Ruthless tells the explosive story of Jerry Heller's alliance with Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E, one of the legends of rap music and a founding member of N.W.A., "the world's most dangerous band." As a longtime music industry superagent, Heller had the skill and insight necessary to guide N.W.A.'s cometlike rise to the top of the charts. Along the way there were raucous nationwide tours, out-of-control MTV pool parties, and X-rated business meetings. Heller held on through the brutal shocks and reversals of the Ruthless Records era, which saw the label being targeted by the FBI, and its principal artists locked in bitter conflict, until a final turnaround placed Ruthless at the top of the heap once more.
Heller turns the music industry inside out, exposing its strange logic and larger-than-life personalities. Ruthless provides keen insight into the popular music scene, with an unforgettable portrait of its rollicking excesses, life-churning drama, and multimillion-dollar highs.
"People had me thinking that I was coming to meet the devil," Dallas rapper J.R. Ewing once said to Jerry Heller, long-time artist representative and a co-founder of Ruthless Records, home to N.W.A., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Eazy-E, aka Eric Wright, Heller's partner and label co-founder. Heller's book is in part a response to the anti-Semitic rhetoric thrown his way (especially by O'Shea Jackson, aka Ice Cube) and in part a tribute to Eazy-E. Opening in 1991 with Eazy-E's betrayal by Dr. Dre-rap mogul Andre Young-the bulk of the book covers Heller's work with rap artists, leaping back to Associated Booking in 1963, where he cut his teeth. Heller's volume is a meandering but fascinating personal tour through the sordid underworld of the music business, with its guns and grudges, drugs and bodyguards. Those familiar with Heller only as a rap impresario may be surprised by the extent of his pop culture pedigree; he crossed paths with the likes of Bill Graham and David Geffen, as well as Berry Gordy and Marvin Gaye. Written in an informal style, including gritty conversations transcribed with scatological color intact, the book tracks the collision between street-smart and business-savvy, presenting the prototypes for the rapper/entrepreneur figure that currently dominates the scene-think Diddy or Jay-Z. This should appeal to anyone interested in the history of the hip hop business. A brief discography is included.
Another side to the story
Having been friends with a lot of label reps and reps from promotion & management houses in the early 00's I also felt the other side of the story probably held a lot more water than the accusations made over the years, reading this book I've come to understand even more how the central figures of NWA folded the band more because of general mistrust and heightened expectations than the reality of being treated properly.
Interesting but all over the place.
The book was mediocre and disorganized. Jerry did not steal a penny rather as much as write contracts that assured his advantage so what's the difference that's business I guess.....even if it's the black Beatles. RIP Eeasy E.
Overall mediocre book. Somewhere in the latter half I got lost in the web of "Hey I'm Jerry Heller and I'm gonna drop names from way back...and it goes on and on and on..." but it did have some interesting views on things. Often his timelines don't actually match up with records released by Ice Cube and even an Eazy-E album. Nevertheless I read it and it was slightly entertaining and minimally informative.