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.