Comedian Anthony “AJ” Johnson Has Passed Away At Age 55
Comedian and actor Anthony “A.J.” Johnson has died at 55 years old. Known for his roles in Friday, House Party, I Got The Hook Up, and Menace II Society, Johnson has been reported dead by TMZ. According to the publication, the Compton, California native was found unresponsive earlier this month in a store. He later passed in a Los Angeles hospital. No official cause of death has been released.
A stand-up comedian, Johnson was part of Reginald Hudlin’s first House Party film in 1990. The portrayal of”E.Z.E,” propelled a lasting film career. After smaller roles in Menace, Lethal Weapon 3, and an encore for House Party 3, Johnson joined Chris Tucker, Bernie Mac, and DJ Pooh in the comedic elements of 1995’s Friday. In the Ice Cube film, A.J. Johnson played “Ezal,” a neighborhood addict willing to do anything for a fix.
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Leading up to his work with Ice Cube, Johnson had famous ties to N.W.A. The Hub City native played “Sleazy E” in Dr. Dre’s “F*ck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” music video, a caricature of Dre’s friend-turned-foe Eazy-E. The Death Row Records video featured Johnson dancing, hitch-hiking, and more than happy to appeal to an allusion to Ruthless Records’ president Jerry Heller, played by Interscope Records exec Steve Berman. Notably, Eazy-E and Ruthless hired Johnson to reprise the role a few months later for his response record “Real Muthaphuckkin’ G’z.” However, he did not complete the job.
“I started doing comedy and Dr. Dre put me in his [‘F*ck Wit’ Dre Day’] video as ‘Sleazy-E.’ From there, [Ice] Cube came to me,” Johnson told Vlad TV in 2018, referring to his Friday role as a local panhandler. The comedian met Dre at Los Angeles’ Comedy Store. “He said, ‘Man, I’m doing this video. I want you to play Eazy-E in it.’ I’m like, ‘Cool. No problem.’” Then the Eazy offer followed.
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That is when things derailed. “Suge Knight gets word that I’m doin’ Eazy’s video! He called me into his office. [At this point], we’d just done half of Eazy’s video. Like, we’d done one day of it. So I had to go back [the next day] to finish it. But Suge called me into the office. He’s like, ‘Man, you can’t finish that video.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t have nothin’ against Dre; I don’t have nothin’ against Eazy. I’m a comedian; I’m trying to pay my rent.’ [Suge Knight responded], ‘You can’t do it.’ I’m like, ‘What you mean I can’t do it? [Eazy-E] already paid me.’ Suge pulled a gun out [and put it on the table], ‘I said you can’t do it.’ [I responded], ‘I won’t do it!’”
Johnson continued his account of what happened, “I went and told E, ‘Man, I can’t finish the video.’ He said why. ‘Suge told me I can’t do it.’ [He responded], ‘Yo, come on, Ant-man. You gonna let that ni**a punk you like that?’ I said, ‘I can’t do it, Eazy.’ He said, ‘Well, what we gonna do, man?’ [I suggested], ‘I know somebody who can finish the video. I called Arnez J. Arenz J finished the video. He played Eazy. So in the first half, it’s me. In the second half, it’s Arnez J. That’s what happened.”
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After work with the three former N.W.A. members during the early and mid-1990s, Johnson, followed with roles in The Great White Hype, How To Be A Player, and another Cube film, The Players Club. In 1998, the Def Comedy Jam alum received feature billing in Master P’s I Got The Hook Up film. On television, Johnson appeared on Martin, Malcolm & Eddie, and Moesha.
Four years ago, Johnson made headlines after he suffered a heart attack in New York City’s LaGuardia Airport. In July, another Cube affiliate, Gonzoe of Lench Mob Records group Kausion, was fatally shot in Seattle, Washington.
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Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to the family of Anthony “AJ” Johnson.
#BonusBeat: AJ Johnson made a documentary to speak of his life and career: