4B - The Michigan Daily - Wets., eU. - Thursday, Marcn 28, 1996
Eazy's legacy remains, from Compton to NYC
By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer
"It's still hard to believe. It's hard
to believe from seeing him in that
club to one month later, he's dying
and dead from AIDS. "
- Ice Cube
Eleven thousand, five hundred and
twenty-three days. A lot can happen in
that time. A person can be born with a
mnission to shake the "establishment,"
to reshape opinions andinfluence count-
less numbers. That person can over-
come mountains of adversity and earn
equal amounts of respect and scorn,
only in the end to succumb to death's
Even if you've never listened to a
single rap song, it's highly unlikely that
you've never before come across the
name Eazy-E. He is the man who took
rap music to another plateau and legiti-
mized gangsta rap. His formation of the
immortalized group Niggaz With Atti-
tude (NWA), which simultaneously put
West Coast rap and the city of Compton
on the map and propelled the future
solo careers of then-members Ice Cube
and Dr. Dre, will forever garner him a
special place in the hearts of rap histo-
rians - even those who cared little for
him and his music.
Make no mistake, long before the tat-
tooed twins Dennis Rodman and Tupac
Shakurbegan to publicly losetheirminds,
Eazy-E was already the center of a swirl-
ing mess ofself-contradictions and exter-
nal allegations. Here was aman who once
soldcracktomake aliving,yet eventually
became an avid Republican who, in 1991,
paid $2,490 to attend aGOPbrunch where
former President Bush was speaking. Here
was a man who, along with the other four
members of NWA, evoked swarms of
controversy, protest and even fiery de-
bates on Capitol Hill with their 1991
mega-smash single "Fuck the Police,"
and defended officer Timothy Bruseno,
one of the Los Angeles policemen video-
taped beating Rodney King.
Here was a man who gloated about
drive-bys and his general disrespect for
human life, but invested heavily in his
hometown. As his Ruthless Records label
grew, Eazy-E hired many Compton na-
tives. His large donations have benefited
a Who's Who list of charities including
the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Athletes
& Entertainers forKids, The City of Hope
and United Colors. His dying wish forthe
formationofasafe-sex outreach program
for black children prompted Motown
president Andre Harrell to establish Ur-
ban Aid 4 LIFEbeat.
Eazy-E, after only 31 years -11, 523
days - of hell-raising and eye-opening,
is no more. Exactly one year ago last
Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
in Los Angeles at exactly 9:35 p.m. EST,
the invincible Eazy "Muthafuckin"' E
dropped his protective robes of immortal-
ity, became the very human Eric Wright
and breathedhis final farewell tohis fans.
Actually, we'd already witnessed
Eazy's self-strippingamonth earl ier when
he first released a statement confirming
his being HIV-positive. But it was his
death that solidified that realization. No
more would we see his Napoleon-esque
stature decked with dried-out jheri curls
and a black Compton or Raiders baseball
cap in person. Eazy-E was dead.
Eazy-E was indeed the grandfather of
gangsta (now "hardcore") rap music.
Throw in some Bone Thugs-n-Harmony,
some lee Cube, some Dogg Pound;therein
lies E's essence. He helped open the
floodgates for a continuing hip-hop revo-
lution. Yet, he is also an ideal representa-
tive for much that is wrong within the rap
community. His underhanded financial
dealings eventually led Ice Cube, and
later Dr. Dre, to leave NWA in disgust.
To treat those who were supposed to be
his boyz this way was a most unforgiv-
able act. The years of pot shots the mem-
bers of the now-defunct NWA took at
each other on their solo albums and vid-
eos can be viewed as an impetus for the
more publicized rap music rivalries of
today (DJ Quik vs. MC Eiht, 2PAC vs.
Notorious B.I.G., Suge Knight vs. Shawn
Nevertheless, I write about him. I write
not because I'm one of Eazy-E's most
die-hard fans. He never struck me as an
overwhelming, creative force on NWA;
Dre and Cube easily outshined him there.
He rarely even wrote the lyrics he rapped,
and his voice, a unique blend between
that of some random cow-farmer named
Bud and Gary Coleman's, never quite
seemed to fit the gangsta persona he
worked so hard to maintain. I'm not out to
give the usual "he was a good man"
speech that even Hitler would have re-
ceived at a funeral because it's the PC
thing to do.
