Hip Hop needs to learn to respect its elders and remember its history. While acts like Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix continue touch fans from beyond the grave, only the late Tupac and Biggie Smalls seem to have a similar effect on rap’s listeners. That’s a shame.
Eric (Eazy-E) Wright was simply one of the most influential artists in the history of music. That’s all music, kids. You certainly didn’t have to agree with his message, the way he lived his live or, ultimately, the way it ended, but no one can deny his contributions, for better or worse, forever changed the game.
Last summer, Eazy-E’s widow, Tomica Wright, released a two-disc CD/DVD compilation that covered nearly the entirety of Eazy’s work as an artist and record label president. Unfortunately, Impact of a Legend was victimized by poor marketing and has been sadly overlooked in the flavor-of-the-month world of commercialized rap.
The CD contains six rare and/or unreleased tracks and a pair of pointless skits. These cuts are pretty much just studio session outtakes from Eazy’s vault, with the gaps filled in by a handful of obscure underground artists affiliated with the Ruthless label. There’s really nothing of note here, save for the promising debut of artists Roc Slanga on Switchez and Phalos Mode on four of the tracks.
It’s on the DVD portion where this package blows the hell up. Quite simply, if it involved Eazy-E during the eight or nine years of his too-brief career, then it’s in here. We’ll outline everything that’s included with a few words on as much as can be covered. Just be warned, there is a TON of material to review.
Audio: A choice between 2-channel PCM stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1.
Documentary: This was produced in 1998, but never released commercially. It’s a 15-20 minute piece that begins with Eazy’s birth in Compton, California (including baby pictures and a touching interview with Eazy’s parents). It quickly moves to the origin of N.W.A. All of the original members provide input, as they recall how Eazy wasn’t the first choice to be the group’s front man and Eazy’s reluctance to rap when first offered the chance. The most powerful subjects addressed include the threatening response from the Federal Government to N.W.A’s F Tha Police track, the very candid comments on Dr. Dre’s departure from Ruthless and its ultimate impact on the label, the infamous 1991 dinner with George Bush, Sr. and the early stages of Eazy’s AIDS-related death.
Full-Length Videos: There are nearly a dozen videos that span the breadth of Eazy’s career. The classic street anthem Straight Outta Compton is the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, it’s the only full-length N.W.A. video included. Eazy-er Said Than Dunn and We Want Eazy cover the “early” years, complete with cheesy ’80s special effects and old-school rap staples like thick gold chains, Los Angeles Raiders/Kings attire and girls in biker shorts shakin’ their groove thangs. The excellent Snoop/Dr. Dre diss Real Compton City G’s is here, as well, as are a handful of posthumous videos that feature the usual “beyond the grave” theme that Tupac has mastered. Another highlight is the video For Tha Love of Money from Eazy’s most successful post-N.W.A act, Bone Thugs N Harmony.
Ruthless Records Mega-Mix: This alone would make this a clear-cut recommendation for hip hop fans. It’s a lengthy mix, and includes just about every Ruthless video and hit single via mix snippets ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes each. The list of inclusions is a mile long and reads like a who’s who of late ’80s/early ’90s rap and R&B acts. Check out the too hot for MTV videos by N.W.A., Appetite for Destruction and Always Into Something. Old school heads will bounce to JJ Fad’s Supersonic or groove to Miche’le’s Nicety. Bone Thugs N Harmony’s smash hit Tha Crossroads is here, but like many of the better videos, the clip is too damn short. There are some obscure acts, too, that many heads have probably forgotten. Watch for clips from artists like Kokane, Above The Law, Penthouse Players and the hilariously miserable girl group H.W.A.
Discography: This covers every Eazy-E solo album and features 30-second audio snippets of EVERY track on EVERY album. Another tight feature is the ability to view the front and back of all the CD artwork.
Biography: A few screens that put to text what you’ve already seen in the documentary. Like all biographies, it’s pretty self-serving with a line that claims without Eazy, there’d be no Snoop Dogg, Tupac or Biggie.
Lyrics: The entire text lyrics to four of Eazy’s biggest hits.
Eazy Karaoke: You can now scare the hell out of your neighbors by performing the karaoke version of a handful of Eazy’s classics, scrolling lyrics and all!
Rap Pages: Includes the viewable letter from the FBI, the program from Eazy’s funeral and his last “message to his fans”.
Eazy Flix/Picture Gallery: Just a couple of slide shows of Eazy pictures. It’s a little odd when five pics of Eazy with various guns and scowls is following by Eazy snacking on churros with a handful of kids at Magic Mountain.
Lost Footage: Includes some rarely seen items that are definitely worth a look. In particular, there’s a live performance by Eazy and his crew on The Arsenio Hall Show from 1994. As his posse spills into the audience during their verse, watch the handful of middle-aged balding white men in the front row who don’t know whether to “raise the roof” or run for their lives. There’s also an unintentionally god awful piece on Eazy’s funeral by NBC. The reporter calls him the “grandfather” of gangsta rap (all of 31 years old when he died) and mistakes a slim anonymous fan on the street for Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Amazingly, this doesn’t cover everything that’s included. There are a pair of low-budget shoot-em-up games that are accessible through your PC, as well as an Eazy-E comic book that puts “The Eazy-E story” into pictures a child can follow.