Happy 30th Anniversary to Eazy-E’s debut studio album Eazy-Duz-It, originally released September 13, 1988.
“Now that you bought the album, what the fuck are you going to do with it, bitch?” a distorted, booming voice asks not even a minute into Eazy-Duz-It, Eazy-E’s debut album. In truth, this declaration was the perfect way to start the album: It’s a loud, brash, confrontational statement that features a few curse words and is oddly hilarious. It’s a memorable start to an album that helped shape the course of hip-hop history and now celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Eric “Eazy-E” Wright was a real-deal gangsta. One of Gangsta Rap’s founding fathers, he was one of the early rappers who lived what he talked about on his records. Before he became a rapper, he made his money selling drugs and through other illicit means. He only turned to music as a viable moneymaking option after realizing that engaging in street activities was too dangerous.
Eazy-E is of course best known for his role in one of the first gangsta rap groups N***as With Attitude aka N.W.A, comprised of such future superstars as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella. Just months before Eazy-Duz-It hit the shelves, Straight Outta Compton debuted and hit with the power of semi-truck.
However, it’s Eazy-E’s early success as an artist that paved the way for the release of Straight Outta Compton. “Boyz-N-The-Hood,” his first single, written by Ice Cube and produced by Dr. Dre, was originally intended for the New York-based Ruthless-signees H.B.O. (Homeboys Only). After deciding the song didn’t fit the group’s Run-DMC-influenced sensibilities, Dre convinced Eazy to rap over it himself.
With its tinkling and deliberate keyboard-line and handclap heavy drum track, “Boyz-N-The-Hood” was unlike much of the Los Angeles-based music that had been released before. The single was a massive success, as it sold thousands of records independently, laid the foundation for Eazy’s Ruthless Records independent label, and made him and his colleagues celebrities among the Los Angeles rap community. A “remix” version of the song appears on Eazy-Duz-It, but the only difference is the addition of a scene-setting opening verse.
Eazy-Duz-It invites inevitable comparisons to Straight Outta Compton. Overall, it’s fair to say that N.W.A’s debut is the better overall album, and it features higher highs. However, Eazy-Duz-It is a more cohesive piece of work. It presents a more complete overall picture of Eazy-E as a rapper/personality than Straight Outta Compton did for N.W.A as a group.
Musically, Eazy-Duz-It is the more interesting album. Songs from Straight Outta Compton were culled together from a period of a few years, whereas the majority of Eazy-Duz-It was recorded in the same series of sessions. While recording the album, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella had developed a more unified sound, and they did a lot of interesting things on Eazy-Duz-It. Like the best songs on Straight Outta Compton, the tracks feature a dense, layered collage of samples, with live instrumentation mixed in at times.
In terms of lyrical content, Eazy-Duz-It is just as “controversial” as Straight Outta Compton, if not more so. The album is filled with casual references to sexual assault and domestic abuse, not to mention the countless acts of violence, generalizing womanizing, and overall lack of respect for human life. Gangsta rap operated under the premise that the emcees were reflecting the grim realities that they lived every day, but even for the time, the content on Eazy-Duz-It is extreme. And yet, somehow Eazy-E manages to pull it off. Though Eazy was a street soldier through and through, he doesn’t take himself too seriously on the record. His rhyming persona is influenced by raunch-masters like Blowfly, Rudy Ray Moore/Dolemite, and even comedian Redd Foxx, all of whom stretched the limits of good taste in their respective genres.
Eazy was never the greatest emcee on the planet. The depiction of the recording process of “Boyz-N-The-Hood” in the Straight Outta Compton biopic film was likely an accurate one. Eazy apparently really did punch in nearly every line, and later in his career used reference tracks, following the flow and cadence of other rappers to guide his performance. That said, Eazy-Duz-It does feature his best lyrical performance, and he sounds more comfortable on the mic here than at any other point in his career.
Eazy-Duz-It is almost like a double album, with the album being divided into “street” and “radio” sides. Each side has its own separate beginning, middle, and end, flowing smoothly from track to track. Splitting the album into two separate entities made sense at the time, as during the late ’80s, even the gangsta rappers were looking for ways to get onto the airwaves.
