Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Happened After N.W.A. and the Posse?

The cover of N.W.A. and the Posse,
does not look like something released by the most important rap group of all time.

Actually, just looking at the photo,
who would believe that some of the guys in this alleyway would change the course of popular music forever less than a year after the flashbulb popped?
Who would guess these men were capable of creating their own genre of music,
putting their fingerprints on nearly every
Hip Hop song written in the past 20 years?
Who would imagine that four guys in this
picture would go on to record, produce,
or market records that have sold hundreds of millions of copies?

Does anyone even know who the hell all these guys are?

Not only does the cover of N.W.A's first album
not look anything like the standard image of
"The World's Most Dangerous Group," it's such an odd mix of styles it's hard to believe the guys posing together are any sort of group at all.
Truly, the cover of N.W.A. and the Posse is a puzzle.

This picture is also, however,
a perfect snapshot of one of the most
important scenes in the history of popular music.
Stare for a moment and you can see a myth about to be born.
That myth, Gangster Rap,
enabled four guys in this picture
-- Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and Eazy E --
to titillate and terrify America as
Compton-based rap group Niggaz With Attitude.

The mythical power of N.W.A certainly doesn't come from the clock necklaces, the running pants or the Jehri curls.
Look to the left, at the bottles of malt liquor, the plain jeans, and the black ballcaps.
Those props (and that's the right word, as we'll see later)
hint at what's going on here, which is the gestation of gangster rap.
It's a genre that went on to become the most important,
influential, and successful innovation in urban music in at least a quarter century.

This photo is a mid-Genesis snapshot.

From a music critic's perspective,
N.W.A. and the Posse is nothing special.
Certainly not compared to Straight Outta Compton,
the culture-changing epic released less than a year later.
In fact, Compton has proved so important that
it has since supplanted Posse as the group's "first record"
in most histories of the group.
That's not an altogether-unfair version of things.

Actually, N.W.A. and the Posse,
which came out in 1987 and featured songs by N.W.A.
and some other groups Dr. Dre did production work for,
is just what the name suggests: N.W.A.
with a gang of friends and associates
destined for bit parts in a grander drama.

As Jerry Heller, the band's famously demonized manager,
says in his memoir, it was
"the product of a loose amalgamation of DJs, musicians, and MCs."

"N.W.A. and the Posse
is unquestionably raw production,
not quite ready for prime time," he wrote.
"It has elements of greatness, rap songs that later became monsters:


'8 Ball.'

Listen to the version of 'Boyz' on the Posse album and
then compare it with Dre's remix a year later that
appears on Eazy-Duz-It, Eric's first solo album.
The difference is clear. Posse was a trial run, a rehearsal."

So, if this is a rehearsal, who are all those extras?

Anyone who knows anything about rap can pick out at least two guys in this photo:
Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.
If you're into the old school,
you can probably identify four of the dozen,
adding MC Ren and Eazy-E.
A true N.W.A. fan could pick out Arabian Prince,
who is standing next to Cube.

Pretty much no one not in the photo
-- not even the most hardcore Hip Hop heads
-- can ID the rest of the posse pictured,
other than maybe giving a 20-year-old street name.
Until now, that is.

It took a lot of work,
but we've tracked down all 12 guys from the Posse record cover.
Over the next 12 days we'll be
introducing you to all of them, one at a time.

Some of these guys are on Hollywood's A-list,
others drive trucks, but they were all once part of the same posse.
Each and every one of them played a small
but significant role in the history of Hip Hop,
as you can read below.

Kid Disaster part 1

​This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album,
N.W.A. and the Posse.
Today, we continue with Kid Disaster,
a member of the rap group C.I.A. with Ice Cube and Sir Jinx.

^Kid Disaster then^

^Kid Disaster now^

​Kid Disaster

Also Known As:
Darryll Johnson, K-Dee

Before the Photo:
Kid Disaster hooked up with N.W.A through Purple Ice,
later known as Ice Cube, in high school.
Disaster was a member of the group C.I.A. with Ice Cube and Sir Jinx
(read Jinx's entry in The Posse Project here).

In the Photo:
Kid Disaster is just another guy not drinking any of the booze.

"It was funny because everybody brought 40s and no one really drunk 40s back then.
We had to make it look like we drank some so
we just opened them up and poured a little bit out," he tells me.
"We were all virgins, man.
We were all virgins that just happened
to be in the music business and doing something.
We were young, man, we were still in high school.
We were just having fun, we never did think it was
going to do what it did, and when it did it was like 'wow.'"

After the Photo:
Disaster was featured in a verse on on "Make It Ruff, Make It Smooth" off Cubes' Lethal Injection album.

He also worked for Cube's Street Knowledge Productions and released a solo album titled, Ass, Gas,or Cash No One Rides For Free, in 1994.
He became estranged from Cube in 1997 for reasons he doesn't know.

K-Dee lives in L.A.,
and is in the trucking business. He's also still doing some radio work and performing live, including a recent concert with Michel'le, who is perhaps the ultimate Hip Hop temptress,
Dr. Dre's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son Marcel.
Oddly, Michel'le also has a daughter by
Death Row Records founder Suge Knight.

People Don't Know:
How hard it is to give up a rap career after getting a taste of success.

"I've tried to give it up a couple times.
If it's in your heart, in your blood, it's hard to give it up," he says.
"When I walk the streets and people come up to me and are like
'Yo, K-Dee, What happened man?
Your album was one of the smoothest albums and we liked that,'
'If my friend knew I was talking to you he'd trip out'
and stuff like that and you're like,
'Man, I gotta get back out there!'
And you also believe you still have it."

People Don't Know:
How low the expectations for N.W.A were in the beginning.

"At the time, what I gathered from it was nobody knew it would be that big.
It was just like, we're going to get together and do something.
Dre and them were breaking off from
World Class Wreckin' Cru and they were just like,
'Let's start a group.'
Nobody knew it was going to blow up he way it blew up.
And it took off."

People Don't Know:
What separated the "N.W.A"
members who went on to become famous from "The Posse."

Even at the beginning,
the differences between the stars and
the supporting cast were obvious, says K-Dee.

"It was for the best anyway, they were the top ones," he says.
"Dre was the top producer and Cube was the top writer,
so it wasn't a puzzle."

Candyman part 2

This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured
on the cover of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse.
Today, we continue with Candyman,
who ironically went on to become a one hit wonder with the single "Knockin' Boots."

^Candyman then^

^Candyman today^

​Candy Man

Also Known As:
Candell Manson

Before the Photo:
If anyone caught a break because of his place on the Posse record cover,
it's Candyman.
A classmate of Ice Cube during his time at Washington Preparatory he was unaffiliated with the group at the time.
DJ Scratch and Sir Jinx report Candell Manson was splitting time between their couches when he caught a ride to the photo shoot, and somehow landed a prime spot in the front row.

Though Candyman ignored requests to be interviewed for The Posse Project,
he has talked extensively about the N.W.A. and the Posse cover before,
insinuating that there was already a conspiracy behind the group when the photo was taken, contradicting others, who say the success the group's classic lineup had came as a surprise.

"It was kind of top secret, the whole NWA project, they kept it under wraps real well," he told "They knew that they were on to something big.
They knew that they had a concept that we didn't know anything about."

If that's true, why did they put Candyman right up front?
We're left to wonder.
Later in that interview Candyman claimed he wrote
his big single "Knockin' Boots" around that time but at least one actual N.W.A member contradicts that, saying Candyman had no involvement in the music business until he landed on the cover of Posse.

"I know that Candyman, at that time wasn't doing anything," said Arabian Prince.

In the Photo:
Candyman has said the cover represents the group at it's realest,
before the development of the styles commonly associated with gangster rap.

