"PAYBACK'S A BITCH, JERRY."
The words scrawled crudely across Jerry Heller's bedroom mirror that afternoon meant the rap wars had suddenly escalated. In the battle of his life over the ragingly successful music label he had helped found, Ruthless Records, Heller had seen death threats, strong-arming, and beatings. Now the violence had come home when his enemies burglarized his house, jacked his Corvette, and left behind this sneering piece of graffito.
Heller didn't get mad; he got even. Ruthless tells the explosive story of Jerry Heller's alliance with Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E, one of the legends of rap music and a founding member of N.W.A., "the world's most dangerous band." As a longtime music industry superagent, Heller had the skill and insight necessary to guide N.W.A.'s cometlike rise to the top of the charts. Along the way there were raucous nationwide tours, out-of-control MTV pool parties, and X-rated business meetings. Heller held on through the brutal shocks and reversals of the Ruthless Records era, which saw the label being targeted by the FBI, and its principal artists locked in bitter conflict, until a final turnaround placed Ruthless at the top of the heap once more. Always in the middle of the whirlwind were Jerry and Eazy, an odd-couple pairing that represents one of the deepest and most appealing stories in American music.
You don't have to be an N.W.A. fan to love Ruthless. Heller turns the music industry inside out, exposing its strange logic and larger-than-life personalities. Ruthless provides keen insight into the popular music scene, with an unforgettable portrait of its rollicking excesses, life-churning drama, and multimillion-dollar highs.
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August 29, 2006
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Excerpt from Ruthless by Jerry Heller
From Straight Outta Compton
"Lonzo brought in Run-D.M.C.," Dr. Dre told me. "I think it was their first time in L.A., you know? And that was it. That was just it for me."
In 1984, a very young Andre Young started hanging out at Eve After Dark, bugging Alonzo Williams to let him do some cutting on the Cru. He was fresh out of high school in Compton. Lonzo finally let him in for a simple reason.
"He's absolute magic with women, man," Lonzo told me, raising an eyebrow. "Ladies fucking love him."
Once in the Wreckin' Cru, Young formed an alliance with a stocky DJ named Antoine Carraby, who used the stage monicker of DJ Yella. Andre Young needed a handle too so he modified the nickname of one of his heroes, Julius Erving, the legendary Dr. J of the Philadelphia 76ers, a basketball great who was among the top players in the game at the time. Dr. J pioneered the modern, above-the-rim playing style.
Dre always told me he liked Dr. J because he was forever number one in the NBA in steals. "I thought that was cool."
So Andre Young became Dr. Dre, the official resident lady-killer of Alonzo Williams's World Class Wreckin' Cru. On the Cru, he and Yella hung together, and when Lonzo brought Run-D.M.C. into Eve After Dark, the lightning bolt struck them both at the same time.
Conclusion number one, Dre and Yella standing there on their own turf, in their home club, listening to the crew from Hollis, Queens: "Damn, this shit is fresh."
Conclusion number two: "We could do this shit."
Conclusion number three: "Fuck the Cru. Fuck this shit. Fuck Alonzo and his motherfucking synchronized dance moves and his corny outfits."
Entirely unintentionally, Lonzo had killed the Cru. He was the one who brought Joey Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, and Jason Mizell (aka Run, D.M.C., and Jam Master Jay) in front of his two young prot?g?s. In the summer of 1984, Run-D.M.C.'s "It's Like That" had blown away everything else that came before in rap -- the first hard-core rap song.
Genius leaps. Dr. Dre didn't have to think about it. Watching Run-D.M.C. at Eve After Dark, he had immediately grasped what he wanted to do.
I wasn't there the night Hollis, Queens, showed the way. Not my scene. But that didn't mean I wasn't just as restless as Andre Young. The Cru was okay. And all the rest of the acts I was managing were okay. But it was as if I was listening to the Beatles and waiting on the Rolling Stones. What I was doing back then was looking for something a little . . . harder. And it turned out so was Andre Young.