Eazy-E originally just owned the label; his rhymes were largely written for him by Ice Cube and MC Ren. And yet he grew into one of the most compelling rappers of the 1980s, his high-pitched voice somehow able to sell both humor and reckless menace. On his Eazy-Duz-It and NWA's Straight Outta Compton, Eazy and his friends portrayed gangland L.A. as an exaggerated wonderland, where women were playthings as much as guns and 40s. They found quick success, their gritty street tales crossing over to the suburbs.

But with money came problems. Ice Cube left the group; his "No Vaseline" is a withering diss track, in which he calls out the remaining members of NWA—and Eazy especially—for being frauds. (A sample line? "I kept on stomping while y'all motherfuckers moved straight outta Compton.") The rest of the group escaped Eazy's grip soon after, aided by Suge Knight and company, and his fortunes dropped quicker than a 6-4. Eazy never got the chance to rebuild, as he died soon after, in 1995.