That's why you see MC Ren as the only member of the group's classic lineup who's wearing the black ballcap and white t-shirt while Ice Cube has a clock around his neck, he says.

"That was a 'real' cover. That was an honest cover.
That was without no perpetrating.
You saw how Cube looked.
You saw how Dre looked.

Everybody was being who they really were,"
he said in the interview.
"That cover means a lot to me.
I was right in the middle.
There were times in the Swapmeets that people thought that
'I' was Eazy E because I was right there in the middle of the picture."

Actually, Candyman later used the confusion about who was who on the Posse cover to his advantage, says Arabian Prince.

"Candyman got lucky," Arabian Prince tells me. "At the time, honestly, we used to actually get mad at Candyman because we'd be out on tour and we'd come back in town and sometimes he'd be representing N.W.A.
and we were like 'Eh, eh, eh, you're not actually in the group.
You're on the cover but... "

After the Photo:
Candyman's story is possibly the ultimate irony of the N.W.A. and the Posse cover. Three years after the photo was taken, around the time N.W.A was releasing its hard-hitting 100 Miles and Runnin' EP, Candell had a top ten hit with "Knockin' Boots," a fun little bit of early 90s pop-rap.

"Knockin' Boots" -- the second-biggest hit on the topic of boot knockin' released in the early 90s -- took his Ain't No Shame in My Game album into Billboard's top 200. Candy toured with Tone Loc and Milli Vanilli but couldn't follow up on his success. His sophomore effort, Playtime Is Over, only had one charting single, the incredibly odd "Oneighundredskytalkpinelevenotwosevenine."

In 1993, just after Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day" told of the time Cube saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp (it said "Ice Cube's a Pimp") Candyman tried to paint a similar picture with the cover of his third album, I Thought U Knew.

​The album was more Zeppelin than blimp, however, failing both commercially and critically. The longest review available simply reads: "The third Candyman CD, his first for I.R.S., lacked either the pop charm of his debut or the leering insolence of the followup."

Candyman was dropped from his major label contract soon after and decided to go gangsta. The cover of his fourth record, 1995's Phukk Watcha Goin' Thru, depicted the rapper posing in front of gold rims wearing a cabbie hat. In addition to songs tailored to his newly gangsta-fied image, Phukk contained a follow-up to Candyman's lone hit "Knockin' Boots" (again, the second-biggest hit on the topic of boot knockin' released in the early 90s) called, unsurprisingly, "Knockin Boots Pt. 2."

"Knockin Boots Pt. 2" wasn't Candyman's last variation on the boot meme. Five years later Candell got back to his pop-rap roots with an album called Knockin' Boots 2001: A Sex Odyssey.
Candyman's fourth album, "Phuck Whatcha Goin' Thru," phlopped.

Things got worse a year later when Candy dropped Platinum Hits. Despite what the name implies, it wasn't a greatest hits album -- Candyman only had a singular hit -- but another try at gangsta rap. Songs like "Dear Mama" and "Thug Life" weren't a success, perhaps sparing him a lawsuit from the estate of Tupac Shakur.

Candyman lives in Vegas and books parties.
Considering the heated public feuds which divided loyalties between the superstars on the Posse cover -- Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E -- it's surprising that Candyman is probably the least popular person in this photo, dissed by several others pictured when he was mentioned.

"Candyman always kinda thought his shit didn't stink," said one of the other guys from the cover. "He's still that way."

According to's rumors page Candyman now puts together stripper parties, including one for Ray-J, the brother of R&B singer Brandy, who is most famous for his sex video for Kim Kardashian. (Candyman's reported involvement isn't the only XXX action involving a former N.W.A affiliate: DJ Yella, the only member of the group's Straight Outta Compton lineup not on the Posse cover now produces adult films.)

Though Candell's company, Candyman Entertainment, shares a name with a male stripper's company, the companies are apparently unaffiliated.

​People Don't Know:
That Candyman plays both sides of the gangsta card, alternating between 'pop-rapper' and 'streetwise thug' every couple albums. He's currently doing the pop thing and criticizing the others for not being real enough.
He also claims to be one of two people actually drinking on the N.W.A. and the Posse cover.

People Don't Know:
That Notorious B.I.G was inspired by Candyman
-- or so Candyman claims.

"I came out before Pac and Biggie.
Biggie gave me props!
I met Biggie! Biggie came right up to me and
gave me props when him and Craig Mack was out.
I remember that like yesterday.
When Biggie did that song 'One More Chance'
that was a Candyman type of song," Candyman
said in the extensive interview.
"People was watching the blue-print.
You can put that in writing!"

Sir Jinx part 3

​This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series where catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse.
Today we continue with Sir Jinx,
a producer who went
on to create the beats for some of the hardest hitting diss tracks in the history of rap.
Those diss tracks were recorded by one of the guys
in this photo and directed at several other guys in this photo.

^Sir Jinx then^

^Sir Jinx now^

​Sir Jinx

Also Known As:
Anthony Wheaton

Before the Photo:
If there's a golden link in the chain connecting everyone on
the N.W.A. and the Posse record cover, it's Sir Jinx.
The cousin of Dr. Dre, Jinx was nevertheless always
more closely aligned with Ice Cube.
At the time the photo was taken he was in the
rap group C.I.A. (Cru' in Action!).
The other two members of C.I.A.
-- Cube and Kid Disaster -- are also in the photo.
They're the two guys in white wearing
Flavor Flav-style clocks around their necks,
right next to Arabian Prince.

In the Photo:
Sir Jinx is in the top right, wearing all black.

"All that writing on the picture? I did all that,"
Jinx tells me.
"Eric went and bought a bunch of neon spray cans.
He knew I did graffiti, so I did as much as I could...
If you look at the picture, and you look at me, my name is right next to me,
you see 'J-I-N.'
Everybody then kinda grabbed a spray can
and the neon cans and wrote on the wall behind us."

​After the Photo:
Sir Jinx produced songs for all
Ice Cube's early albums,including
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted,
Death Certificate,
The Predator and
Lethal Injection.
Included in his credits are two of Cube's most controversial songs,
the diss track "No Vaseline"

and the Korean shop-keeper bashing "Black Korea."

Jinx also produced Xzibit's 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz.

Jinx recently did some studio work
Dr. Dre and keeps busy doing DJ gigs
and appearing places like
The Jimmy Kimmel Show and The Orlando Jones Show.

People Don't Know:
N.W.A. was not originally supposed to be a 'rap group.'

At the time N.W.A. and the Posse
was planned for release the group wasn't
intended to be a full-time thing.
Actually, N.W.A. was supposed to use the
model later perfected by Wu-Tang Clan,
where each member was either a solo artist
or part of another group, but after the first
few songs under the N.W.A. title became hits, that plan was scrapped.

"The whole idea of N.W.A. was supposed to be
Niggaz With Attitudes -- that were already in another group.
It was just a title, like Niggaz With Attitude, N.W.A.,
we were Niggaz With Attitude but we all had our own jobs, our own groups."

People Don't Know:
Jinx says he never had beef with Dre or Eazy,
despite producing diss tracks aimed at them.

"It's all about the money, it's all about what people want to buy.
I never thought bad about my cousin,
I never thought bad about anybody.
Cube kind of went light him.
We had to change it a few times 'cuz 'No Vaseline'
was really made for [Ice Cube's solo debut]
AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
but we didn't put it out there,
then we didn't put it out on [Ice Cube's second record] Kill At Will.
But then when they came out with
'Here's what they think about you'
thing and we put it out.
That song was being perfected for two years."

Nonetheles, Jinx is proud of his work.

