N.W.A's messy breakup led to stellar solo careers for Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, while Eazy-E went on to build his Ruthless Records into a profitable force. The post-N.W.A feuding is legendary, with Eazy-E answering Dre's big Chronic disses with the It's on (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa EP -- featuring a dead-on G-funk parody and a hilarious old photo of Dre wearing makeup and a cheesy lam outfit. Eazy-E was a true character: a tiny, squeaky-voiced but tough-talking customer who would never give up his Jheri curl and lived the high life better than anyone. He seemed untouchable, which makes his death all the more shocking to the hiphop community.
"It's a wake-up call for black youth, if you ask me," says Glen Jones of the Delinquents. "When Magic got AIDS, I didn't really pay it no mind. That was just like when they said that Rock Hudson died of it. I didn't care, because I'm not a homosexual, you know? But hearing about Eazy having AIDS touched me like he was my potna." The key word is fear: Reportedly national AIDS hotlines and HIV-testing providers have been inundated with frantic calls since the news of Eazy-E's illness broke. "Everybody is scared right now," says Master P. "It makes a muthaphukka not want to fuck around, you know?"
While groups like the National Minority AIDS Council are working furiously on new safe-sex campaigns, rappers are debating the effect of AIDS awareness on the hootchie-heavy gangsta aesthetic. "This won't change the lyrics in rap, but it will change how rappers act after shows," argues Warren G. But it's not hard to imagine a re-examination of the industry's casual sex codes filtering down and changing attitudes in the hiphop universe. Remember Eazy and he didn't die in vain.
By Sia Michel, Mark Sneed