He had a heart attack while driving and was involved in a car crash, his cousin Gary Ballen told the Associated Press. He had a history of heart problems and diabetes.
Mr. Heller had been a manager of musical acts since the 1960s, working with such major acts as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd and Elton John, but he had his greatest impact when he joined forces in the late 1980s with a group of young hip-hop artists in Los Angeles.
He worked with several groups, but the teenaged rappers who formed NWA — most notably Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E — became the first major stars of gangsta rap. Their boastful, intensely profane songs depicted a world of sex and violence, with references to guns and an overt hatred of the police.
The record eventually sold 3 million copies and became immensely popular with young listeners of all backgrounds.
After a second studio album in 1991, NWA broke up amid an acrimonious dispute. Eazy-E (Eric Wright), a co-founder of Ruthless Records, stayed with Mr. Heller as a business partner, while Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) and Dr. Dre (Andre Young) went their own way — often criticizing Mr. Heller in the harshest terms.
Ice Cube’s 1991 song “No Vaseline” burned all bridges with its violent lyrics, appearing to urge the assassination of Mr. Heller with the lines, “You let a Jew break up my crew. . . . Get rid of that devil real simple, put a bullet in his temple.”
Mr. Heller continued to manage other musical acts in later years and told his story in a 2006 memoir, “Ruthless.”
He was portrayed in a 2015 movie about the rise of NWA and gangsta rap, “Straight Outta Compton,” by actor Paul Giamatti. Mr. Heller sued the producers of the film for defamation, saying the depiction of him was untruthful.
You must log in to post a comment.