"There was no answer to 'No Vaseline'
that's the difference, to be honest with you.
The best diss record is when nobody responds.
When you have something like when Nas came out with
'Ether' and Jay couldn't come back after that,
I think he did 'Mr. Ugly' or something like that but it didn't work.
He did it to him. 'No Vaseline' was like that."

People Don't Know:
N.W.A. was pretty much straight-edge in the early days.

"There wasn't anybody on drugs,
we didn't drink, we didn't do weed,
we didn't do coke, we didn't do nothing.
When we went on the road they used to chance
Eazy's eight ball to apple juice.
He'd sit there and down it on stage
and the crowd would go berzerk,
but Eazy didn't even drink.
None of us drank."

People don't know:
"Eazy E" was not Eric Wright's street name.
He was better known as "Rat" before he started rapping.

"His name was Rat, Little Rat, cuz he was like a mouse,
his ears were big and he was little," he says.
"There was no Eazy E."

The name "Eazy E" came out of necessity
when Eric accidentally started rapping, Jinx says.

"What it was,
was Cube had written the song for the guys from H.B.O.,
a group called Home Boys Only.
They were trying to be like N.W.A. but one of the guys,
he didn't want to do the rap.
Eric rode around with the tape for a couple days
in his Jeep until he started saying it,
and Dre was like 'You need to go in there
and say that on the mic' and then it was like a big thing.
And when he went in to do it on the mic
he didn't even have a rap name.
'8 Ball Rollin' and 'Boyz-N-The-Hood' don't have Eazy E in it.
He just didn't have a name, he wasn't a rapper, he was the CEO."

People Don't Know:
The clocks Jinx, Cube and Kid Disaster
were wearing were not a tribute to Public Enemy.

"Bum Rush The Show was not out when
we started wearing them, so who took it from who?
They wasn't wearing no clocks or no stop watches or nothing.
We got the clocks because they has ropes
on them and you could hang them in the shower.
The rope on them gave it that look, not the clock.
It was waterproof so you could hang it in the
shower and we liked the look of the rope."

Arabian Prince part 4

This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse. Today, we start things off with Arabian Prince, a producer who was an original member of N.W.A.

^Arabian Prince then^

^Arabian Prince today^

​Arabian Prince

Also Known As:
Mik Lezan, Professor X.

Before the Photo:
Arabian Prince was a producer who worked with L.A. acts like
Bobby Jimmy & the Critters, which featured Russ Parr,
who is now a nationally syndicated morning show host.
He was one of Ruthless Records house producers, also working on JJ Fad's hit single "Supersonic."

(You've probably heard part of "Supersonic:" Fergie's "Fergalicious" samples the hook).

In the Photo:
Arabian Prince is in the middle row, second from the right.
He's making no pretense to wear "gangster" clothing, instead favoring an unbuttoned shirt, tight jeans, and lots of jewelry.
He's also got a Jerhi Curl and mustache,
a look that always fit his style better than baggy jeans and a Raiders hat.

"I've always been a club cat," Prince tells me.
"I want to make people hype, I want to make people party.
And when we did the N.W.A thing, I was cool with it because I grew up in the hood as well,
but I've never been gangster.
My uncles was gangster, my cousins was gangster,
and I'm like, 'I'm not really gangster.'"

After the Photo:
Arabian was an actual member of N.W.A.
He's pictured on the back of the record with
Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy E, the core of the group at the time.
He left the group while
Straight Outta Compton was being recorded,
releasing a solo record called Brother Arab in 1989.

Like the others who later left the group
-- including Cube and Dre
-- Arabian cites financial improprieties
as the main motivator behind his departure.

"I'm a businessman first and foremost,
and I was a solo artist before, so I knew how much money we were making," he says.
"And I'm like, 'Well, we just sold a million records,'
I knew we were supposed to get X amount of money we weren't getting.
And you know what, we've gotta split the money anyway,
and we're still not getting paid what we're supposed to get paid.
I'm going to go back and do my own thing,
and I'll make more money than all ya'll, myself."

Arabian Prince also disliked having to deal with
cops after the group drew fire with songs like "Fuck Tha Police."

​"Everywhere we went, we had problems with the police,
we had problems with other gang members.
And it was like, 'It's cool, I'm cool with it,
but let me get paid for it.' If I'm not going to get paid,
and I'm out here just for the fame, I ain't with it. I need to get paid."

What He's Doing Now:
Professor X is Prince's old/new identity.
The Professor X stuff, which started before
his time in N.W.A, has an electro-funk sound.
Arabian Prince is also working on a cartoon/music project called Funky Lil Anime.

"It's gonna be pretty hot, man.
It's kinda like an animated Black Eyed Peas kinda thing,
where it's gonna be Hip Hop and dance with just animated characters."

People Don't Know:
A lot of guys in the picture weren't
actually making music at the time they posed on the cover.

"A lot of them, they were just homies
from the neighborhood and we were like,
'Hey, we taking a photo. Y'all wanna go?'
And they were like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,'" he says.
"It was just a random photo.
None of the cats, at that time, were doing anything.
And any of those guys who moved on to do music after that . . .
It was probably a direct thing from being on that album cover."

In fact, these dudes were put together
so randomly that Arabian can't even identify the guy standing on his right.

"The guy next to me, I don't even know."

People Don't Know:
"Panic Zone" was N.W.A's first single
only because the group was scared to go gangster right off the bat.

"'Panic Zone' was the first single because me and Dre came from the electro background and we knew that there was no way in hell that we were going to get any of that gangsta stuff played on the radio, and we wanted to make sure we got it to the DJs and got some radio play just so people would know we were there. And so, we were like, 'Hey, let's do some dance records' because we knew we could get this played because that's what people knew us from before," he says. "So we did 'Panic Zone' and that's what got us on KDAY [AM 1580, Los Angeles]. And, after that, once the gangster stuff blew up,
KDAY was like, 'Eh, well I guess we gotta play it if you've got the clean versions.'
So we had to go back and do clean versions, and that's how it got on the radio."

People Don't Know:
N.W.A. and the Posse was pretty much a scam by the group's first record company, Macola.

"The first record we ever did was called N.W.A.
-- it wasn't called N.W.A and the Posse, it was just called N.W.A.
-- and it was an EP with four or five songs on it.
Then we left Macola Records to go to Priority Records.
Macola, they were thieves at the time; they ripped everybody off.
So when we left, they went back and took our EP and put a bunch of other crap on there
-- that wasn't even us -- and called it N.W.A. and the Posse and turned it into an album."

People Don't Know:
N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton lineup didn't have much street cred.

"Eazy was the only one in the hood who was really a real gangster
-- doing the drug thing, doing everything else. All the rest of us were just DJs.
We were producers, we had done a lot of records, and that's how the whole thing came together. Cube wasn't actually doing anything.
He was in school [in Phoenix] until we brought him back.
Ren was just Eazy's boy; he lived down the street from him.
And, I mean, Ren wasn't really banging,
but he was probably the next closest thing to Eric (Eazy).
If you had to go in order it would be Eric, Ren,
then probably me and Dre because he grew up in Compton.
So did I. It wasn't like we were pushovers, but we weren't no gangsters.
Then I would go probably Ice Cube, then Yella.
Yella was about as far from gangster as you could possibly get.
He was more close to freakin' Morris Day and the Time."

People Don't Know:
Being famous is over-rated.

Arabian Prince is, was, and always will be a businessman.
Unlike a lot of guys involved in the loose early days of the group
-- when everyone contributed what they could in the studio
(often without getting a writing credit)
-- he filed lawsuits to collect his share of the group's royalties.

