purple hip hop

Last Words: Eazy-E’s It’s on (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa

In late 1993, Eazy-E was deep into a vicious musical and personal battle with Dr. Dre—and he was losing. But the incendiary It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa—Eazy’s last album before his death—had the gansta-rap originator fighting back hard.

Last Words: Eazy-E's It's on (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa

The mid-90s saw the release of an incredible number of important hip-hop albums—Rolling on Dubs revisits one of these records each month, around their 20th anniversary, and retraces the past through a contemporary vantage point.

It’s impossible to explain to your mom why you’re listening to a song called “Gimmie That Nutt”. Even the spelling is obscene: two T’s for extra titillation, menacingly trilled in Eazy-E’s rabid woodpecker chirp. Cassettes of It’s on (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa should’ve come packaged with Locs and a brown paper bag.

It probably makes more sense when rolling down Crenshaw in a 6-4 Impala with alpine speakers, lambskin condoms, and assault weapons. But at the gruelingly virginal age of 12, in the fall of 1993, there was only the gnawing terror of my parents giving me “the talk.” The apartment was small. The eight-by-eight den that doubled as my bedroom had a shutter door with no lock. No headphones. I was permanently one decibel away from forced conscription into a discussion about Eazy-E’s Sex Ed: “In some pussy is the place to be/ Always fucking is the life for me.”

What’s worse was that the ex-N.W.A. incubus cackled, “spread them legs open far and wide, fuck this shit just let me put my dick inside” to the melody of the “Green Acres” theme song. It was the Penthouse to 2 Live Crew’s Playboy (“Pop That Pussy”), a siren deceiving my parents to mistake their sullen adolescent’s gangsta rap obsession for a Nick at Nite rural sitcom set in the hamlet of Hooterville.

But Eva Gabor couldn’t touch Eric Wright. Eazy-Motherfucking-E was only competing withDr. Dre, and by late ’93, he was losing. You can’t overstate the impact of The Chronic, released the previous December. Its hybrid strain of G-Funk blended an elevated musicality with a hundred years of sawed-off rage. It had Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, and enough raunch for Richard Pryor biters at the barbershop. It incited a before-and-after rupture usually only seen with civil wars, disruptive technologies, or sandaled messiahs.

This was directly after the L.A. riots left blocks of South Central and Compton in rubble and cinders. Dre and Suge Knight’s Death Row applied this same loot-and-burn approach towards their rival’s once-dominant Ruthless Records. For most of ’93, MTV operated as a de facto anti-Eazy-E propaganda network. The extended video for The Chronic’s second single, “Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” ran almost hourly. It featured an interlude where Dre vaporized the greasy “Sleazy-E” with a semi-automatic that looked like a light saber. The conclusion found the jigging, jheri-curled caricature panhandling beside the Pasadena Freeway with a “Will Rap for Food” sign.

“Eazy wasn’t just upset, he was hurt,” remembers Kokane, the vocalist who had belted funk angel of death hooks for Ruthless since signing with them in 1991 and appears twice on of It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa. “It was Eazy’s vision for N.W.A.—he recruited Dre and Cube and helped make them stars, then they made up fake stories about him and abandoned him.”

It’s weird to think of Eazy-E as sensitive, let alone sad or vulnerable. We instinctively think of him as Darth Vader in immolating black—the helmet swapped out for a “Compton” hat with Old English script—letting every West Coast gangsta rapper know that he is their father.