Ruthless Records

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This article is about the hip hop record label. For the punk rock record label, see Ruthless Records (Chicago).
Ruthless Records
Ruthless records-logo.jpg
Founded March 3, 1986
Status Active
Distributor(s) RED Distribution (U.S.)
Genre Hip-hop, gangsta rap, R&B
Country of origin United States
Location Los Angeles, California
Official website

Ruthless Records is an American record label, founded by music manager Jerry Heller[1][2] and gangsta rapper Eazy-E in Eazy's hometown of Compton, California in 1986.


N.W.A days[edit]

Ruthless Records was formed as a vehicle for releases by N.W.A, as well as member and founder Eric "Eazy-E" Wright; its first successful single was Eazy's "Boyz-n-the-Hood", followed by N.W.A's "Dopeman", "8-Ball" and Panic Zone, introductory to the group's N.W.A. and the Posse, a compilation album released under the group's name, albeit not on Ruthless. It also put out singles by underground California acts such as Frost and J.J. Fad, but the label's first full-length release was N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton, which was eventually certified multi-platinum.[3] Immediately following this was the release of Eazy's solo debut, Eazy-Duz-It.

As the six members went on tour in support of their project, some began to voice their displeasure with the financial situation at Ruthless Records. According to group member MC Ren, it was common opinion that N.W.A Manager and Ruthless co-founder Jerry Heller was the one receiving their due:

We felt he didn’t deserve what he was getting. We deserved that shit. We were the ones making the records, traveling in vans and driving all around the place. You do all those fucking shows trying to get known, and then you come home to a fucking apartment. Then you go to his house, and this motherfucker lives in a mansion. There’s gold leaf trimmings all in the bathroom and all kinds of other shit. You’re thinking, “Man, fuck that.”[4]

The label also experienced outside pressure due to the group. The success of their song "Fuck tha Police" led to a threatening F.B.I. letter to distributor Priority Records.[5] After coming off tour, group member Ice Cube voiced his opinions on the group's finances. Though Heller continually claims that everything was in order, and has even offered them to open the account books to prove his innocence,[6] the ensuing confrontation ended in Cube leaving Ruthless without signing on as a solo artist, which the remaining members proceeded to do.

1988 also saw the release of J.J. Fad's gold-certified[7] album Supersonic, produced by founding N.W.A member Arabian Prince and in 1989, singer Michel'le's eponymous self-titled album, and The D.O.C.'s critically acclaimed No One Can Do It Better (all released through Atlantic), all produced by N.W.A beatsmiths Dr. Dre and DJ Yella; following these efforts, Dre returned to N.W.A, producing the 100 Miles and Runnin' E.P. and the group's sophomore effort, Niggaz4Life, which reached platinum status.[8] Above the Law's Livin' Like Hustlers was also released during this period (by way of Epic Records).

In 1989, Eazy signed Hip-Hop's first white female rapper Tairrie B to Ruthless' new Comptown label subsidiary. She released her debut album "The Power of A Woman" in 1990 (through MCA Records) featuring the single & video for "Murder She Wrote" which Eazy and Philly gangster rapper Schoolly D appeared in. The album also featured guest vocals by Ruthless Records artists Dr. Dre & D.O.C. along with Rhyme Syndicate rapper Everlast (who was her boyfriend at the time) and production by Quincy (QD3) Jones III & Schoolly D.

N.W.A breakup & other Ruthless artists[edit]

Though N.W.A was highly successful, Dre was advised by The D.O.C. and the rapper's friend, Suge Knight, that he should leave the label to avoid any possible financial meddling by Heller and Eazy-E;[9] offering to extricate Dre from his Ruthless contract, Suge became such a problem for the label-heads that at one point Eazy-E allegedly suggested killing him, a move vetoed by Heller.[10] Eventually, Suge succeeded in procuring Dre, D.O.C. and Michel'le's contracts—through reportedly illicit means[11]—and proceeded to set up Death Row Records with the producer.