"I made so much money back then
'cuz I still got all my royalties off of everything.
I had to sue them and do some other stuff, but I got it," he says.
"I never was the cat that wanted the fame
-- I've been making records since I was in school
-- so I always wanted to behind the scenes.
And so when I had the opportunity to kinda
duck back behind the scenes, that's what I did."

Prince says he has plenty of money as a result
but also doesn't fear for his safety
the way so many guys from the gangster rap scene do.

"I have no enemies. I can go anywhere, walk down the street, play golf.
I can go to the mall, I can go to these events with these cats.
I DJ all around the world.
I just have fun, man. I think that's the life, man.
You've got to be able to enjoy your money and your success
and not [have] TMZ is all up in your face every time you get out of your car.
Or every time you go to the club, you've got
to have a bodyguard because people are trying to get after you."

DJ Scratch part 5

​This is an installment in The Posse Project,
a 12-part series in which
catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album,
N.W.A. and the Posse. Today, we continue with DJ Scratch,
a DJ who may have gone on to become an actual member of
N.W.A if he had not passed up an opportunity to work with
Eazy E out of loyalty to his friend Candyman.

^Scratch then^

^(on the left) Scratch today^

DJ Scratch

Also Known As:
LaMont Burnett, King Scratch

​Before the Photo:
Scratch was part of a tight-knit clique that includes Sir Jinx,
whom he was friends with, as well as Candyman (bottom right in the Posse photo)
and Tupac's future producer, the late Johnny "J."

In the Photo:
Scratch didn't want to have his photo taken
because he hadn't had his hair done properly
but was persuaded to jump into the shot by Eazy E,
who said Scratch looked like part of the Ruthless Records gang.

"The picture was going to be taken later in the day,
and we all had to get Jehri curls done and all that.
Dre called early and said, 'We're gonna take the picture,'
so I wasn't even going to get in the picture at all.
I jumped in the car and I took Jinx and Candyman down there,"Scratch tells me.
"We went up there, and I wasn't in the picture.
I actually had another camera, and I was just snapping them.
And Eazy was like, 'Come on, get in the picture.
You look Ruthless. Get in the picture.'"

"I look like a fool.
I've got on two different types of pants
and crazy hair and glasses and all that, but Eazy kept being like,
'You look Ruthless. Come get in it, come get in it.' So I jumped in."

​After the Photo:
Scratch says Eazy E once asked him to be his DJ,
but he refused, out of loyalty to Candyman.
Candyman had a huge hit with "Knockin' Boots,"
which went to No. 1 on the Hot Rap Singles and No. 9
on the Billboard Hot 100, but he proved to be a one-hit wonder.

"Eazy wanted me to be his DJ,
but I didn't want to leave Candyman,
because I was his DJ and he was my MC.
Then Candyman's thing blew up too.
But then Candyman's stuff fell off,
and Eazy and Ren's just kept going up," Scratch says.

He has no regrets though:
"Everything happens for a reason."

Scratch lives in Barstow, California,
which is between L.A. and Vegas.
Scratch says it's a place where he has a house that's
"nice and cheap and big."
He's a family man with children and grandchildren.

Scratch has recorded some new music,
which you can hear on his MySpace page.
He also work for a company that does
merch for other musicians.

^King Scratch now designs products for other rappers.
This is a sample he did for himself.^

​"Tru West Entertainment:
We do everything.
We do the video editing,
posters, the MySpace page, web pages, everything.
It's a one-stop shop.
Once you come in, you don't need to go
nowhere to get your CD covers designed.
You don't have to go nowhere to get your T-shirts done.
You can just bring all your money right here."

People Don't Know:
Why DJ Scratch changed his name to Big Scratch.

Another DJ Scratch, an associate of the late
Jam-Master Jay became prominent as a member of
Long Island Hip Hop group EPMD right around
the same time Scratch was starting to come to
the forefront with Candyman and N.W.A.

"[DJ Scratches] were coming out the woodwork.
So I was like, okay, I'll change.
But I was the original Scratch.
I was doing it first. I've been DJ Scratch since I was 14.
I used to do parties and my system would piss out on me, so people would say,
'He DJ's all right, but he scratches better than anything else.'
So that's where I got the name from,"

^Candyman, Scratch and the late Johnny "J."^

​People Don't Know:
Friends of Johnny "J" Jackson,
who is most famous for producing all Tupac's biggest albums,
don't believe he committed suicide by jumping
off the top tier of an L.A. prison while
serving time for DWI, as California police allege.

"Somebody killed Johnny.
He didn't kill himself, I know that," Scratch says.
"At his funeral people were saying
all sorts of false things, like he was platinum at the age of 16.
At 16, he was working at McDonald's.
We didn't hit platinum until the Candyman thing, when we were, like, 21."

MC Ren part 6

​This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse. Today, we continue with MC Ren, a rapper/writer who joined N.W.A just before the group's meteoric rise and stayed loyal to his childhood friend Eazy E until Eazy's death.

^MC Ren then^

^MC Ren today^

​MC Ren

Also Known As:
Lorenzo Jerald Patterson, The Villain in Black.

Before the Photo:
Though he's lined up right next to Eazy, Cube, Dre, and Arabian Prince
-- rounding out the so-called classic lineup of N.W.A
-- Ren was not actually a member of the the group when this record cover was shot, he says. Rather, he was just another solo rapper signed to Eric "Eazy E" Wright's record label.

"I was with Ruthless, signed right out of high school as a solo artist, so I was with Eric every day," Ren tells me. "I was going to do a song for Eric, but I wasn't in the group at that time. He just told me to come up there and get in the picture with him because everybody was having their homies hooked up."

In the Photo: MC Ren, like his friend MC Chip (standing to his left), is wearing the traditional N.W.A uniform, which is a black baseball hat, T-shirt, and jeans.

"If you look at the picture, it don't even look how N.W.A. look, you know what I mean?"
Ren says. "If you look on that album cover, you'll see that me and my homie Chip got on the Raiders hats. That was my thing -- the Raiders hats and all that. That was before I even got in the group."

After the Photo:
MC Ren has released six solo records, the most recent coming out in 2009.
His first solo record, Kizz My Black Azz,
went platinum and peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Top 200.
He's also done verses on solo records released by both Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.

In addition to having a new EP in the works,
Ren is rumored to be part of the N.W.A. movie project that Cube and Dre are working on.

People Don't Know:
Eazy E was a laid-back practical joker, not a thug.

"Eric was more like a hustler in the streets.
He wasn't really no gang banger, you know what I'm saying?
People always trip out when I say that because
they think he just a straight gang banger. But he wasn't like that at all," Ren says.
"He was funny
-- always trying to pull practical jokes and shit.
A funny dude. A cool dude, you know what I'm saying?
He handled business, but after he handled business
-- or even while he handled business
-- he always had a joke."

"A lot of people have other thoughts about him,
how they think he was, from the records and all that shit.
A lot of people think he would just straight-up shoot somebody.
You know, trippin', mean, gangstered out and all that shit.
But, you know, he was the total opposite.
He was just like one of the coolest
motherfuckers you'd want to meet. Just cool."

People Don't Know:
MC Ren got into N.W.A. only because
Ice Cube briefly left the group to go to college in Phoenix,
and because Eazy couldn't rap to fast beats.

"Ice Cube had wrote 'Boyz-N-The-Hood' and all that shit,
and he went out to Phoenix.
And when he went out to Phoenix,
they wanted me to write songs for E,
so I wrote 'Eazy Does It,' 'Radio,' and 'Ruthless Villan.'
I don't know if you remember that song.
It was called 'Ruthless Villan' and it was on Eazy's shit.
He couldn't rap it because it was too fast.
When he tried to go in there and do it, that shit was too fast.
So Dre was like, 'You just go in there and do that shit,'
and Eazy was like, 'Yeah, you do it, man,'
because it was upbeat and he was used to rapping slow.
And so when I did that and it was on his record,
everbody was just like,
'Well, you might as well be in the group.'
And from there, I was in the group."

