Jerry Heller (pictured right), the former manager of the 1980s rap super group N.W.A has died. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
Heller was born on October 6, 1940 in Cleveland, Ohio. He broke into the music agency business in the early 1960s carving out a pretty successful career helping out acts like The Who, Black Sabbath, Van Morrison, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Humble Pie, and Grand Funk Railroad.
In 1986, Heller met Eazy-E for the first time. They founded a company together, Ruthless Records, and once Eazy hooked up with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and MC Ren, got the ball rolling on N.W.A. After releasing their blockbuster album Straight Outta Compton which changed the trajectory of gangsta and West Coast rap, Ice Cube bolted from N.W.A over a dispute about money, for which he held Heller personally responsible. He would eventually attack Heller in the famous diss track "No Vaseline." After handling production on the follow-up Eazy Duz It, Dr. Dre split too.
Despite the acrimony Eazy stuck with Heller until the end of his life in 1995 after a short battle with AIDS. "I was with him until the day of his untimely death," Heller remembered. "I still think about him every day. He was like my son. He was a visionary. He was the greatest, and I've always believed that only he and I really understood the significance of what N.W.A was."
The love was apparently mutual. After finding out the news, Eazy's family issued the following statement to Billboard: "Eric "Lil Eazy E" Wright, Jr and the family of Eric "Eazy E" Wright are deeply saddened over the homecoming of Mr. Jerry Heller. 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."
Heller recently re-entered the spotlight following the release of the biopic about the group Straight Outta Compton. In the film, Heller is portrayed by actor Paul Giamatti. Heller took exception to the way the film presented him, and eventually decided to file a lawsuit. "I just decided that I could not live with myself and not file this suit," he told Rolling Stone. While the movie was a powerful, well-done movie, it was dishonest. Most of it was inaccurate, or just out-and-out not true.
On social media, the reaction to the news of Heller's death was as varied as the way people viewed his impact on music.
RIP Jerry Heller. pic.twitter.com/Qj2tAAiSmY— evan auerbach (@evboogie) September 3, 2016
He was shady af but without him there wouldn't have been Ruthless Records, Eazy E, or NWA. #jerryheller— emily (@jac0em) 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