The music manager who played a large and controversial role in the rise of gangsta rap is dead at age 75. Jerry Heller, who helped launch N.W.A. with rapper Eazy-E in the mid-'80s, suffered a heart attack while driving and died at a hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, his cousin tells AP. Heller co-founded Ruthless Records with Eazy-E, and the label's Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.in 1988 has since become a classic. Heller, however, eventually parted on bad terms with the label and high-profile performers such as Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, all of which of was retold in the recent Straight Outta Compton movie. Heller hated how he was portrayed so much that he sued. (He comes off as a greedy villain who takes advantage of the label's stars.) In fact, his lawyer blames the film for his death.
"Jerry Heller would be alive today if not for that movie," Mickey Shapiro tells TMZ. He says his client had been stressed, "heartbroken," and unable to sleep well because of the movie. Before his collaboration with Eazy-E, Heller worked with acts such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Black Sabbath, Marvin Gaye, and the Who, notes Rolling Stone. But it was his work in rap that has largely defined him. "As far as I'm concerned, there would never be a Dr. Dre or an Ice Cube if it wasn't for Jerry getting (N.W.A) their first deal, which was really difficult," says cousin Gary Ballen. "Nobody wanted to sign them." (Read more obituary stories.)