People Don't Know:
Eazy's feelings were really hurt by
Dr. Dre's defection to the upstart Death Row records,
which was begun by Suge Knight, a bodyguard Eazy had hired for Ruthless.

"[Eric] was hurt by all that shit.
And he was hurt because him and Dre
started out back in the day, back in Compton.
Before all the record company shit,
they were a DJ crew, High-Powered Productions,
doing house parties and shit like that.
Dre was the tightest producer ever, putting out hits on him,
and he was hurting like a motherfucker.
Especially when them records came out
-- hurt like a motherfucker."

DJ Train part 7

This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album,
N.W.A. and the Posse.
Today, we continue with DJ Train, one of two people in this photo who are now deceased.

^DJ Train then^

^DJ Train in the studio before his death in 1994.^
(Photo courtesy of Tootie)

​DJ Train

Also Known As: Clarence Lars.

Before the Photo:
DJ Train was a childhood friend of MC Ren
(read MC Ren's entry in the Posse Project here)
and Eazy E who became one of Ruthless Records top DJs,
working with J.J. Fad and other acts on the label.

In the Photo:
Train is blocked out by the letters Macola stamped on the front.

After the Photo: Train went on to start a group called
C.P.O. (Capital Punishment Organization)
with rapper Lil' Nation (aka Boss Hogg)
and producer Young D.
The group's debut, To Hell And Black
peaked at #33 on Billboard's hip-hop chart.

DJ Train was killed in a house fire on July 26, 1994.

His brother, Jesse "Tootie" Lars
-- who produced MC Ren's single, "Same Ol' Shit,"
which peaked at #90 on the Billboard Hot 100
-- said his brother saved the lives of several family members.

"He went back in because he thought some of our family was still in there.
He passed out in the living room, right in front of the TV,
and they found him right there when they went back in," Lars said.
"He was a really cool guy.
A lot of people don't know that when him and
Dre and Eazy went on tour they'd come back at like 1 a.m.
and leave their stuff at our house so we could practice on it,
learn how to make music.
That's just the kind of guys they were, people don't know that."

Articles about about Train's death ran appeared in Vibe
(click here and search for "Train" and)
in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Wednesday June 27.

Here's an excerpt from the Press-Telegram story:

Replicas of the million-selling rap records he helped create hung, melted, on the wall of his apartment Tuesday, a vivid summary of the life and death of Clarence Lars - better known to music fans as DJ Train.

Lars was 23 when died just before 8 a.m. on July 26. He passed in the burn unit of a California hospital from injuries sustained early Sunday morning in a fire that charred the kitchen and living room.

Train's mother, two sisters and a niece were in the apartment when the blaze began, and all made it out alive.

"He could have been selfish and got out himself,'' said his father, Jesse Lars Sr. at the time. "But he helped get two people out and thought the other two were still trapped, so he went back in.''

As word of Train's death spread Tuesday, the neighborhood where he was raised became the site of a spontaneous wake. Family, friends, fellow rappers and fans parked their cars outside the home, listened to music and shared memories over bottles of malt liquor.

"Train was a big man - over 6 feet, over 200 pounds - but he was a peaceful man, a spiritual man," said Rebecca Morfin, the mother of his 5-year-old son, Sean. "He was courageous, too. When the paramedics were putting him into the ambulance and we were all screaming that we loved him, he signaled to us that it was all right."

Krazy D part 8

This is an installment in The Posse Project,
a 12-part series in which
catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover
of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse.
Today, we continue with Krazy D
-- the mysterious Mexican guy in the front row.

^Krazy D then^

^Krazy D today^

​Krazy D

Also Known As: Damon Trujillo, Culo Popper, Crazy D, Krazy Dee.

Before the Photo:
Krazy D is from Huntington Park,
a heavily Hispanic and very poor suburb southeast of LA.
He was a friend of Eric "Eazy E" Wright.

"I met Eazy the same day I met Dre
[at Skateland in Compton where Dre's old group the The World Class performed].
Eazy and I became real good friends"
Krazy D tells me.
"Bottom line, I started selling dope.
I was a rapper who became a dope dealer
and he was a dope dealer who became a rapper,
so we just kind of blended.
Eazy and I were connected on the street,
and it was pretty much that way even after I left the group."

Krazy D calls himself an "original member"
of N.W.A. and has a writing credit on "Panic Zone," N.W.A's first single.
He is also namechecked in "8 Ball:"
"Krazy D is down and in effect. We make hardcore jams, so fuck respect."

^Krazy D has a writing credit on N.W.A's "Panic Zone," as you can see on the vinyl.^

​In the Photo:
As the only Latino ever photographed on an
Niggaz With Attitude record, Krazy D stands out.
Unlike MC Ren, Krazy D says he was
actually a member of the group when the photo was taken.

"The crazy part about that photo is that
everybody that was there was there because
they just kinda showed up, whether it was just
giving someone a ride or whatever.
I know MC Chip, him and Train had took Ren up there to be in the photo shoot.
And Ren wasn't even in the group at the time of the photo shoot.
There's this big whole thing about original members,
with Ren and Yella, they came way after."

"Not to discredit them, I think Ren's an incredible talent, a dopeass MC and he had a lotta flow and he earned his part and he did what he had to do and he's a cool cat too," D says. "Yella just kinda snuck in, even Dre could tell you too. Yella was basically there because he had an extra set of hands that knew how to run the boards, that's the only reason he came in the picture, to kinda be Dre's assistant."

After the Photo: Krazy D is probably best known for his very memorable singing part in "Dopeman," where he plays the part of an overdosed junkie's angry brother, threatening Eazy E: "Yo, Mr. Dopeman, you think you're slick..."

Unlike Arabian Prince, Krazy D never sued to collect royalties.

"I wrote half of 'Eazy-Duz-It,'
I wrote my little thing on 'Dopeman,' I never got credit for it...
I read little things on the internet,
people trying to say that was Eazy
trying to sound like a Mexican, no, that was me," he says.

Even the "Dopeman" entry on Wikipedia
says Eazy did the vocals himself
-- a statement offered without attribution, of course.
After listening to Krazy D rap the part to me over the phone,
I have absolutely no doubt it's him.

Actually, Wikipedia has been especially hard on Krazy D.
Volunteer editors took his entry down after a brutal deletion discussion:
"A cover is not a source.
Even I can make such shit and make it a source.
Who knows if it's not photoshopped," said one editor.

"If appearing in a music video made one notable,
think of all the anonymous booty dancers who'd have articles here,"
said another, apparently unaware Krazy D
is credited as the first writer on "Panic Zone,"
the first single by the most important rap group of all time.

^Krazy D and Dr. Dre in the studio.^

Krazy D lives in Las Vegas and does
real estate appraisals for a living.
He's been working on a wide variety of
new music but hasn't released anything lately.
He also says he's working on a documentary about
his time in N.W.A called Ghetto Godz.

​People Don't Know:
A rap group known as Niggaz With Attitude
originally had a Latino member.

Krazy D says the subject of the group's name,
and his ethnicity, came up early on,
and he had no problem with the name.

"People say that,
'Hey, well, you ain't no nigga'
and it's like you don't understand the definition behind N.W.A.
It was 'Niggaz with Attitude,'
a Nigga is a homie, you know what I mean?
So when we came up with that name they were like
'Yo, D, whatcha think?' and I was like
'I don't give a fuck, I'm just as much of a nigga as you motherfuckers.
' And I didn't care, it is what it is," he says.

