Jerry Heller, who served as N.W.A.’s original manager, died of a heart attack on Friday, September 2, at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 75.
The music industry veteran’s cousin Gary Ballen confirmed the news to Billboard. According to TMZ, Heller was involved in a car accident on Friday morning and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries shortly before his death.
Heller was best known for kicking off N.W.A.’s highly successful career in the ’80s after teaming up with band member Eazy-E to launch Ruthless Records. The record label also launched the careers of several R&B and hip-hop stars such as J.J. Fad, Michel’le and the D.O.C.
Heller had a contentious relationship with N.W.A. member Ice Cube, who left the group in 1989 over a royalty dispute. Ice Cube, now 47, later released a diss track against his former manager titled “No Vaseline,” on which he rapped, “N.W.A. ain’t s–t without Ice Cube!” (Dr. Dre also left the group in 1991, citing similar monetary issues.)
Despite the band’s issues with Heller, his partnership with Eazy-E continued until the rapper’s death in March 1995. “I was with him until the day of his untimely death,” Heller told Rolling Stone in November 2015. “I still think about him every day. He was like my son. He was a visionary. He was the greatest, and I’ve always believed that only he and I really understood the significance of what N.W.A. was.”
The music mogul was portrayed by Paul Giamatti in the 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton. Heller filed a $110 million defamation lawsuit against the box office smash’s producers, including Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, claiming the movie was filled with inaccuracies. (The bulk of the lawsuit was dismissed in June 2016.)
Prior to his work with N.W.A. and Ruthless Records, Heller worked as an agent for several popular artists, including Creedence Clearwater Revival, Journey and Marvin Gaye.
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