I write because, regardless ofhis faults,
Eazy-E was a brave man. He faced soci-
etal pressure, government and legal at-
tacks, even an assassination attempt, just
success was limited. But the reverbera-
tions of his ground-breaking entrepre-
neurial work can be felt to this day. Such
names as JJ Fad, Michel' le, D.O.C and, of
course, Bone firstcamethrough E's Ruth-
less Records label. Not bad for aman who
dropped out of high school in the 1Oh
grade (he earned his GED later).
Eazy-E was raised in a neighborhood
festering with dangerous elements,
jacked-up cops and never-to-be-fulfilled
dreams. This "uneducated" man full of
street savvy pulled out and abovethis life,
and he never held any ill-will. He instead
inspired rebellion, constructive rage and
thoughtful radicalism. Yet,heisalsowell-
remembered for his never-ending sense
of humor. To simply demonize his
"bitches and ho's" lyrics without consid-
ering the total, revolutionary Eazy-E is
One mustn't take the way in which
Eazy-E died - complications resulting
from the AIDS virus he acquired through
unprotected sex with untold numbers -
and use it as ammunition against his
legacy. As Public Enemy's Chuck D told
Rap Sheet magazine last year, "Eazy-E
wasn't a bad person because he died of
AIDS. We have to get that out of the
formula." AIDS is a horrible disease that
Eazy E's life was tumultuous, and the
lawsuits that were filed after his death
will undoubtedly bringout moreofEazy's
background than many ofus care to know.
Yet, one must always remember to sepa-
rate Eazy-E the rapper from Eric Wright
the person. Maybe E was a far cry from
being perfect, but he wasn't a bad person.
He was both aproduct ofhis environment
and a defiant bulwark against blind ac-
ceptance of the status quo. He pushed
limits that no one else had the guts to
push. He deserves our understanding for
Maybe what he did wasn't as great as
finding a cure for cancer or writing a
masterpiece novel, but E made a contri-
bution to American society that will hope-
fully remain even after we have all gone
to meet at the crossroads on the other side.
He deserves our respect for that.
Maybe he did hurt others, but E also
tried to help people, especially kids.
Maybe he hoped to make up for his earlier
wrongs; maybe he just wanted to quit
centributing to the problems and become
part of the solution. Regardless of his
reasons, he cared when many choose not
to. He deserves our admiration for that.
Maybe he made more than his fair
share of mistakes, but E was a black man
trying to make a life for himself when all
the odds were stacked against him. He
died aterrible death, yet from the moment
of his revelation until the second some
random doctor pronounced him dead,
Eazy-E had already begun to set into
motion a game plan to teach the children,
whom he so greatly loved, to avoid the
death trap he had jumped into.
Sadly, he didn't live long enough to do
it all, but in his short time he seems to have
done more in terms of AIDS awareness
than even Magic Johnson, who is a far cry
from impending demise, has since mak-
ing. that shocking announcement some
time ago. Sadly, Eazy-E wasn't given the
time to complete this mission, but at least
he tried with all his heart. He deserves our
love for that.
We prayed for Liberacci,
Criedfor Rock Hudson,
Easy-E was "the grandfather of gangsta." ,
And held hands with Ryan White,
But when you died we laughed, ridi-
and let you go, alone.
Was it fear of reality that you were our
our brother, uncle, and father?
Or do we really just not care?
The pain of knowing that itfinally hit
none of us are invincible.
Nobody argued for a memorial, no-
body shed a tear,
nobody donated money.
ejust laughed, shrugged our shoul-
turned our backs from the example,
and moved on,
continuing with our careless lives.
But, with Al Y opened eyes 1 say to you
GOOD NIGHT, GOOD BYE, and
REST IN PEACE
Eazy-E, my beautiful Blac man.
- "Ode To E-Z, Just Another Man,"
Ebony Dawn Howard
Earle roars through gtar rock with uncomimo
By Jennifer Buckley to the fanzine No Depression. So his to"FtarlessHeart.""Someday"and"Gui- much of the set, the soulful slide guitar
Daily Arts Writer sold-out performance Sunday atPontiac's tar Town" benefited from noisier, work of David Steel (the youngest and
Chances are that the proverb "all 7th House couldn't merely entertain-it anthemic guitar work and the prominent newest Duke) made ferocious jams of
things in moderation" is entirely for- had to rock harder than any live set in baclging vocals of Looney and Stewart. "The Unrepentant,""PoorBoy"and"My
eign to Steve Earle. The singer/song-
writer seems incapable of doing any-
thinghalfway. Forexample, he couldn't
have made a decent debut record back
in 1986 -he had to-
hit Nashville with anj
instant country-rock f
classic, "Guitar (
Town." And he
couldn't just get and
married and settle 7th I
down - Earle had
to try it with five dif-_
ferent women. He
couldn't merely dabble in drugs, either
- he had to develop an all-consuming
heroin addiction that nearly killed him
(and his career) and eventually landed
him in jail.