People Don't Know: That "Panic Zone," a song that Krazy D is listed as the first writer on, started out as "Hispanic Zone," he says.

"I basically wrote 'Panic Zone.'
'Panic Zone' wasn't even 'Panic Zone' when I wrote it.
I wrote 'Hispanic Zone.'
I was doing a song called 'Hispanic Zone'
and Dre and I were talking about it and he was like
'Nobody's gonna buy a song called 'Hispanic Zone,'
'this and that, and I was like,
'Yeah, well, maybe' and I thought about it and I was like,
'Yeah, that makes sense overall.'"

People Don't Know:
Krazy D had a run-in with Suge Knight long
before the bodyguard-turned-label boss became a legend.

Suge Knight, a former N.W.A bodyguard
went on found Death Row records, where he coerced
Eazy E and Jerry Heller into turning
over the rights to Dr. Dre,
who went on to record the critically-beloved The Chronic.
Knight also supposedly dangled Vanilla Ice
off a hotel balcony to get him to sign
over royalties to "Ice Ice Baby."
Eventually, Knight hooked up with Michel'le Toussaint,
the mother of Dr. Dre's son Marcel,
fathered a daughter by her and then welshed on child support payments,
completing the circle of backstabbery.

Long before all that,
D found himself on the outs after getting into a fight with Suge.

"Suge and I went toe-to-toe one time...
It wasn't much of a fight, it was like a three-hit fight.
He hit me and I think I bounced off the floor twice...
because of that fight Eazy wanted me to sue him.
And I was like 'Naw, fuck that.'
Dre talked me out of it.
He said 'You don't wanna do that.'"

​People Don't Know:
Just how much of N.W.A's early stuff random guys like
Krazy D contributed to without getting credit or royalties.

"I got very little money from them, bro.
If you add it all up it was very little,
probably somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 total.
And I feel like Eazy probably thought
he could get away with not giving me credit
or paying with me because of my connection on the street.
I made a lot of money selling dope,
and, you know, I'm not proud of that,
but I was doing well back then.
So it is what it is."

D takes solace in the fact that
he's not the only one ignored by history.

"I probably wouldn't be talking to you
right now if I was the only one who got
fucked over because I would have
probably went on a rampage, probably
smoked some motherfuckers," he says.
"I believe things happen for a reason
and I feel like I'm going to have some
redemption moment once everything comes out,
and I'll feel a lot better."

Ice Cube part 9

This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album,
N.W.A. and the Posse. Today, we continue with Ice Cube,
N.W.A's main lyricist who went on to become a superstar solo rapper and later an actor.

^Îce Cube then^

​Ice Cube

Also Known As: O'Shea Jackson, Purple Ice.

Before the Picture:
The product of a middle-class nuclear family,
Ice Cube started rapping in high school and former a group called
C.I.A (Cru' In Action) with Sir Jinx and Kid Disaster.
He was tapped by Eric "Eazy-E" Wright
to write rhymes for Ruthless Records' acts and wrote classics like
"Boyz-n-The-Hood" before leaving Los Angeles
to attend technical school in Phoenix for a year.
Cube earned a degree in architectural drafting at the
Phoenix Institute of Technology,
a school at the corner of 24th Street and University,
south of the airport,
which closed in 1993 without being absorbed by another institution.
Unfortunately, the only records the state maintains
on the school are student files protected by federal privacy laws.

"The rap game wasn't looking too solid at that
time so I decided to go ahead and go to school," he was quoted as saying.

In the Photo:
Details about Cube's early career are hard
enough to come by without adding on the extra challenge
of sorting out the minutia involved in an old record cover.
For example, even Joel McIver, the author of
Ice Cube: Attitude, a biography of the rapper,
has details about the photo wrong.

McIver, a Brit more famous for his best-seller,
Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica,
writes that "the cover was a generic shot of the band,
plus the other rappers who appeared on the record
(Dr Rock, the Fila Fresh Crew, Ron-De-Vu
- a sometime rapping partner of Eazy-E in his early days - among them)
in a typically urban graffiti-wall setting."

Not only is not one of the artists McIver namechecks in the photo,
hopefully the past 10 days of The Posse Project
have shown this photo is anything but "generic,"
though it was seemingly designed to appear that way.
That's less a reflection on McIver's book,
which is very good, than on difficulty tracking these guys down,
and on the myths developed around N.W.A in the following years.
No one has more to gain from those myths than Ice Cube,
who is probably N.W.A's most image-conscious member.

However, if a guy who wrote a 270-page
book on Cube can't sort out the rapper's role in the photo,
I won't try to do it here.
Cube's publicist declined an interview request so his part in
The Posse will remain a mystery a little longer.

^This is a photo of an old
Phoenix Institute of Technology drafting tool case.
Ice Cube would have used something
very similar to this while attending school in Phoenix.^

After the Photo:
After returning from school Cube stuck with N.W.A
through Straight Outta Compton before leaving over a
financial dispute with the group's manager,
Jerry Heller, and with Eazy E.

"Heller gave me this contract,
and I said I wanted a lawyer to see it.
He almost fell out of his chair.
I guess he figured, how this young muthafucka turn down all this money?
Everybody else signed," McIver quotes him as saying.
"I told them I wanted to make sure my shit was right first."

Cube quickly established himself as a huge solo star.
His first four solo records became classics
as he dropped tracks like the intensely controversial
"Cave Bitch," the famous N.W.A diss track
"No Vaseline" and
"It Was A Good Day,"
possibly the greatest rap song ever recorded.

Now: Ice Cube's career could be a series in itself.
Though his music career has fallen off over the years,
he wrote the classic Friday films and has
starred in flicks like Higher Learning, Three Kings, and Barbershop.

Just last week Cube announced he'll be releasing a new album,
called I Am The West in July.
Interestingly, he's said to be using beats from
fellow Posse photo veteran Sir Jinx for the first time in nearly 20 years.

People Don't Know:
Some of Ice Cube's most famous songs are 'parodies' of a sort.

Though he says the idea to wear clocks didn't come from Public Enemy,
Sir Jinx also says N.W.A's habit of parodying songs
rubbed off on Cube's writing process.
Listen to the cadence of some of Cube's
best work and you'll hear clear influences, Jinx says.

"Now, those songs played a part in Cube's career.
[PE's] 'So-phisticated'] is 'Dopeman.' It's the same song...
"I Ain't Tha 1' is [Boogie Down Production's] 'My Philosophy.'
...that's coming from the parody thing.
But the number one parody that went
across the motherfucking world was 'Boyz N The Hood',
it was a parody of [Schoolly D's] 'PSK.' Listen and you can hear it."

People Don't Know:
Ice Cube's street cred is a hot topic of debate.
Some people think his acting career started earlier than IMDB indicates;
others says he legitimately picked up his
stories of street life from people he knew.

How real is Ice Cube?
Here are three perspectives on him from
people interviewed for this series.

Krazy D:
"He grew up in a bad area but that still didn't make him authentic.
He lived in an upper-class neighborhood,
nice home, parents had money, he's always had it made.
Not to take anything away from him but he's an actor, right?
He was acting like a gangster and he was good at it.
You can't take anything away from it,
he's an incredible talent, but just he ain't the real deal."

Jerry Heller:
"Eazy had the ability to influence you to be better than you were.
Even though Ice Cube went to a really good upper
middle class high school in the San Fernando Valley,
and was a great lyricist, he would write the verse and Eric would say to him,
'You know, that's really corny.'
He would make him change it to where it had some street credibility."

