On Eazy E And Hip-Hop’s Masculinity
Magic Johnson & Eric Wright are forever linked for two things. One, the two of them during a period in the 80s absolutely ruled Los Angeles, Johnson wit the Lakers and Eazy with N.W.A. They compiled fans for all walks of life and while one always did things with a smile on his face, the other brandished guns and maintained the lifestyle of an American outlaw.
Yet, the two will forever be tied together as two of the many men who opened America’s eyes to AIDS in the 1990s. Magic had everyone at bay in 1991 with his televised announcement of being HIV positive, subsequently pushing the diesese to the forefront of pop culture and work done to create a cure. An outlaw until the very end, Eazy E didn’t reveal that he had the more severe trait of HIV ten days before his passing.
Today marks 17 years since Compton’s pint-sized gangster died due to AIDS complications and in the time since, Wright’s death has been a sound reminder that although masculinity in hip-hop revolves around bedding every woman imaginable, be cautious while doing it makes for a more desired and less catastrophic result.
Yet the needle on masculinity in hip-hop has yet to change.
When Wright made his announcement, shortly after marrying Tomika Woods he also declared he had seven children by six different women, amplifying his bravado in the face of certain death. It also but an eye on hip-hop and it’s standard ideology about it’s main subjects (particularly male) to reaffirm how “manly” they truly are. Four years after Magic Johnson truly let the world know that HIV/AIDS was a disease that could be caught by both heretosexual and homosexual individuals, Eazy E made rappers a special class all by himself.
He also stroked the rumors of he himself being a homosexual. Rap fans, still closeted on the “how” one could catch HIV refused to believe that Eazy could have gotten it from a woman. The stain of it being a “gay disease” still echoed in various sections of the community, particularly hip-hop where none of it’s stars could even be considered playing for the other team. No one genre of music up until that point (and still to this day) maintains a sense of phobia towards devalued masculinity than hip-hop. Yet by announcing how many women he had been with to bore him children – Wright made it abundantly clear that such rumors about him were to be deaded on sight.
Seventeen years ago, Eazy E kept us all in the loop about how hip-hop was going to take HIV as a social issue. You just knew that as a G, he wasn’t going to attribute himself to be anything other than a man in a land where being a man is the only option. We lauded Wilt for hitting everything that moved, yet couldn’t really come to grips one of the West’s loudest mouths was silenced by the exact same lifestyle.
At least Wright died knowing who he was, a vessel not only for West Coast rap but a symbol for how HIV is spoken about in the rap world. Making sure the rest of the world realizes it? Eaiser said than done.