N.W.A.’s Forgotten Member Explains Why He Was The First To Leave The Group
For those who watched 2015’s Straight Outta Compton film, there was no mention or reference to Arabian Prince. The rapper/producer was a founding member of N.W.A., but left the group in 1988, the same year that the Straight Outta Compton album released. During an interview with Unique Access’ Soren Baker, the artist who later got down with Stones Throw Records, explains why he dipped when he did.
In the early part of the interview, Arabian Prince recalls producing and arranging J.J. Fad’s “Supersonic” with some leftover studio time that he had booked. The 1987 song by MC J.B., Baby D, and Sassy C with DJ Train first released on Dream Team Records. It was the B-side to Roxanne Shanté diss “Anotha Ho (Bites The Dust).” However, the limited run soon sold out after local DJs gave the B-side a try. Eazy-E would then sign J.J. Fad to his Ruthless Records imprint.
The fledgling label would make headway with the single, organizing distribution with Atco. A Supersonic album followed in 1988. However, despite a hit song and album on its way to gold plaques and a historic Grammy nomination, Arabian Prince was soon out the door. The move would forever change the personnel of N.W.A. at an inflection point for the group and Gangsta Rap as a sub-genre.
“Jerry Heller is what changed financially for [N.W.A.], to be honest about it,” says Arabian Prince of N.W.A.’s manager and Eazy’s would-be business partner ahead of 9:00. “And that’s why I left because I had this big record [in ‘Supersonic’] and my homeboy Rudy Pardee [of The L.A. Dream Team] wasn’t the best businessman with me when I put it on his label, so I had to take the record back. We had just started Ruthless Records, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll bring that over here and help that finance what we’re doing as a production team, and as N.W.A. and everything else you wanna do.’ I ain’t never been that cat to say ‘This is all mine,’ and hoard it. I’m about the family. We [were a] family, ‘let’s build this into what we want to do.’ And that’s what I had done, and then when Jerry Heller got involved that all changed.”
Arabian Prince was heavily involved in 1987’s N.W.A. & Posse, a compilation on Macola Records, a label were Jerry Heller worked before partnering with Eazy. In those days, Arabian Prince recalls the member of N.W.A. selling early singles such as “Panic Zone” b/w “Dope Man” and “8 Ball” independently. He says group members divided copies records and each kept the resulting dollars from sales.
That loose business model changed as Ruthless had a new leader. “When Jerry Heller got involved, the money wasn’t coming to you direct no more,” he said. “You had to go ask for money. And I’m like, ‘This is my money. Why am I asking you for my money?’ And with ‘Supersonic,’ this is a big hit. It’s selling major records and it’s my record, and the girls’ records, and we can’t get paid? I’m out. So I did my little deal, and I got out because I don’t trust you, and I’m not gonna stay here regardless of the fame of N.W.A. or ‘Supersonic’ and deal with this. I just need to get paid and move on and do my own thing.”
Notably, Arabian Prince got his royalties in the 2000s, when Fergie sampled “Supersonic” for “Fergalicious.” That track was produced by another former Ruthless artist, will.i.am.
Also during the interview, Arabian Prince was asked why “Something 2 Dance 2” was removed from the later pressings of Straight Outta Compton. “[There’s] a couple reasons why,” he notes. “One, an unnamed person who I’m not going to say—who ran the label and didn’t want to pay me [made the decision]. Two, they probably felt like ‘oh, it doesn’t fit the album.'” Arabian Prince alleges that the song was made to deliver something to radio, especially given his background, as well as Dr. Dre and DJ Yella’s mid-’80s success with World Class Wreckin’ Cru. N.W.A. was hoping for radio support, which would come later on harder Gangsta Rap songs.
Post-N.W.A, Arabian Prince went on to begin a solo career and released his debut album Brother Arab in 1989. The LP spawned the single “She’s Got A Big Posse,” which is perhaps Prince’s biggest solo hit. In 2008, he released Innovative Life on Stones Throw.