One of the more unheralded legends of not only West Coast rap but hip hop in general, the legacy of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright has been unquestionable in Southern California. In fact, nearly every rapper – from Kendrick Lamar to even The Black Eyed Peas – can be traced back, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-style, back to Eazy-E. Unfortunately, his influence was almost rendered unrepairable following the battles he had endured post-N.W.A., from Ice Cube departing the group to the Death Row/Ruthless Records that at times turned physically violent. However, despite his tragic passing due to complications from the AIDS in 1995 his cultural impact was long cemented, and that impact was brought to life in the blockbuster biopic Straight Outta Compton, which raked in $60.1 million in its opening weekend.
With Dr. Dre and Ice Cube covering the Hollywood Reporter recently, VIBE Magazine dedicates their September 2015 digital issue. In their lengthy cover story, written by longtime scribe Keith Murphy, the magazine speaks to his son, musician and HIV activist Eric Wright, Jr., as well as Cube, Dre, will.i.am, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Murder Inc’s Irv Gotti, Nelson George and many more to reflect upon the fallen legend.
Eric Wright, Jr. could not make out what all the fuss was about. This was not at all shocking considering that the six-year-old boy lovingly known as Lil’ E by friends and family had other priorities on his particularly focused mind. It was the summer of 1989 and at the fabulous Los Angeles Forum, Junior’s notorious father, Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, was onstage performing with his provocative group N.W.A.—a five-man, gun-toting, censorship-igniting, F.B.I.-agitating crew brazenly self-billed as The World’s Most Dangerous Group.
For the purpose of this story, it’s best not to dwell on the question of whether a rap concert featuring arguably hip-hop’s most controversial group—who defiantly proclaimed themselves N*ggaz Wit Attitudes—was a suitable place for a child who would have trouble getting on the rides at Disney Land. Let’s just say Compton was in the house. And so was one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.
“I remember watching the show from the backstage,” recalls the rapper, who years later fittingly goes by the name of Lil Eazy-E. Although he is taller than his stocky 5-foot-5 pops, he shares his father’s strikingly deceptively, youthful gaze. “I was standing right next to Janet Jackson! I didn’t pay it any mind because I was really into the show. When we all got back home my uncle was like, ‘Well, guess who was standing next to Janet Jackson and didn’t say a word to her?’ My father would always clown me about that [laughs]. He was like, ‘How you gonna stand next to Janet and not say anything to her?’”
This Father Knows Best moment is brought to you by Eazy-E.