A staple in hip hop culture and one of the most controversial men of his time, former NWA manager Jerry Heller, has passed away at age 75. According to TMZ, Heller died after suffering a medical emergency while driving that resulted in him sustaining serious injuries after crashing his minivan in California. It’s still unclear whether Heller died from the medical emergency or the injuries from the crash.
Jerry Heller’s career in the Entertainment Industry began when he worked as an agent and promoter, working with artists like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Marvin Gaye, the Who and Black Sabbath in the Sixties and Seventies. In the mid ’80s, Heller co-founded Ruthless Records with Compton rapper Eazy-E. According to several stories throughout the years, Eazy-E paid Alonzo Williams of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru (another Heller-signed act that featured Dr. Dre) for an introduction to the manager.
Heller served as the N.W.A’s manager for four years, although the group began to disintegrate in 1989 after Ice Cube quit over royalty disputes with Heller, resulting in the rapper’s legendary diss track “No Vaseline”. By 1991, Dr. Dre would also leave Ruthless for Death Row (which he co-founded with Suge Knight) and skewer Heller in the video for his “Dre Day”. However, Heller and Eazy-E’s partnership continued until the rapper’s death in 1995.
“I was with him until the day of his untimely death,” Heller told Rolling Stone in November 2015. “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.”
Following the release of the N.W.A. biopic, Jerry Heller felt he was portrayed in a negative light which led the former manager to file a $110 million defamation lawsuit against the film’s producers, including former N.W.A. members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. The majority of Heller’s lawsuit was dismissed this June.
Our condolences are with Jerry Heller’s family and friends.
Written By: Monique C. Tillman