Heller, the former manager of influential West Coast rap group N.W.A, has passed away at the age of 75. His cause of death is not yet known.
Heller is a well-known and divisive figure among fans of N.W.A. The industry veteran, who had previously worked with Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, and Elton John, formed Ruthless Records alongside Eazy-E, as well as taking on a managing role with his group. Heller helped bring the uncompromising gangsta rap of the group to a larger audience, climaxing with the release of their seminal 1988 album, Straight Outta Compton. Ruthless released 6 platinum projects in 3 years, including releases from N.W.A, The D.O.C., J.J. Fad, and Eazy-E.
Disputes over money within N.W.A. led to the departure of Ice Cube, who attributed the unfair distribution of profits to Heller — addressing his criticisms in the 1991 diss track, “No Vaseline.” Dr. Dre later left the group for similar reasons, but Heller and Eazy maintained their relationship until the rapper died of AIDS in 1995.
Heller was recently portrayed by Paul Giamatti in the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, but he took issue with his role as the villain in the film, launching a $110 million dollar lawsuit against the producers.
In 2006, Heller released Ruthless: A Memoir, in which he spoke on many subjects throughout his career he had previously remained silent on, including accusations of financial impropriety in N.W.A, which he denied.
This article will be updated when further information on Heller’s death arrives.
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