The music industry executive was an influential and integral part of the rap super group’s history, with many crediting him for putting them on and for their early successes, especially at a time where rap music did not receive much mainstream attention.
In addition to working exclusively with Eazy-E and N.W.A. and helping start Ruthless Records, he also played a role in assisting acts such as The Who, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens, Grand Funk Railroad and more.
However, Heller’s long-running career was not met without criticism, with the film Straight Out Of Compton most recently depicting the story of why the group’s former manager’s influence was not without controversy. Following their debut smash album’s release, Ice Cube left the group over a dispute about money, with Dr. Dre following suit not too long thereafter.
Following the release of the film Straight Out Of Compton last year, Heller decided to file a lawsuit telling Rolling Stone that he “could not live with [himself]” if he didn’t speak out against the film.
“While the movie was a powerful, well-done movie, it was dishonest,” he said. “Most of it was inaccurate, or just out-and-out not true.”
9 years prior to the film’s conception, Heller released Ruthless: A Memoir, where he told his side of the story regarding everything that happened and addressed the accusations that had plagued him for decades. Despite leaving his role of manager of N.W.A. in 1991, Heller and Eazy-E remained close friends up until the rapper’s death in 1995.
Following the news that Heller passed, Eazy-E’s family issued a statement expressing their sadness saying, “Jerry Heller gave the world Eazy-E and N.W.A, and for that, we are forever grateful. Condolences to his family and all his friends. Please respect his family and all the families of the N.W.A members during this time so all may grieve in peace."
Check out some reactions among the hip-hop community in the tweets below.
RIP Jerry Heller, a guy who pushed rap forward ten years before setting it back eight or nine.— Ted Hornick (@Le_ted) September 3, 2016
Jerry Heller is one of the reasons NWA was able to blaze trails, set paths & open doors for so many others. https://t.co/aJqAx7eUf2— Steve & Steven (UNE) (@UrbanNoize) September 3, 2016
Rest in peace Jerry Heller! You were an incredible businessman & contributed so much to the hip hop culture. Thank you sir!— Master 孙子 Sun (@YoungStormHTX) September 3, 2016
NWA would not have been what they were without Jerry Heller. I think they should all attend the funeral to be honest.— Kelle Salle (@Kelle_S6) September 3, 2016
Really don't know what to say about Jerry Heller passing. It is sad, but doesn't erase his shadyness— Simone Maniles (@ARIEL_RunsRI) September 3, 2016
Feel like watching Straight Outta Compton now just because Jerry Heller died— Miké (@mjlimones) September 3, 2016
We can debate the good and bad things Jerry Heller did. Bottom line: the man changed hip hop forever. https://t.co/U4NvsycfTc— MASS APPEAL (@MassAppeal) September 3, 2016
Like him or not he played a significant role In hip hop. RIP Jerry Heller https://t.co/3czEnNIiaD— Morgue Vanguard (@lord_kobra) September 3, 2016
I imagine that Eazy E is giving Jerry Heller a beat down right now.— Harbinger of Mundane (@Ant_F3ltz) September 3, 2016
So RIP Jerry Heller he was a Shady businessman but he signed NWA and taught Eazy E how to be the original Puffy— Jasmyne (@jazzy0730) September 3, 2016
Damn....I'm conflicted about Jerry Heller dying...I'm mean he was shady, but he introduced the world to NWA, so....🤔— Joe Jobaoil (@gotdamnmonster) September 3, 2016
Eazy E smokin a blunt with Jesus wondering why Jerry Heller walking up on him rn— Jake (@Metro_Coolin) September 3, 2016
Ruthless Records Co-Founder Jerry Heller Dead at 75. RIP pic.twitter.com/krKLYQCPXO— Rappers Said (@RappersSaid) September 3, 2016
(Photo: Splash News, DutchLabUSA)