It follows, then, that Steve Earle
wouldn't make just any old comeback.
True to form, he's returned to the indus-
try scene with a vengeance. His new
album "I Feel Alright" has garnered
breathlessly enthusiastic reviews in
every publication from Rolling Stone
Reunited with his long-time band the
Dukes (including long-time bassist Kelly
Looney and guitarist/
teve Earle roared through over
two hours of some of
the Dukes the finest guitar rock
rouse, Pontiac ever to come out of
Nashville, or any-
March 25, 1996 where else in this
country, for that mat-
ter. The group faithfully recreated most of
the tracks from the new record, including
the fiery folk-rock song"H ard-Core Trou-
badour," the gorgeous, Beatlesque pop
tune"More Than I Can Do,"therockabilly
"Poor Boy," and a speeded-up version of
the story-song "Billy and Bonnie."
The Dukes, however, were at their best
when reinventing Earle's older, more
country-oriented songs. Drummer Custer
(who couldn't keep his shirt onto save his
life) added massive, booming bass beats
"Exit 0" and "Sweet Little '66" (the con-
cert was in Pontiac, but must every male
rockel sing an ode to his automobile?)
rocked harder than ever.
Unfortunately buried in the mix for
Baby Worships Me."
A mid-show solo acoustic set allowed
Earle to focus on quieter, more affecting
songs like "My Old Friend the Blues,"
"Valentine's Day," "Goodbye" (Earle's
lone choice from his much-heralded 1995
record"Train aComin"'). Earlepreceded
the wrenching "Ellis Unit One" (f
Tim. Robbins' recent film "Dead Man
Walking") with a lengthy argument
against capital punishment, deploring his
former home state of Texas for leading
the nation in executions.
On stage, Earle exhibited his trade-
mark badass bravado (his black aviator
shades never left his face), but also a real
emotional vulnerability. Thesingerintro-
duced the bittersweet "Valentine's Day"
by describing his desperate situation
Feb. 13, 1995: "1 can't get no kind
license ... well, I got a fishin' license Im
real proud of... but at 11 p.m. it was real
clear I wasn't goin' anywhere." Giftless
and cardless, Earle wrote the song for his
current wife Lou Anne (also wife No. 4),
he said, "out of sheer desperation. Truth
is, I ain't afraid of nothin' but that red-
headed gal. I'm afraid she'll leave me."
Earle's encore choices were surpris-
ing, but right on: a tanked-up versio4
"State Trooper" by Bruce Springsteen
("that hillbilly singer from New Jersey,"
as Earle called him) and a relevatoy jam
on the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers."
As Earle sang during the Dukes' spit-
fire rendition of the new album's title
track, "I've been to hell and now I'm back
again/And I feel alright tonight." Judging
from the hollers that followed those lyr-
ics, no one in attendance could have been
happier about it. Although Earle'sperfor-
mance was, in a sense, a sermon to
converted (a large portion of the audience
sang along with every word of the older
songs "I Ain't Ever Satisfied," "Angry
Young Man" and "My Baby Worships
Me"), the rapt crowd all but genuflected
to the man. Earle acknowledged shoutsof
"glad to see you" with a humble, "Glad to
be seen. It was close, believe me." How-
ever, some audience members got a little
too enthusiastic for his liking. To
persistent fan who howled, "STEW
EARLE ROCKS!" during the acoustic
set, the singer replied,"Man, I remember
my first beer, too."
While he acknowledged, "I ain't that
well yet," Earle has certainlysettled down
since his younger days. These days, he
reserves his attitude forhismusic, though
he's still prone to an occasional walk on
the wild side: as the Dukes left the stage
after the second and final encore, a fan
handed Earle a black T-shirt, whicl*
accepted with a wicked smile. It read
"Harley FUCKIN' Davidson."
Continued from Page 13
dollars, Nathan bets his cohort, Sky
Masterson (Andy Sievers), that Sky
can't convince the next girl he sees tc
go to Cuba with him. To Sky's disn@
the next girl he sees is Sarah Brown, the
bible-beating, soul-saving missionary.
Sky knows he's slick enough to get hei
to Havana, but he doesn't realize hc
may lose his heart in the deal. Thi
dynamic musical speaks to all lovers
nhnir rwmrnni-veInngevit. an1 irri
Steve Earle put on an amazing show at 7th House on Monday.
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