Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright’s death. The rapper died on March 26, 1995, about a month after checking himself into Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and finding out that he was suffering from AIDS, not asthma as he had suspected. Eazy-E became a hip-hop legend after bursting out of Compton as a part of the revolutionary group, N.W.A., along with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren. The controversy stemming from N.W.A.’s gangsta rap classics such as “Fuck Tha Police”, “Gangsta Gangsta”, and “Straight Outta Compton” led to the FBI actually sending a letter to Ruthless Records in 1989 condemning the content of N.W.A.’s music because they felt it encouraged violence against law enforcement.
So, what’s that have to do with Presidents?
After a $2,490 donation to the Republican Party, GOP heavyweights Bob Dole and Phil Gramm invited Eazy-E to the National Republican Senatorial Committee Inner Circle’s “Salute To The Commander-in-Chief” luncheon on March 18, 1991 in Washington, D.C. Senate Minority Leader Dole sent the gangsta rapper and former drug-dealer the invitation himself on February 8th, writing, “Elizabeth and I are looking forward to seeing you in Washington on March 18.”
Rocking a black leather suit topped off by his trademark Los Angeles Raiders hat, Eazy-E enjoyed lunch with some of the GOP’s top brass — people like Dole, Gramm, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Schultz, and Sam Walton — and a speech by President George H.W. Bush. While the voice behind “Boyz-N-The-Hood” didn’t get a chance to actually meet President Bush, Eazy-E made it clear that he was a fan and was even disappointed that Bush didn’t speak for longer. While he famously rapped “Don’t quote me, boy, cuz I ain’t said shit” in “Boyz-N-The-Hood”, Eazy-E’s spokesperson said that the rapper “Loves the President. He thinks he’s a great humanitarian and that he did a great job with Desert Storm.”
That might seem like something that would take away Eazy-E’s street cred. Ice Cube certainly thought so, as he made clear after leaving N.W.A with his diss song “No Vaseline” when he repeated, “I never had dinner with the President!” and accused N.W.A. of ditching Compton. But maybe Eazy-E and George H.W. Bush had far more in common than most people would imagine.
See, Eazy-E and Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and DJ Yella and MC Ren aren’t the only people to come “Straight Outta Compton”. In 1949, George Herbert Walker Bush and his family (including another future President, George W. Bush) lived in the Santa Fe Gardens in, yes, that’s right, Compton, California. The second child of George and Barbara Bush, Robin, who tragically died at the age of 4 of leukemia, was born in Compton. So, while Compton was a different place in that era, two Presidents of the United States represented the “CPT” — at least for a short time. And, as the photo at the end of this post demonstrates, young George W. was even strapped — more cowboy than gangsta, not surprisingly — as many young people have long been on the South side of Compton.
Interesting, I was just debating this very question with distinguished scholars from the American Antiquarian Society. And before he passed away, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and I frequently argued over whether Masta Killa should be considered a full-fledged member of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Anyway, GZA has the nickname of the “Genius”, but RZA is obviously the leader, the true brains of the clique, and the the sun in the Wu-Tang Clan solar system that the other members draw their energy from and orbit around. If we’re doing an old-fashioned Wu-Tang roll call (“The RZA, the GZA, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, the Ghostface Killah, and…M-e-t-h-o-d MAN!”), we have a lot of talent, but RZA has to be the President. The great thing is that President RZA has himself a built-in Cabinet with his fellow killer bees!
And, if RZA is in the top spot, I’d want Ghostface Killah as his VP. As I said, RZA is undoubtedly the leader, and while I’m a big fan and think highly of everyone in the group, I think Ghostface’s talent level is above and beyond any other Wu-Tang member. I’d want him right at the top with RZA, ready to take over, if necessary.
(By the way, I’d like to see Eric Foner or Cornel West or H.W. Brands try to answer this question. WU-TANG!)