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Former N.W.A Manager Jerry Heller Dies At 75

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Jerry Heller in 2005. (Photo by Marsaili McGrath/Getty Images)
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Jerry Heller, the man partially responsible for the rise of L.A.'s gangsta rap, has passed away. His cousin, Gary Ballen, confirmed to Billboard that Heller passed away on Friday night from a heart attack. He was 75.

According to TMZ, Heller was driving on Friday morning when he suffered a medical emergency and crashed his vehicle.

A longtime veteran of the music business, Heller managed or promoted acts like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Marvin Gaye in the '60s and '70s. In the 1980s, he began dipping his toes in Los Angeles' emerging hip hop scene and partnered with Compton rapper Eazy-E on the label Ruthless Records.

Heller served as the manager for the group N.W.A, who broke through with their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton with incendiary songs like "Straight Outta Compton," "F— tha Police," and "Gangsta Gangsta." Despite their success, the group would fall apart after the departures of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who both claimed Heller owed them money.

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Ice Cube would later make Heller and Eazy-E the targets of his diss track "No Vaseline." Heller denied any wrongdoing, reiterating these claims in his 2006 book Ruthless: A Memoir.

In the 2015 biopic of N.W.A Straight Outta Compton Heller was portrayed by actor Paul Giamatti. Heller sued the producers of the film for defamation over the depiction of himself—most of the suit was thrown out by a judge, but the case is still pending at the time of Heller's death.