The Man Who Gave Dr. Dre His 1st Big Break Talks N.W.A.’s Origins (Video)
Few artists in Hip-Hop have forged three different labels into dynasties. Dr. Dre’s artistic craftsmanship established Ruthless Records, Death Row Records, and Aftermath Entertainment as premiere imprints in their respective eras. While Andre Young presently maintains Aftermath, he was the onetime president and co-founder of Death Row, yet he had no formal title with Ruthless. This is despite the fact that Dre produced a litany of hit-making acts for Eazy-E’s label, including N.W.A., J.J. Fad, and Michel’le.
Alonzo Williams was one of Dr. Dre’s creative partners even prior to Ruthless and N.W.A. The World Class Wreckin’ Cru co-founder spoke with Vlad TV regarding a number of misnomers he feels are portrayed in Straight Outta Compton. Throughout the film, Williams is portrayed as a one-dimensional caricature who is musically conservative and has no vision. In the interview, he disputes this depiction, saying that he was one of the few people that told Dr. Dre that Eazy-E had a shot at being an artist, likening him to artists like Biz Markie. He also gives a very detailed version of how the relationship between Eazy-E and Jerry Heller evolved, saying that Heller was actually initially the manager of World Class Wreckin’ Cru and it was Dre who was eager for Eazy to meet. Heller.
One of the biggest, according to the Compton, California MC, is that Dr. Dre was touted to be Eazy’s partner in Ruthless. According to Lonzo, those plans were altered when Eazy opted to partner with veteran music industry exec Jerry Heller, in lieu of Dre. As Alonzo (who worked with Dre back as far as 1982) explains, Dre was instead paid a flat fee of $20,000 per album per his production services upon Ruthless’ commercial prominence. “Last time I checked, Dre and Eazy was supposed to have owned Ruthless together – Jerry was representing Eazy from a management standpoint. And then allegedly Jerry became the part owner,” he says—admitting he is still in touch with Heller to this day. Additionally, Williams believes that The Arabian Prince was also teased with an ownership stake in the label that would prove to be an early home to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, will.i.am, and The D.O.C.
Also in the interview, Alonzo Williams says that he discovered Michel’le, contrary to reports that she was discovered by Eazy and Dre. Beyond his work with Dre in the Wreckin’ Crew, Lonzo released 1994’s Concrete Roots album, an unauthorized Dr. Dre album, featuring D.O.C., Michel’le, and Leon Haywood.
Do you believe Dre’s lack of stake in Ruthless prompted N.W.A.’s breakup and the formation of Death Row?