in his statement.

Ten days later, Wright succumbed to Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), an opportunistic and dangerous lung infection, which is a symptom of full-blown AIDS. From 1986 to 1995, Wright enjoyed his reign as a rap mogul, which was heralded like no one before or after him. In 2002, his son, rapper Lil’ Eazy-E, produced a documentary chronicling his father’s legacy titled Eazy-E: The Life and Timez of Eric Wright.

This film can be viewed in its entirety below.

Source: Lil’ E Films/YouTube