Phyllis Pollack knew Eric Wright early in his career, and was one of those who went to the hospital in 1995. Phyllis worked as a publicist for various NWA and Eazy E albums over the ten year career. She’s even the one who wrote the liner notes in the re-released Straight Outta Compton and albums.
As somebody who worked for Eric “Eazy E” Wright, Phyllis told us a lot of things that few know: Eazy’s private charities, his NWA reunion plans, and the often simplified battle to get NWA heard in the late 1980’s.
Throughout her career and today, Phyllis Pollack’s Def Press has been publicizing news and information about The Geto Boys, NWA, and Compton’s Most Wanted, among many others. That being said, read what a true industry insider can tell us about Eazy from many standpoints in our next part in the Eazy E tribute series. Eric Wright is dearly missed.
AllHipHop.com:What was it like the first time you met Eric?
Phyllis Pollack: I don’t remember the first time. How it got started initially was that there was an FBI letter that had surfaced, regarding “Straight Outta Compton.” I was asked to get involved and get to the bottom of it, and to get the word out to the press on it. That’s how I first got involved as a publicist regarding that. I did so much research on the letter, and who was behind it. I also wrote about it on a journalistic level, and I co-wrote a lengthy story on it with Dave Marsh, which was published as the cover story of The Village Voice in New York. Marsh is really brilliant, and the impact of the article was that it send shockwaves throughout the industry. Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter each came out stories on what we had exposed in our article. In fact, when you watch the VH1 Behind the Music episode on Dr. Dre, they show both of their articles that reference our story. Oprah Winfrey even held up the front cover of our article on her show, and she talked about the article. It was a huge, big deal what was going down.
AllHipHop.com: He responded to that, and you began work directly with him?
PP: After that, I started working for his label for a while. I was also working for him at the time he went into the hospital, too. I represented some of his groups like Above The Law, Kokane and the
other stuff. He actually brought over other people that weren’t on his label that he wanted me to do press for. That was real cool, too.
AllHipHop.com: I know he was also a friend of yours. He was hard it to separate business
PP: You can’t in a way, because this is our lives. But he was very approachable – somebody you could talk to. Some artists, they will only talk about themselves or things pertaining to their career. He would ask different stuff, and be curious on a personal level. It wasn’t just, “You work for me, and I’m this icon.” He was personally interested in people.
AllHipHop.com: You worked with him at a time when he was in high-demand, and when he had faded a bit as well from the public consciousness. How was he different in the later years?
PP: I wouldn’t say it that way. I don’t think he ever faded from consciousness, at least not when he was alive. There was just that period later on that had a lot of drama. And unfortunately, that diverted a lot of people’s attention away from things it shouldn’t have. First off, let’s talk about the earlier times. There are a lot of things that people don’t know today about how things were back then, as far as Hip-Hop, in general. If you weren’t there back then, it may seem that it was a certain way, because of what you see nowadays. But if you were around and involved in certain things, it wasn’t quite that way. First off, going back to the early days, a lot of the mainstream press had zero interest in Hip-Hop. A lot of the mainstream writers didn’t understand it, and they just pretty much ignored it. In fact, in the later years, I had at least two pretty major reporters contact me and actually apologize and say that they were really wrong in not having taken a bigger interest in what was going on with Eric early on. You need to remember that in the beginning, nine labels had turned down distributing NWA’s stuff. When Billboard started going by Soundscan for the charts, that was what made a really big difference. You would think that this record would be down on the charts [because of this]. Within the first month of Soundscan, NWA debuted at the #2 album in the country and the next week was #1. So NWA was the first was the first #1 Gangsta Rap album on the Billboard charts. It was not The Chronic, which has often been incorrectly reported. Upon NWA’s topping the charts, most of the industry went into shock. At that point, the majors started taking a look at giving these various Hip-Hop producers production deals. There was a lot of Hip-Hop being
signed that wasn’t really very good after that. People thought they were able to have the next NWA. Eric was not recognized as being the powerhouse that he was because Dre’s presence at Death Row overshadowed it.
AllHipHop.com: There was a lot of resistance from all sides?
PP: The same stations that said, “We will never play this music,” now, they have to play it! They have no choice. Eric took advantage of the freedom he had to fight the status quo of things. We did not have all these big urban stations back then that we have today that play Hip-Hop. They were very resistant against Rap, especially if it was Gangsta [Rap]. We always had to fight the status quo of things, and he made it fun. He really had a great sense of humor.
AllHipHop.com: Look at him attending the White House.
PP: Eric was a very charitable person, behind the scenes. A lot of these charities sell their lists of “People Who Have Donated.” These [donors] are just names and numbers. Eric used to get hit up for
invitations all the time in the mail. This invitation came up to go to this dinner at The White House. And he went. It’s real an ironic, because all these people were trying to ban him. He thought it was
funny, a publicity thing. It wasn’t like he was trying to support the President.
AllHipHop.com: From his age, to his sex-life, to his label disputes – there were rumors about Eazy. How did he take on that talk?
PP: Really, with some of it, he wasn’t offended. I don’t think he got caught up in all the minutia. You
have to understand, too, that Eric didn’t have time for that sometimes. He was running a business. He also had a personal life, a social life. He was dealing with himself as a solo artist, there was NWA, and other artists. He didn’t have time to sit there and ruminate about every rumor out there. He was a very private person in many ways. For instance, he’d be taking TV’s down to a youth home to donate. He would not want any press about it. It was just something he wanted to do. He wanted to do this thing with prisoners where they could maybe design some of his album covers. That way, if
>they had the notoriety, it would be easier for them to get a job when they got out. I’d be like, “Do you want me to put that out, or tell anybody?” He’d say, “No, this is something I just want to do.” And then there were many things he planned that he ended up not doing because of his untimely death.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about Eric Wright the executive…
PP: He was always pretty calculated in the sense that he always thought things out. He did not work on impulse. He was a guy who would come to the marketing meetings and listen to everything people had to say. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another artist do that. A lot of artists who claim
to be hands on, aren’t. He was a business person. People in those days would make ridiculous comments like how he was a puppet of Jerry Heller’s. People need to understand that Jerry worked for him, Eric didn’t work for Jerry.
AllHipHop.com: I know you’re the last person to interview him on a media level. Were you aware of that at the time?
PP: I did not realize, at the time, the tragedy that would be happening. I had no idea at all. Close to the end, I interviewed him for several hours at my place for his bio that he wanted me to write for him. He would come over, and he play me a whole bunch of unreleased music, and we talked about Dre, and a whole lot of stuff. It was truly a major shock when he died. At the end, he was working on so many things he had planned. He told me he was going to put another NWA album together. He asked me to do the publicity for it, and he told me he was working on things to get it in motion. He made me promise him that I would do the publicity for it. Then he was passed away very soon after that. The end was so quick how it all went down. It was just devastating.
AllHipHop.com: As a fan of the music, what’s your favorite Eazy song?
PP: I’m gonna pick an NWA song. “F**k The Police.” I don’t think anybody could write something like that today, deliver it like NWA did, and see the light of day on a major. He was a visionary. That’s one of the things, my friend, that separates Eric from a lot of artists.