MC Ren:
"Cube grew up around a lot of people like Eric so he saw that shit too.
Even though they didn't live that shit, they lived in that shit."

MC Chip part 10

This is an installment in The Posse Project, a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse. Today, we continue with MC Chip, who proved to be the hardest person to track down of anyone in the photo.

^Chip then^

^MC Chip is still reppin' N.W.A today.^

MC Chip

​Also Known As:
Granville Moton, Chip Dirty, Da Konvicted Felon.

Before the Photo:
Chip was one of MC Ren's best friends and also hung out with Eric "Eazy E" Wright, who grew up around the corner from him.

In The Photo:
Along with Ren, Chip actually looks like he's part of N.W.A as the group later looked -- Kings hat, white t-shirt, jeans, black sneakers. Within a few months Chip and Ren's style became the group's style.

"Early, early West Coast hip-hop, before it became gangsta, we were looking for an identity," Chip tells me. "That was just how we, Ren and I, dressed. We were from the C.P.T. so that's how we dressed -- t-shirt, khakis -- we dressed like the G's. That's how the G's did it, so that's how we did it."

After the Photo:
Chip went on to record a couple verses for Ren's solo records, including a spot on "One False Move" from Ren's 1993's 2nd album, Shock of the Hour.

He's also appeared on "In Da Ghetto"

and "Bang Wit Me." He was namechecked in the first verse of Ren's "Old Times," which is probably the best solo tracks Ren has released recently. (Ren actually mentions several other guys profiled for The Posse Project in the song -- can you pick them out?)

Chip isn't doing anything with music and keeps a low profile online. His only web presence is a BlackPlanet account.
He lives in L.A. and works in transportation for an aerospace company.

"I still write a little bit, but I'm just working, man, just basically taking care of wifey. I can still do it, I'm still sick with it, but the reality of life, it didn't crack the way it was supposed to crack."

People Don't Know:
Cursing on records was a huge novelty when gangster rap first started.

"It's a trip, I still remember when Eazy let me hear 'Boyz-n-the-Hood' for the first time," he says. "That was some crazy shit, man, because you're sitting there listening to it and you're like 'Man, he's cussing on this rap!' You're thinking, like, 'Damn, how's he gonna get radio play?' But one thing you knew about it was that shit was tight. There wasn't nobody else on that level doing that type of thing."

People Don't Know:
Not everyone involved in N.W.A dislikes Jerry Heller, N.W.A's manager, who Ice Cube and Dr. Dre have attacked in song several times.

"[Jerry] was an important part of what happened, because, really, he took his business sense, and saw something in Eazy E, a street dude with a lot of intelligence, and he made it so he could get his records out to the world."

People Don't Know:
N.W.A was it's own street team back in the day.

"I can remember jumping in the truck with Eric, we would just go grab some records from Macola and just go out to the swap meets and just give them to people. We would just hand them out, and that gave Eric a lot of street buzz,"says Chip.

Chip on

Dr. Dre part 11

This is an installment in The Posse Project,
a 12-part series in which catches up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse. Today, we continue with Dr. Dre the superstar rapper/producer who has had the most success since this photo was taken.

^Dr. Dre then^

^Dr. Dre today^

​Dr. Dre

Also Known As: Andre Romelle Young, Dr. J

Before the Photo: Dr. Dre was already a notable musician, at least in Los Angeles, prior to his N.W.A days. As "Dr. J," the house DJ at Eve's After Dark (Compton's answer to the Cavern Club) and a member of World Class Wreckin' Cru, Dre had already established himself, landing a regular radio gig and selling an estimated 50,000 copies of the Cru's records through unofficial channels.

In the Photo: Dre -- positioned between Ice Cube and Eazy E -- almost blends into the background of the Posse record cover. He's neither wearing any sort of distinctive clothing nor taking any sort stance in particular. It's almost as though he knows the picture will go on an album that the group will not promote in earnest. And he very well may have.

Dre's longtime publicist did not return a phone call or e-mail for The Posse Project, but Ronin Ro's excellent biography on Dr. Dre makes an important point about the cover: Macola, the group's first label, likely knew the group was shopping for another label at the time it commissioned the picture.

As Arabian Prince noted in Ro's book, when a band got a deal with a new label, Macola's M.O. was to quickly release every song the group had done. Dre, ever the savvy businessman, may have wanted to play ball with Macola as long as he needed to until N.W.A's deal with Priority was done, without laying all the group's cards on the table by stylizing the cover. Dre didn't talk to us, so we don't know for sure, but it seems possible.

After the Photo: The early days of N.W.A are filled with great ironies: One original member of Niggaz With Attitude was a Latino, and pop-rapper Candyman is on the cover of Posse. Another hilarious coincidence concerns the group's label, Priority Records.

When N.W.A signed with Priority the group became only the label's second signed act. The other was The California Raisins.

That's right: The first non-compilation album released by Priority was The California Raisins Sing the Hit Songs. The second was Straight Outta Compton.

As Ro writes, the label's bosses made a mint on the Raisins and wanted to re-invest the cash in something edgy. N.W.A certainly fit the bill. So not only did Eazy E put in the old tape, Marvin Gaye's Greatest Hits, Eazy and Dre got a leg up in the music business because of a cartoon band's cover of Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine."

From there, Dr. Dre's career has had only the most minor of setbacks. His work with N.W.A was stellar, his solo debut, The Chronic, is regarded as one of the best rap albums of all time, and nearly everyone he's produced (Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game) has had success.

Now: Nary a week goes by when Dre is not either rumored or confirmed to be doing something big and important. The latest? He's selling computers for H-P, possibly planning to record a new joint album with Snoop Dogg and working on a new record called Detox, a long-term project that is fast becoming the new Chinese Democracy.

People Don't Know: Despite being the most important musician of the past quarter-century, Dr. Dre is not a musician, says N.W.A's former manager Jerry Heller.

"Something more significant than the fact that Dre wasn't a real gangster was the fact that he wasn't a real musician," Heller tells me. "Dre, only recently, has learned how to fool around on the piano. None of the guys in the group was a musician. I mean, Yella played a little drums, but none of them were musicians, which is part of the whole genre with gangster rap. Rather than being a creator of music, Dre was an assembler of music. It's a very interesting genre, unlike anything that came before. We've never had really successful musicians before that weren't real musicians."

People Don't Know: Dr. Dre's departure from N.W.A hurt Eazy E emotionally, says MC Ren.

"[Eazy] was hurt by all that shit," Ren tells me. "He was hurt because him and Dre started out back in the day, back in Compton. Before all the record company shit, they were a DJ crew, High-Powered Productions, doing house parties and shit like that. Dre was the tightest producer ever, putting out hits on him, and he was hurting like a motherfucker. Especially when them [dis] records came out -- [hurt Eazy] like a motherfucker."

People Don't Know: Dr. Dre's departure spelled the end of N.W.A in a way Ice Cube's didn't, says Jerry Heller.

"The significant thing about the end of N.W.A was really when Dre left. After Cube left, there was still an N.W.A, but when Dre left, there was no N.W.A," Heller says. "He was certainly the most integral part of the group, and the most valuable asset Ruthless Records had."

People Don't Know: Dre's first effort for his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, suffered because Dre was too busy with the business side of things to do the production work he normally excelled at, says Jerry Heller.

"That's why the first Aftermath record was so bad. He did become distracted, and that Aftermath record is really the only bad thing Dre ever did in his life," Heller says. "When you look at Dre, he did World Class Wreckin' Crue, Turn Out The Lights . . . This guy has been at the very top of his game since 1986. He certainly is the most important producer of the entire rap period."