Eazy pulls no punches on the album’s “street” side, creating songs that are violent, salacious, and yet still funny. Eazy seemingly tries to be as offensive as possible on the album opening “Still Talking,” aiming to shock throughout all three of the song’s verses with lines like, “I might be a woman beater, but I’m not a pussy eater.” That being said, hearing Eazy, Ice Cube, and The D.O.C. do impressions of the three barbers in Coming to America throughout the song still cracks me up three decades later.
The album’s title is a sonically busy ode to all the dirt Eazy-E gets into on a daily basis. First he proclaims his commitment to not giving a fuck, rapping that he’s “8 ball sipping, the bitches are flipping / Slow down, I hit a dip and continue my tripping / Hitting my switches, collect from my bitches / The money that I make so I can add to my riches.” Musically, Dre and Yella utilize a busy, layered sound, blending a hodgepodge of samples into something raucous and active.
MC Ren pops up quite a bit throughout Eazy-Duz-It. Songs like “Ruthless Villain” don’t get recorded that often anymore, but for different reasons. The track first was a CD-only bonus track, after appearing as a B-side to “Eazy-Duz-It.” Here Eazy is remanded to the song’s chorus, as MC Ren is the featured player on the track. However, Ren uses both of his verses to laud the Eazy’s gangsta credentials, describing his, well, ruthless demeanor and detailing his attitude and exploits. Ren would later adopt the “Ruthless Villain”/”Gangsta in Black” moniker as his own and use it throughout his own solo career.
Ren also appears on one of the album’s best and most sonically unique tracks, “2 Hard Muthas.” Here Ren and Eazy trade verses over entirely live instrumentation, with Stan “The Guitar” Mann providing spare guitar licks over a live drum track played by Yella. MC Ren is in vintage form, rapping, “Setting a mark of destruction, get it / So don’t front, and say you ain't with it / You wanna rumble with us you can’t hang / Because we’re something like a two man gang.”
The album’s “Radio” side is overall an artistic triumph, as Eazy chooses ambition when shock is off the table. “We Want Eazy,” the album’s first radio-friendly single, is a hip-hop remake of Bootsy Collins’ “Ahh…The Name is Bootsy, Baby.” Eazy famously recreates the whole vibe of the song, from the faux live show, to the audience participation, to the same ad-libs and chants.
“Radio” features Eazy and the N.W.A crew appearing as in-studio guests on K-E-Z-E, hosted by now-legendary KDAY personality Greg Mack. Over a replayed sample of Taana Gardner’s “Heartbeat” and drums from Cerrone’s “Rocket in the Pocket,” Eazy kicks verses about his radio station domination, all while taking “calls” from both supporters and trash-talkers alike. Dre fills the track with snatches of other famous breakbeat records, which adds to the “live in the studio!” feel to the song.
He returns to the “radio” setting on “No More ?s,” appearing as a guest on a talk show, explaining his upbringing and regaling the interviewer with tales of late night burglaries and armed robberies that he participated in. The numerous beat switches and tempo changes make things more interesting, as at times the song careens nearly out of control and at other times seems understated.
Eazy also contributes a pair of straightforward braggadocio tracks, which turn out to be other highlights of the album. The elastic “Eazy-er Said Than Dunn” was the album’s second single, and features Eazy singing his own praises over a loop of Rufus Thomas’ “The Breakdown.” “Imma Break It Down” is a dark yet energetic track, featuring Eazy kicking battle rhymes over wailing keyboards, along with the introduction to “Rapper’s Delight” and the bassline from Lightnin’ Rod’s “Sport.” Overall, Dre’s production is simpler on both tracks, and allows Eazy to shine to the best of his ability.
The dual success of Eazy-Duz-It and Straight Outta Compton was the necessary one-two punch that made Eazy-E and N.W.A. household names in the late ’80s/early ’90s. The success of these albums led to the group earning all sorts of attention, from supportive fans to parent groups to the FBI. Ever the showman, Eazy played it to the hilt.
Like much late ’80s and early ’90s gangsta rap, the content on Eazy-Duz-It can be difficult to excuse during these more enlightened times. Truthfully, it really isn’t that much different from watching any other ultra-violent action movie from the same time period. There’s something to be said for exquisite execution and commitment to the craft that Eazy-E and crew deliver with this album, even when the lyrical content can be in poor taste. And as the “Radio” side proves, Eazy shines even when he decides to keep it clean. Eazy-Duz-It can still be bumped and respected as an artifact of a specific time that still sounds good today.