On the eve of Eazy-E's 50th Birthday/Hologram performance at this year's Rock The Bells festival, friends and family came together to pay homage to the late legend in Santa Ana, Calif.
As the co-founder of Ruthless Records and N.W.A., Eric "Eazy-E" Wright was responsible for shining a spotlight on the West and giving hip hop some of its most indelible superstars like Ice Cube, Bone Thugs n' Harmony, Dr. Dre, will.i.am, Above the Law and Kokane among others.
Eazy's former DJ, DJ Yella hosted the evening, which also featured performances by Loesta, Sylk-E. Fine, BG Knocc Out, Kokane and Big Hutch, as well as E's first and second born sons Lil' Eazy-E and Yung Eazy. It was a touching reminder of what Eazy was to the West Coast: The architect.
Eazy died in 1995 from complications due to the AIDS virus. Though many felt that he didn't get the props that he deserved for sparking the fire that would set the world ablaze with a new type of hip hop, the event made it clear that Eazy may be gone but he is never forgotten.
"Eazy-E powerhoused hip hop when there wasn't even an industry out here for that," recalled G-funk pioneer Big Hutch. "The genre was in the embryo stage when E was doing what he did, yet he had distribution with major conglomerates like Capitol, Priority, Atlantic, Warner Bros. and Sony at the same time. He was a brilliant businessman before you get to all the gangsta rap s--t," he added.
Additionally, Kokane, who was among the first to seamlessly blend singing and rapping, also offered his thoughts on the late legend.
"He was the Model T Ford that everything else should be modeled after," remembered Kokane. "He was that person. We called him 'that n---a.' He was our leader, he was our hood leader.
Lil' Eazy and Yung Eazy (both of whom inherited their father's smooth yet raspy speaking voice) also paid tribute, announcing that they would be bringing N.W.A. full circle, working with Dr. Dre's son Curtis Young on some new music.
"Me and Curtis been knowing each other for a minute," noted Lil Eazy. My brother and me hooked up with him to put out a West Coast compilation with the sons of hip hop. We're fittin' to bring some good music and let 'em know where N.W.A. first started. We're bringing it back to them full circle," he added.
(Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)