Eazy-E part 12

​This is the final installment in The Posse Project,
a 12-part series in which caught up with all 12 guys pictured on the cover of N.W.A's first album, N.W.A. and the Posse. Today's post is on Eric "Eazy E" Wright, who passed away 15 years ago today.

^Êazy-E then^

^Bates AIO painted a tribute to Eazy-E in Hamburg, Germany for the Exchange project.^
(Sketch by Sever MSK)


​Also Known As: Eric Wright, Little Rat, The Greatest Gangster.

Before the Photo: Nearly everyone in the Posse photo was either involved in the Compton club music scene with (a DJ crew, a rap group or an electro-funk outfit) or just a hanger-on. Eazy-E was the exception.

A drug dealer, a high school dropout, and a member of the Kelly Park Compton Crips, Eric Wright aspired to get involved in the music business by starting his own record label with the help of Jerry Heller, a down-on-his luck former manager to stars like Elton John and Marvin Gaye. As this photo was taken, the pair's business had just started to build up enough steam to engineer a major coup: N.W.A's jump from Macola Records to the upstart Priority Records where the group would record their true debut album, Straight Outta Compton.

In the Photo: No one we talked to for The Posse Project could identify everyone else on the Posse cover by real name or by anything beyond a 20-year-old street name. Eazy likely would have been the one exception, since he was well-acquainted with even the hardest guys to track down: the mysterious Mexican Krazy D, the DJ Scratch who isn't EPMD's DJ Scratch and "Ren's Homie" MC Chip.

After the Photo: Eazy E was at the center of the development of N.W.A and gangsta rap. Though he originally did not intend to be a rapper himself, his fluke success rapping "Boyz-n-the-Hood" (when another group on his label refused) made him officially join N.W.A for Compton.

As Jerry Heller tells me: "Eric used to say it best. He would say he was the conceptualizer, Dre was the musicalizer, Cube was the verbalizer, and Jerry was the finanicalizer."

That system worked for a while -- long enough to change popular music forever, anyway. Things went well for N.W.A until financial disputes drove Ice Cube, then later Dr. Dre, away from the group.

Following the dissolution of N.W.A, Eazy continued on a solo career and signed new acts to Ruthless Record. Ruthless' most successful post-N.W.A group was Cleveland's Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, which later eulogized Eazy with their #1 hit "Tha Crossroads."

Anthony "Krayzie Bone" Henderson tells me his group called Ruthless Records 100 times before a receptionist finally persuaded Eazy to call them back. Eazy's rapping style was famously slow, which is probably part of the reason why the rapid-fire Bone Thugs crew blew him away when he finally heard it.

"One day he called us back, and I answered the phone and he was like, 'Can I speak to Bone?' and I was like, 'That's us!' and he was like, 'Yeah, I'm just returning your call cuz I heard ya'll were calling up here saying you can rap, so let me hear something,' so I got to rapping to him on the phone and he was like 'Man!' he was blown away. He said that it was crazy, he was putting other people on the phone saying, 'Listen to them rap!"

From there, it was on. Bone rose to success while Eazy finally played the behind-the-scenes role he'd originally planned to take in the music business. Just after Bone's single "Foe Tha Love of $," which featured Eazy, was released, Eazy fell ill. Then, just like that, he was gone. He didn't live long enough to see Bone hit it big with "1st of the Month," a song so influential it was skewered in possibly the most infamous comedy bit of all time.

To put things in perspective: The 11 days between when Eazy was admitted to the hospital for health problems he thought were tied to asthma and when he died was one day shorter than The Posse Project has lasted.

Eazy-E passed away at age 31 on March 26, 1995, after issuing a statement to fans:

I may not seem like a guy you would pick to preach a sermon. But I feel it is now time to testify because I do have folks who care about me hearing all kinds of stuff about what's up.

Yeah, I was a brother on the streets of Compton doing a lot of things most people look down on -- but it did pay off. Then we started rapping about real stuff that shook up the LAPD and the FBI. But we got our message across big time, and everyone in America started paying attention to the boys in the 'hood.' Soon our anger and hope got everyone riled up. There were great rewards for me personally, like fancy cars, gorgeous women and good living. Like real non-stop excitement. I'm not religious, but wrong or right, that's me. I'm not saying this because I'm looking for a soft cushion wherever I'm heading, I just feel that I've got thousands and thousands of young fans that have to learn about what's real when it comes to AIDS. Like the others before me, I would like to turn my own problem into something good that will reach out to all my homeboys and their kin. Because I want to save their asses before it's too late.

I'm not looking to blame anyone except myself. I have learned in the last week that this thing is real, and it doesn't discriminate. It affects everyone. My girl Tomika and I have been together for four years and we recently got married. She's good, she's kind and a wonderful mother. We have a little boy who's a year old. Before Tomika, I had other women. I have seven children by six different mothers. Maybe success was too good to me. I love all my kids and always took care of them. Now I'm in the biggest fight of my life, and it ain't easy. But I want to say much love to those who have been down to me. And thanks for your support. Just remember: It's YOUR real time and YOUR real life.

People Don't Know:
Eazy-E was the Greatest Gangsta.

Though he's certainly not ignored by the media, there are a lot of people who believe Eazy has never gotten his due -- myself included. The guys at, a tribute site that's been running since 2005, do their best to change that by paying tribute to him.

"Eazy-E is a big deal and it bothers me that he doesn't get the props he deserves," says the site's head honcho, Sergio. "It's obvious that because he died due to complications of AIDS that his death is not celebrated like those who got shot. That's the only reason why I can imagine he does not get the attention he deserves."

It's the people who knew Eazy the best who miss him the most.

There are all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories out there about Jerry Heller, but no one who has ever talked to Jerry about Eazy can question the man's love for his lost business partner and friend. Talking on the phone from his home near the California coast, the former N.W.A manager gets emotional talking about Eric.

"He was the best. He was like my flesh and blood son," Heller tells me. "I was proud of him. He was a good guy. We always got along. I don't think we ever had a disagreement about anything meaningful. We may have had a disagreement about him showing up two days late to a meeting, but we never had a disagreement about anything meaningful."

MC Ren, the N.W.A member who grew up around the corner from Eazy, says his mind often turns to memories of his friend: hanging at the swapmeet, listening to music in the garage, cruising around Compton. Eazy wasn't the glock-toting thug people think, Ren says. He was just a cool dude. "A real cool dude."

"Eazy be in my dreams sometimes. It's like he's still alive, the dream be so real," Ren said.


I don't normally publicly thank people who provide information for my stories, but this project really depended on the passion, knowledge, and kindness of several people who not only gave me information, but harassed their homies into calling to me. Big thanks to Paulie Classic, Sergio from, and Arcyn Al.


Related posts;
5 Good or bad rap album covers (part 6)
Straight Outta Asgard

Y is for... (Yomo & Maulkie)
Like Dr. Dre of N.W.A would say...(Still Not ♥’ing Police t-shirts)
Video: Ice Cube Explains Dr. Dre’s I Am The West Absence
Dr. Dre & Timbaland Co-Sign: Earl Hayes Interview
Vibe magazine interview with Dr. Dre
E-40 picks his: Top 5 dead or alive (Ice Cube)
Spice-1 picks his: Top 5 dead or alive (Ice Cube & MC Ren)
9th Wonder picks his: Top 5 dead or alive (Rappers & Producers) (Dr. Dre)
Scarface picks his: Top 5 dead or alive (Extended Edition) (Ice Cube)
Fat Joe picks his: Top 5 dead or alive (Dr. Dre)
Ice Cube picks his: Top 5 dead or alive (films)
15 years ago we lost Eazy-E
What Happened After N.W.A. and the Posse?

1 comment:

  • In the deck