Jerry Heller, manager of the legendary rap collective N.W.A, died at the age of 75. The music industry veteran died of a heart attack Friday night at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California. His cousin Gary Ballen confirmed the sad news to Billboard.
Heller represented major acts in the 60’s and 70’s including Creedence Clearwater Revival and Marvin Gaye, and promoted Pink Floyd, Elton John, and Kraftwerk on their first U.S. tours.
By the time he was introduced to N.W.A in the 1980’s, Heller hit a slump and was living with his parents in Encino, California. He first became the manager of acts including World Class Wreckin’ Cru and C.I.A., the first groups of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, and subsequently linked up with Eazy-E to help take N.W.A and Ruthless Records to the next level.
While Heller is credited with helping N.W.A reach critical success and bringing West Coast rap to the mainstream, his relationship with select members of N.W.A. turned sour over financial disputes. Members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre eventually left N.W.A for solo pursuits. Shortly before his death, Eazy-E fired Heller after discovering he’d misappropriated label funds. “What I was told from Eazy — from his mouth — is that Jerry Heller put him $2 million into debt, and that’s why he was done,” said a ghostwriter for Eazy named Dirty Red.
Heller, whose role in the groups success was documented in the 2015 Oscar-winning biopic Straight Outta Compton, sued the filmmaker’s because he was not compensated for his likeness.