Jerry Heller

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Jerry Heller
Jerry Heller Publicity Photo.jpg
Heller in 2013.

Gerald E. Heller[1]
October 6, 1940 (age 73)

Shaker Heights, Ohio, United States[2]
Occupation Agent, Manager, Author, Lecturer, Actor, Co-Founder with Eazy-E of Ruthless Records

Gerald E. "Jerry" Heller (born October 6, 1940) is best known for managing west coast rap super-group and gangster rap pioneers N.W.A and Eazy E. Across five tumultuous decades, he has helped shape American popular music, breaking new talent, developing new trends, and forging an industry-wide reputation as "the guy who gets there first." He rose to prominence in the 1960s and 70's as a "superagent," importing Elton John and Pink Floyd for their first major American tours, and representing Journey, Marvin Gaye, Joan Armatrading, Van Morrison, War, Average White Band, ELO, Eric Burdon, Crosby Stills and Nash, Ike & Tina Turner, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Otis Redding, The Who, Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath, Humble Pie, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Four Tops, Dr. John, Jose Feliciano, The Grass Roots, and The Standells, among many others.

In the mid-1980s he continued to generate many groundbreaking record deals in New Wave and Punk which defined and reinvented the music industry for the next decade and beyond with acts like Michel'le, World Class Wreckin' Cru, J.J. Fad The D.O.C., Egyptian Lover, L.A. Dream Team.

Heller was the moving force and marketing genius behind the worldwide emergence of West Coast rap music. He not only cofounded Ruthless Records with Eazy-E, but discovered, signed, or managed the likes of N.W.A., The Black Eyed Peas, Above the Law, The D.O.C., and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. He lives in Calabasas, California.


In 1963 after serving in the United States Army and attending college at Ohio University and graduate business school at the University of Southern California he started working in the agency business. He rose to prominence in the 1960s and 70s as one of the preeminent super agents; a title arguably shared only by Freddie Fields and David Geffen. After working at Coast Artists, Associated Booking and the Chartwell he opened the Heller-Fischel Agency in Beverly Hills, California which grossed 1.9 million during its first year, $3.7 million the second, $5.8 the third, and over $7 million its fourth year of operation representing rock stars The Who, Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath, Humble Pie, and Black Oak Arkansas as well as writers at the time Carly Simon, Van Morrison, and Cat Stevens. He later bought out partner Don Fischel who went on to package independent TV productions. Heller believed that a key factor in keeping acts working between or after a hit record was to not be greedy and package his own clients together, but tour them in salable packages with other headline acts that were clients of other agencies.[3]

Starting in the mid-1980s, Jerry Heller was the moving force and marketing genius behind the emergence and crossover of rap music to the record buying public. His musical vision continued to demonstrate its capacity to be nothing short of astounding. His work with Ruthless Records and with the late Eazy-E formed the foundation for the incredible successes of Priority Records and Interscope Records. To date, Ruthless Records has sold in excess of 110 million records, not counting singles. The artists and producers such as Dr. Dre whose careers Heller established sold millions upon millions of records for Interscope, Priority, Atlantic Records, MCA Records, and Sony Records. At the time of Eazy-E's death and Heller's departure from Ruthless Records the company was earning in excess of $10 million per month. Jerry Heller is arguably dollar-for-dollar the most successful record company executive of the entire Rap Era. He started Ruthless Records with $250,000 of his own money along with another $2.25 million contribution from Sony when the P&D deal was struck. To date, the original members of NWA have grossed somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.75 billion. [4]

Managing the Rise of West Coast Rap[edit]

In the 1980s, Heller began managing acts on the nascent Los Angeles hip hop scene, many of whom recorded for the now defunct Macola Records in Hollywood. He managed both C.I.A., which Ice Cube was a member of, and the World Class Wreckin' Cru, which included Dr. Dre and DJ Yella. On March 3, 1987, he met the Compton, California rapper Eazy-E and the two became Co-Founders of Ruthless Records.

Heller managed N.W.A.. Under the direction of Heller and Eazy, Ruthless Records had six platinum releases in three years: Supersonic (J. J. Fad), Eazy-Duz-It (Eazy-E), Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A), No One Can Do It Better (The D.O.C.), Michel'le's self-titled debut, and Efil4zaggin (N.W.A.).

Death Row Records and Jewish Defense League[edit]

During Dr. Dre’s departure from Ruthless Records, Heller and Ruthless director of business affairs Mike Klein sought assistance from the Jewish Defense League. Said Klein: "The Defense League offered to provide bodyguards to Eazy-E when [Suge] Knight allegedly threatened him in the early 1990s." This provided Ruthless Records with muscle to enter into negotiations with Knight over Dr. Dre’s departure. The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a money laundering investigation, assuming that the JDL was extorting money from Ruthless Records. JDL spokesperson Irv Rubin issued a press release stating "There was nothing but a close, tight relationship" between Eazy-E and the League".

Heller explained JDL’s involvement with Ruthless for more reasons than the FBI investigation. Heller claimed Eazy-E received death threats and it was discovered that he was on a Nazi skinhead hit list. Heller speculated that it may have been because of N.W.A.'s song Fuck tha Police. Heller said "It was no secret that in the aftermath of the Suge Knight shake down incident where Eazy was forced to sign over Dr. Dre, Michel'le, and The D.O.C., that Ruthless was protected by Israeli trained/connected security forces." Heller maintains that Eazy-E admired the JDL for their slogan "Never Again" and that he had plans to do a movie about the group.

After N.W.A.[edit]

N.W.A. broke up in 1991, with Ice Cube and Dre departing and aiming vicious diss raps at Heller, Ruthless, and Eazy. Ruthless went on to release Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's Multi platinum and Diamond hits of the mid-1990s. Heller continued to work in rap, prompting the rise in Hispanic hip-hop at Hit-a-Lick Records. He now manages rock group 28 North signed with Sony Records.


His memoir, Ruthless, written with Gil Reavill, was published by Simon & Schuster/Simon Spotlight Entertainment in 2006.[5]

An updated and enhanced deluxe version of Ruthless: A Memoir is scheduled to be released late 2013.


“He never liked me. So I never liked him. A long time ago I made a decision that made things a lot simpler for me: I wasn't going to like someone who didn't like me. If someone had a problem with me, I wouldn't argue with him or try to change his mind. If he demonstrated he didn't like me, I came to the conclusion that life was too short, so fuck him. This included quite a few people I ran across in the music business, as well as my own brother and the whole nation of France. I wasn't going to turn into Sally Field ("You like me! You really like me!"), but I wasn't going to waste my time with assholes, either.” ― Jerry Heller, Ruthless: A Memoir[6]


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