Jerry Heller, the longtime music manager who helped launch the group N.W.A, has died.
He was 75.
Heller reportedly suffered a medical emergency while driving in Ventura County, California, on Friday when he smashed his vehicle into a mini-van,according to TMZ. His attorney Mickey Shapiro told the gossip site that doctors believe he suffered from a heart attack before the crash.
Heller was best known for kicking off the successful career of hip hop group N.W.A., which originally featured Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Arabian Prince with members DJ Yella and MC Ren joining later on.
The negative portrayal of him by actor Paul Giamatti in the recent N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton” led him to sue the movie’s producers — including Dr. Dre and Ice Cube — for $110 million claiming defamation.
Shapiro told TMZ that the stress of the lawsuit was what killed Heller, claiming he barely slept and was “heart broken.”
Eazy-E and Heller launched the label “Rutheless Records” together and the formation of N.W.A. followed in 1986. The group debuted their first single “Panic Zone” one year later.
Heller served as the group’s manager for four years until Ice Cube and Dr. Dre quit over a royalty dispute. Cube was reportedly upset over money and held Heller responsible for swindling him out of thousands of dollars. The pair’s feud resulted in Ice Cube’s diss track “No Vaseline,” where he blatantly says, “N.W.A. ain’t s–t without Ice Cube!”
Despite the uncomfortable tension between Heller and both Cube and Dre, Heller continued to work in tandem with Eazy-E until his passing in 1995,Rolling Stone reported.
“I was with him [Eazy-E] until the day of his untimely death,” Heller told the mag 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.”
Eazy-E reportedly fired Heller right before he died of AIDS in 1995, but the music exec claimed that the rapper “wasn’t in his right mind” when he made that decision, Heller shared in his memoir, “Ruthless.” E’s family released a statement to Billboard on Saturday once they learned of the influential, albeit contervsial, man’s passing.
“Eric ‘Lil Eazy E’ Wright, Jr and the family of Eric ‘Eazy E’ Wright are deeply saddened over the homecoming of Mr. Jerry Heller,” the statement read.