Eazy-E ~ Eazy-Duz-It (1988)

Posted on November 3, 2013

0


This is one of the most popular albums from Hip Hop’s Golden Era; although, ironically, it’s also one of the least acknowledged in terms of quality and replay value. Eazy-E (Eric Wright), the mastermind behind the “World’s Most Dangerous Group” NWA, was a Compton, California drug dealer turned record executive. By pure twist of fate, Eazy would also become the face of gangsta rap.

Eazy-E wasn’t exactly a textbook emcee. In fact, he became a rapper by happenstance. During a recording session with Homeboys Only, a New York group he’d signed to his Ruthless Records label, HBO rebuked Eazy when he’d presented them with a song to record: the Ice Cube-penned, Dr. Dre-produced “Boyz-N-The Hood”. Refusing to record what they deemed a stridently West Coast song, HBO left the recording studio in protest, and with the studio time being wasted, Dr. Dre suggested Eazy-E record the track himself. With intense vocal coaching from Dre, along with E’s undeniable charisma, Eric Wright the entrepreneur was fashioned into Eazy-E, the Hip Hop Thugsta.
“Boyz N-The-Hood” became a massive street hit, and led to both Eazy-E and his motley crew NWA securing production deals with Hollywood label Priority Records. In the late summer of 1988, months before NWA dropped their atom bomb Straight Outta Compton, Ruthless Records presented its first star attraction: Eazy-E, and his tight full-length debut Eazy-Duz-It.

Eazy-Duz-It isn’t as breathtaking as its companion piece Straight Outta Compton, and it doesn’t aspire to be. Through this album’s twelve tracks, Eazy-E pulls jack moves, tells hood tales, flexes his ego, and revels in all things hedonistic. The album’s comical opener “Still Talkin” features Eazy free-wheeling; bragging, boasting, and banging everything in a skirt, while two drunks – one of them voiced by Ice Cube – talk trash over a festive blues melody during the bridges. On the next track, the sinister yet funky “Nobody Move”, NWA firebrand MC Ren appears for the first time, and he and Eazy make like Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger; pulling off a daring, full-scale bank heist, and trying to get away clean. Following “Nobody Move”, MC Ren and Eazy-E have two more inspired collabos. “Ruthless Villain” has Ren taking center stage; spitting rugged verbs over the sparse drum rumbles of Dr. Dre, while Eazy handles the hook. On “2 Hard Mutha’s”, Ren and Eazy trade rhyme daggers back and forth, while NWA’s DJ Yella gets buck on the live drum kit, and frequent NWA collaborator Stan “The Guitar Man” Jones supplies the song’s melody with his nimble ax work. “Boyz-N-The Hood (Remix)”, an updated version of Eazy’s first single, has more bass boom from Dr. Dre, a few new lyrics from Ice Cube, and a spiraling narrative, complete with shootouts and courtroom melees, and is as engaging now as it was back in ’88. And the title cut “Eazy-Duz-It” finds Eazy mixing street tales with braggadocio, while Dr. Dre and Yella alternate beats and melodies, and proceed to knock holes in the walls.

Eazy-E separated Eazy-Duz-It into two parts, just as Bay Area legend Too Short frequently did on his Golden Era releases. The R-rated fare comprises Part 1 of Eazy’s disc; and the material fit for radio play fills out Part 2. The set’s second half opens with “We Want Eazy”, a raucous dance floor burner based on an interpolation of Bootsy Collins’ “Ahh, The Name Is Bootsy, Baby”. In the space of five minutes, With N.W.A. affiliate The D.O.C. penning the lyrics, MC Ren and Dr. Dre rhyme in tandem on the lead-in, and then give the floor to Eazy, who turns it out with admirable flair for a CEO-turned-emcee. “Eazy-Er Said Than Dunn”, one of the album’s biggest hits, is simple and exquisite, and finds E kicking flavor like Sunkist, over the twangy soul clap of Rufus Thomas’ “The Breakdown”. “Radio”, written by MC Ren and produced by Dr. Dre, is a mock radio call-in program, complete with beat changes and fake station promos, where Dre and iconic Los Angeles disc jock Greg Mack play hosts and take requests, and Eazy wrecks shop live on the air. “No More ?’s” is an inventive joint scribed by Ice Cube, where Eazy gives an exclusive interview; answering a reporter’s questions in rhyme, and revealing his warped moral compass, over Dre and Yella’s controlled chaos instrumental. And the poison pen of MC Ren is utilized on “I’mma Break It Down”, a villainous percolator where Eazy shoots the gift New York style, atop the “Here Comes That Sound Again” percussion; the same intro kicks used for Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”.

Eazy-Duz-It doesn’t waste a single motion as it plays, which in hindsight is not surprising, considering the talents that worked on it. As with the NWA album Straight Outta Compton, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella do inspiring production work here, supplying tight tracks rooted in funk and soul; that keep the head nodding and the feet moving. MC Ren, Ice Cube, and The DOC shine as well, with the lyrical concepts they create, as the album’s principal writers. But the man of the hour of course is Eazy-E, the charismatic mastermind who brings it all together. Besides his vision behind the scenes, and his obvious magnetism and star power, Eazy-E also shows a work ethic that proves invaluable to this album. It’s been said that Eazy had a horrible sense of rhythm and lyrical timing; and that it took tireless tutoring to make him a serviceable emcee. Well, the work paid off. Listening to Eazy ride these tracks, you’d never guess he had problems with rhythm and cadence.

Eazy-Duz-It was an impactful monster when it dropped in 1988. Besides selling close to three million copies with little radio or video support, and paving the way for NWA to drop later that year, Eazy-Duz-It turned Ruthless Records into a multi-million dollar empire, put Los Angeles on the Hip Hop map for good, and opened the door for scores of street-oriented artists in the years that followed. This album would be the pinnacle of its creator’s recording career, as Eazy-E would see NWA disintegrate in the early 1990’s, and his brilliant collaborators Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and The DOC leave the Ruthless stable. But, as with all true hustlers, Eazy-E would survive: continuing to sell millions of records in his own right, sponsoring groups like Above the Law and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and profiting from the work of Dr. Dre over at Death Row Records. Unfortunately, Eazy-E wouldn’t have long to savor his victory. Suffering from breathing difficulties in early 1995, Eazy would check into L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Shortly thereafter, he’d be diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, and would lose his battle with the deadly syndrome on March 26, 1995; passing away at the age of 31.

Though he’s been gone for well over a decade, the shadow of Eazy-E still looms large in the rap world. Every rap artist who’s uttered a curse word on record since N.W.A. debuted, or that’s ever spoken his or her mind freely, owes a debt to Eazy-E, for opening the door for every defiant artist that followed him. With Eazy-Duz-It, Eazy-E provided an invaluable contribution to Hip Hop. Check it out, and feel the true impact of a legend.

To listen to Eazy-Duz-It, click here.

Advertisements