Q & A with EAZY-E : ‘Gangsta Rap? It’s Reality Rap’
Rapper Eazy-E (Eric Wright) has taken on a new and rather tame venture, by his usual standards: hosting a weekly , party-style radio show on KKBT-FM (“The Beat,” 92.3)
Wright, who founded the rap group N.W.A., first drew controversy for writing a song that many believed advocated violence against police officers, and then later for championing the cause of LAPD Officer Theodore Briseno, who was charged with beating Rodney G. King. On “The Ruthless Radio Show” (named after Wright’s Ruthless Records company), the rapper and his friends--Julio G., Tony G. and Jesse Collins--take a non-controversial approach as they spin tunes, take requests or “shout-outs” from listeners and interview visiting artists.
Wright talked about his show (airing Saturdays from 6-9 p.m.), efforts to censor rap and the pressure rappers feel to live up to their gangsta image.
Question: What made you decide to do this radio show? Whose idea was it?
Answer: It was all of our ideas. I don’t want to take the credit. What I really wanted to do was get a pirate radio station and cut into all of the major stations out here and just play our show on all the stations.
Q: What kind of show are we going to hear over the weeks to come?
A: It’s just a spontaneous kind of show. The show is never going to be the same every week. It’s three hours of open radio. You never know who will be stopping by. I might do a little (performing).
Q: I hear you’re working on a double album with all the unexpurgated lyrics from rap songs. What do you think about the recent effort by community organizations who have pressured radio stations to drop offensive words from rap music? Is it a form of censorship?
A: I think it’s kind of cool. I can understand why they’re doing it. I guess it is censorship, but to get airplay you have to take some of those words out.
Q: What about all the rappers who are charged with crimes these days? Why do so many seem to be getting into trouble when they’ve attained success, and life should be smooth sailing?
A: A lot of people try to live up to their image when they’re really not like that. There’s a lot of pressure.
Q: What do all the arrests do to the image of rap?
A: It gets blurred up even more. But, it’s good for record sales. To be on the cover of Time magazine and all that, that’s good for record sales. . . . If you can sell 4 million records off shooting somebody, I’d say you can beat that case.
Q: What about people who say rap music contributes to the violence in our society? Do you feel like you’re part of that?
A: No, I don’t think I’m a part of it. Violence has been here since the beginning of time. I think it’s all the drugs on the streets and everything else that makes everybody violent.
Q: How do you feel the image of gangsta rap affects kids?
A: Who gave it that title, gangsta rap? It’s reality rap. It’s about what’s really going on. I get asked that question a lot. It does affect some kids. But other kids know right from wrong. Or they should know right from wrong. And that goes back to home, the parents.
Q: You are a former gangster and drug dealer. What advice do you give to kids who are gangbangers or are contemplating getting into a gang?
A: I talk to a lot of kids. I tell them, ‘Stay away from all this stuff. Be a rapper.’ (He laughs.) I do a lot of that. I go to correctional facilities and talk to kids there. They have little kids in there who are like 12 years old stealing cars and stuff like that.
Q: Why does the negative aspect of rap get so much attention, as opposed to more positive images of African Americans?
A: You know why it’s gotten that attention? Because it’s started going to different neighborhoods: Beverly Hills and here and there. And when it starts getting there that’s when there’s a problem. As long as it stayed in the ‘hood, it was no problem.
Q: A few years ago you paid $2,490 to have dinner with President Bush. You were invited by Sen. Bob Dole to a Republican Inner Circle event where Bush was going to speak. Why did you do that? And what was it like?
A: I was on a list of just giving donations. I give to Athletes and Entertainers for Kids and Make a Wish Foundation so (the Republican Party) pulled my name off the list and they sent me an invitation. I went down there to see what was going on. It was a trip. CBS was there and all kinds of media. I had a bunch of different interviews and I came back home. I saw it on the news and they said, “How can this guy go to something like this?” And they showed me at home where I have this nice gun collection. . . . It wasn’t a lot of money. How much press did I get? I tell you it paid off. I would have paid $100,000 for that press.