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Jerry Heller (1940–2016)

by Legacy Staff

Managed gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. and Eazy-E.

Jerry Heller, the manager of gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A. and Eazy-E, died Sept. 2, 2016, according to multiple news sources. He was 75.

No cause of death has been released.


Heller played a role in bringing west coast rap music into the mainstream after meeting Compton rapper Eazy-E and forming Ruthless Records in the mid-1980s. In addition to Eazy-E, for a time he managed Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Michel’le, and Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony.

Actor Paul Giamatti portrayed him in the 2015 film, “Straight Outta Compton,” which dramatized the rise and fall of the rap group N.W.A. Heller filed a defamation lawsuit against the producers claiming that the film would harm his reputation. Most of his suit was dismissed before his death.

Heller co-wrote his book, “Ruthless: A Memoir,” published in 2006. The contentious and influential music released by Ruthless Records sold in the millions and made Heller a wealthy man. It also brought scrutiny by the FBI and run-ins with Los Angeles gangsters.

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Heller was born Oct. 6, 1940, in Cleveland, Ohio. He served in the Army and obtained a business degree from the University of Southern California.

During the 1960s and ’70s, he worked as a music agent and promoter for Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, and Elton John, among many others.

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