Now short of his main producer, Eazy-E signed various other acts that would assist him in a subsequent rivalry with Death Row, and specifically Dr. Dre. Gangsta Dresta and B.G. Knocc Out were among the most vocal of these rappers, with DJ Yella and new producer Rhythum D producing. While MC Ren stayed neutral, he remained with Ruthless Records, releasing several albums. Also on the label at this time were Will 1X and the Atban Klann, a group including the future and, who would later become two parts of the trio The Black Eyed Peas after leaving the label. Eazy-E released several high-profile albums dissing Dr. Dre, including most famously It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa. Producer Big Hutch/Cold 187 um alleges that during this time period, with Ruthless switching distributors from Priority to Relativity Records, even Wright began to feel as though Heller wasn't being honest with the label's finances:

When the money started rolling and a lot of cats couldn’t come to the table and renegotiate…. Ya know, it was fucked up! That’s what was wrong. Like Eazy came to me one night and he said “Man, shit is fucked up, man.” Because he was at a point where even he was getting played by Jerry Heller.[12]

Eazy-E's death, Tomica Wright ownership[edit]

In 1995, Eazy-E was diagnosed with AIDS; he had just signed the five-member group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, whose debut 1994 E.P. Creepin on ah Come Up became wildly popular. While he executive-produced their first full-length album, E 1999 Eternal, he died of AIDS-related pneumonia[13] before the album's release. Their smash 1995 single "Tha Crossroads" was dedicated to Eazy-E and helped push the album to multi-platinum success. After his death, the label was taken over by Eazy-E's wife, Tomica Wright. Due to a shift in promotions and marketing, the label's artists began leaving for other recording homes. Into 1996, only MC Ren, Kid Frost, and Bone Thugs remained, and even those acts eventually departed, though re-releases of previous projects have appeared since then. Ruthless Records is now a division of Epic Records.

The label has had several distributors simultaneously. Early Ruthless releases were distributed by Macola Records (including certain material from JJ Fad which was made prior to the completion of the Supersonic album, which were at first released on Ruthless' short-lived Dream Team Records subsidiary), but that deal was short-lived and the rights reverted to Ruthless. All of N.W.A's releases and Eazy-E's first two solo albums on Ruthless Records were distributed by Priority Records, and the rights to these releases are now held by Priority's new owner, Capitol Records. Releases by The D.O.C, Michel'le, Yomo & Maulkie and JJ Fad were marketed through Atlantic Records or its subsidiary Atco Records. These master rights are still held by Atlantic's parent company, Warner Music Group, while Above The Law's releases were marketed through Epic Records. In the early 1990s, Ruthless found more exclusive distribution through Relativity Records, formerly a heavy metal label. Relativity was later folded into its parent company, Sony Music. Currently, Lil Eazy E is signed to the label, The latest album released through Ruthless was Hopsin's Gazing at the Moonlight.

Straight Outta Compton[edit]

With the success of Notorious, New Line Cinema reps announced to Entertainment Weekly's "Hollywood Insider Blog" that N.W.A's story was in development to become a theatrical release. Filmmaker S. Leigh Savidge and radio veteran Alan Wenkus wrote the initial drafts of the screenplay, working closely with Tomica Woods-Wright. Later drafts were written by Andrea Berloff and, after New Line put the project in turnaround and it was picked up by Universal Pictures, Jonathan Herman was brought on to do the final drafts of the script.[14] The film was produced by Tomica Woods-Wright, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Matt Alvarez, Scott Bernstein, and F. Gary Gray, who also served as director. Straight Outta Compton was released in North American theaters on August 14, 2015. Eazy-E was portrayed by actor Jason Mitchell.

Current artists[edit]

  • Lil Eazy E
  • Dominick Wright (Eazy E's son)
  • Kxng Raww

Former artists[edit]


