With his dark sunglasses, jheri curl and high-pitched rapping style, Eazy-E became one of the defining figures of west coast hip-hop. He's also one of hip-hop's more sorely missed. The N.W.A legend born Eric Wright would've been 54 years old today (Sept. 7).

Of course, Eazy-E is known as the mastermind behind N.W.A and the founder of Ruthless Records. He was the one who helped kicked off N.W.A's career with 1987's "Boyz-n-the-Hood," which contains one of rap's most famous opening lines: "Cruising down the street in my six-fo'."

The group's classic debut album Straight Outta Compton came one year later and popularized reality rap. Ice Cube wrote the rhymes, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella brought the production, MC Ren brought the ruffness and Eazy-E had the charisma.

Sadly, N.W.A disbanded due to bad business and discontent among the members. Ice Cube left and dissed his former members before embarked on his own successful solo career. Dr. Dre left after 1991's EFIL4ZAGGIN and formed Death Row Records. Eazy-E, having taken the brunt of two of the most famous hip-hop disses in history, released his own and dropped the EP It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa. However, his career never reached Ice Cube or Dr. Dre's heights.

Eazy-E signed Cleveland group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to Ruthless, and the platinum-selling quintet wound up helping the label back to prominence post-N.W.A. He also signed the fledgling Black Eyed Peas to the label, years before their breakthrough in the 2000s. In 1995, Eazy-E discovered he was suffering from full-blown AIDS. He died on March 26 of that year.

Although he's gone, Eazy-E is still beloved and remains a pivotal figure in hip-hop history. Rest in peace, Eazy.

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