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Jerry Heller helped bring N.W.A 'Straight Outta Compton'





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“Personally, I don’t really have that much animosity toward Jerry Heller. You know, it’s a long time ago. Respect the fact that Eazy was no fool. And this guy was like a father figure to Eazy. In a lot of ways, he did what he said he was gonna do. Which is, make him legit. We were selling records out the trunk of our car before Jerry came into the picture."

     — Ice Cube to Amos Barshad in Grantland, 8/11/2015

The new movie "Straight Outta Compton" tells the story of how the group N.W.A broke out in the mid-1980s, revolutionizing hip-hop. O'Shea Jackson Jr. plays Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins plays Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell is Eazy-E ... and way down the list of credits is Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller.

Heller, now 74, was in his 40s when he started managing N.W.A after an already long music career working with Elton John, Van Morrison, The Eagles, Pink Floyd and others.

(L-R: Elton John and Jerry Heller. Courtesy Jerry Heller)

As Heller told KPCC's Adolfo Guzman Lopez in 2006, when he released his memoir "Ruthless":

"I heard about a little pressing plant down on Santa Monica Boulevard called Macola, and there was Ice-T, MC Hammer, The World Class Wreckin' Cru, CIA, J.J. Fad, The L.A. Dream Team pressing their records over there. So if you sold 10,000 records, on a record that probably cost you two or three hundred dollars plus the thousand you had to pay to press them up, everybody made a lot of money. So I got involved then. And in The World Class Wreckin' Cru was Dre."

Dr. Dre, of course, one of the founding members of N.W.A.

How did this white Ohioan mix with the black rappers from Compton?

"Remember," he told Adolfo, "I grew up in Cleveland on the same block as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. I knew a lot bigger gangsters than N.W.A."

But their artistry was clear.

"This cry," he calls it, "from our inner cities, from these audio documentarians, probably the greatest poets of their era."

There's much more from Heller in Adolfo's interview from the Off-Ramp archive; click on the arrow above for the audio version.