Year Album details Peak chart positions Certification Sales
Billboard 200 US R&B
1988 J. J. FadSupersonic
  • Released: 1988
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
- -
  • US: 500,000+
N.W.AStraight Outta Compton
  • Released: August 8, 1988 (1988-08-08)
  • Label: Ruthless, Priority
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
37 9
  • RIAA: 2× Platinum
  • US: 3,500,000
  • Released: September 16, 1988 (1988-09-16)
  • Label: Ruthless, Priority
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
41 12
  • RIAA: 2× Platinum
  • US: 2,500,000
1989 The D.O.C.No One Can Do It Better
  • Released: June 16, 1989 (1989-06-16)
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
20 1
  • US: 1,500,000
  • Released: October 23, 1989 (1989-10-23)
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
35 5
1990 Tairrie BPower of a Woman
  • Released: 1990
  • Label: Ruthless, MCA
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
  • US: 10,000
Above the LawLivin' Like Hustlers
  • Released: February 22, 1990 (1990-02-22)
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
75 14
  • US: 200,000
1991 Jimmy ZMuzical Madness
  • Released: January 1, 1991 (1991-01-01)
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
  • US: 3,000
  • Released: May 28, 1991 (1991-05-28)
  • Label: Ruthless, Priority
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
1 1
  • US: 2,100,000
Yomo & MaulkieAre U Xperienced?
  • Released: September 27, 1991 (1991-09-27)
  • Label: Ruthless, Atlantic
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
  • US: 14,000
KokaneAddictive Hip Hop Muzick
  • Released: 1991
  • Label: Ruthless, Epic
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
J. J. FadNot Just a Fad
  • Released: 1991
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
1992 Penthouse Players CliquePaid the Cost
  • Released:
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
75 28
  • US: 171,000
MC RenKizz My Black Azz
  • Released: June 31, 1992 (1992-06-31)
  • Label: Ruthless, Priority
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
12 10
  • US: 1,000,000
1993 Above the LawBlack Mafia Life
  • Released: February 2, 1993 (1993-02-02)
  • Label: Ruthless, Giant
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
37 6
  • US: 175,000
MC RenShock of the Hour
  • Released: November 16, 1993 (1993-11-16)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
22 1
  • US: 480,000
Blood of AbrahamFuture Profits
  • Released: November 16, 1993 (1993-11-16)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
1994 KokaneFunk Upon a Rhyme
  • Released: April 12, 1994 (1994-04-12)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
  • US: 67,000
Above the LawUncle Sam's Curse
  • Released: June 12, 1994 (1994-06-12)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
113 15
  • US: 238,000
  • Released: August 23, 1994 (1994-08-23)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
  • US: 6,190
1995 Bone Thugs-n-HarmonyE. 1999 Eternal
  • Released: July 25, 1995 (1995-07-25)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
1 1
  • RIAA: 5× Platinum
FrostSmile Now, Die Later
  • Released: October 24, 1995 (1995-10-24)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
  • US: 203,000
Eazy-EStr8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton
  • Released: November 24, 1995 (1995-11-24)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
3 1
  • US: 490,000
1996 MC RenThe Villain in Black
  • Released: April 9, 1996 (1996-04-09)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
31 7
  • US: 300,000
1997 FrostWhen Hell.A. Freezes Over
  • Released: July 1, 1997 (1997-07-01)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
154 61
Bone Thugs-n-HarmonyThe Art of War
  • Released: July 29, 1997 (1997-07-29)
  • Label: Ruthless, Relativity
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
1 1
  • RIAA: 4× Platinum
1998 MC RenRuthless for Life
  • Released: June 30, 1998 (1998-06-30)
  • Label: Ruthless, Epic
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
100 14
2000 Bone Thugs-n-HarmonyBTNHResurrection
  • Released: February 29, 2002 (2002-02-29)
  • Label: Ruthless, Epic
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
2 1
2002 Bone Thugs-n-HarmonyThug World Order
  • Released: October 29, 2002 (2002-10-29)
  • Label: Ruthless, Epic
  • Format: CD, CS, LP
12 3
2009 Stevie StoneNew Kid Comin
  • Released: September 29, 2009 (2009-09-29)
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, digital download
HopsinGazing at the Moonlight
  • Released: October 27, 2009 (2009-10-27)
  • Label: Ruthless
  • Format: CD, Digital download


  1. ^ a b HipHopDX (11 May 2013). "Eazy-E Planned To Kill Suge Knight, According To Jerry Heller". HipHopDX. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Jerry Heller on being hip-hop's most hated". Entertainment Weekly's Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Straight Outta Compton Gold & Platinum certifications". RIAA. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Burgess, Omar (26 October 2008). "MC Ren: RenIncarnated". Hiphop DX. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ Ruthless (Heller/Reavill, 2007) ISBN 1-4169-1794-2
  7. ^ "Supersonic Gold & Platinum RIAA certification". RIAA. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "N.W.A. Gold & Platinum RIAA certification". RIAA. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  9. ^ [2][dead link]
  10. ^ Collis, Clark (2007-01-04). "Heller Fire". Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "// Erotic D Interview- Part 1 (June 2008) // West Coast News Network //". Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  12. ^ [3][dead link]
  13. ^ "Eazy-E, 31, Founder Of 'Gangsta' Rap - Obituary". New York Times. 27 March 1995. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  14. ^ Weinstein, Max (2013-12-19). "N.W.A. Biopic 'Straight Outta Compton' Brings On Writer". Vibe.
  15. ^ "Strange Music, Inc Independent Spotlight: Stevie Stone - Strange Music, Inc". Strange Music, Inc. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 

External links[edit]