The death of the rapper Eazy-E was jolting. The leading member of the pioneering “gangsta rap” group N.W.A. passed away in March 1995 after a devastatingly short battle with HIV/AIDS, unaware he had the virus until he checked into a Los Angeles hospital a few weeks earlier.
At the time, the stigma surrounding the illness was at its peak, as was the false conception that HIV/AIDS was strictly an issue affecting members of the LGBTQ+ community or drug users who shared needles. But Eazy-E, born Eric Wright, had likely contracted the virus through a heterosexual relationship, according to his doctor.
“I just feel I’ve got thousands of young fans who have to learn about what’s real when it comes to AIDS,” the rapper said in a statement, adding that he had only learned of his diagnosis two weeks prior. “I’ve learned in the last week that this thing is real, and it doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone.” Nine days later, he passed away aged 31.
Eazy-E’s death was significant, as he was one of the first major musicians to announce he was sick with the virus, which helped spread awareness that HIV/AIDS was a worldwide health crisis that spared no one.
But his daughter Erin Bria “Ebie” Wright and her mother Tracy Jernagin, Eazy-E’s former girlfriend, have never fully believed the story of how he died. Instead, they think there could’ve been foul play and search for answers in the four-episode docuseries The Mysterious Death of Eazy-E, premiering Thursday, Aug. 12 on WE tv.
“I have never believed that my father died of full-blown AIDS,” Wright says in the opening episode, holding back tears. “I have always believed that something else happened and I’m afraid of what that might be.”
Wright, 30, has been trying to make a documentary about the circumstances surrounding her father’s death for years, initially launching a GoFundMe in 2016 to cover the production costs for the project, titled A Ruthless Scandal: No More Lies. It promised to reveal “jaw-dropping” truths about his death, but because it failed to raise a fraction of the $250,000 goal, the documentary never materialized.
Finally, Wright and her mother secured backing for the project and teamed up with entertainment journalist Jasmine Simpkins to explore all the far-fetched conspiracy theories that have swirled around Eazy-E’s death. Did he have HIV/AIDS? Was a rival involved? Could the government have played a role?
The result is a sham of an investigation, as Wright and Jernagin entertain a range of already debunked theories, beginning with their suspicion that Eazy-E never had HIV/AIDS.
“My father was isolated in the hospital,” Wright speculated. “There was no autopsy done. I’ve never even seen the medical records. Why?” “He died unusually fast,” Jernagin added. “None of his children had it. None of the baby mothers had it.”
“I have never believed that my father died of full-blown AIDS. I have always believed that something else happened and I’m afraid of what that might be.”
Wright also clings to rumors that Eazy-E’s death certificate bears no mention of him having AIDS, but instead reports that he died from cardiac arrest or sudden death through asphyxiation.
The mother-daughter duo then turn to rapper B.G. Knocc Out, who was signed to Eazy-E’s record label Ruthless and has been vocal about his beliefs that Eazy-E was murdered. They meet with him in a back alleyway for a conversation; B.G. Knocc Out recalls how he was in the studio with Eazy-E when his lung collapsed, describing how he was hitting his inhaler constantly, sweating, and could barely speak. “He was healthy, he was strong—something just don’t add up,” he said.
Wright claimed she has been trying for years to get her hands on her father’s death certificate but has been prevented at every stage. Yet when the cameras were rolling, she was finally able to get her hands on the document. Eazy-E’s immediate cause of death is listed as pneumocystis carinii pneumonia due to AIDS, with the document signed by his doctor and a coroner.
Meanwhile Simpkins met up with Paula Correia, who served as the head of public relations for Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles while Eazy-E was being treated at the hospital. While she recalled that Eazy-E was “much sicker than we had ever expected anybody to be” and admitted she had “never seen anyone going so fast,” she was certain he was correctly diagnosed. But Simpkins jumps to a new nugget of information to investigate: Correia thought it was odd for Eazy-E to hire a random minister to officiate his wedding to his girlfriend Tomica Woods from his deathbed.
With the death certificate in hand and Correia’s testimony that Eazy-E was in fact sick with the virus, Wright and Jernagin quickly abandon their belief that he didn’t have HIV/AIDS and then jump straight into another theory.
Because none of Eazy-E’s known romantic flings have come forward to say they had HIV/AIDS, and none of his children ended up contracting it either, they speculate he could have been injected with the virus. Furthermore, they want to know if Death Row Records founder Suge Knight could have played a role.
Their hunch is primarily based on the notorious bad blood between Knight and Eazy-E, stemming from a nasty fight over N.W.A. member Dr. Dre, plus an unsettling comment Knight made while appearing on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show in 2003.
In the interview, Kimmel wears a bulletproof vest for a bit—a pointed reference to Knight’s violent history and association with Los Angeles gangs. But Knight then informs the host of a “new thing” people were doing because “if you shoot somebody, you go to jail forever.”
“They have a new thing out,” Knight explained. “They have this stuff they called… they get blood from somebody with AIDS, and they shoot you with it. That’s [a] slow death.”
“The Eazy-E thing, you know what I mean,” Knight added before snickering to himself.
Armed with the clip, the women hightail it over to a behavioral analyst to see what she could glean about Knight’s involvement based on the video. She determines that because of his “sadistic” laugh and a crook of his head, that he knows something that he’s not telling.
Wright then declares she needs to talk to Knight, who is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence after pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the hit-and-run death of a man in 2015.
The whole theory seems like a waste of time, considering that Wright already addressed the video clip in 2015, stating that she didn’t believe Knight played a role in Eazy-E’s death and his comment wasn’t to be taken seriously.
Plus, medical experts have previously said it would be very unlikely for Eazy-E to have contracted the virus from a simple prick of a needle, with a HIV/AIDS medical expert telling The Washington Post there would be only a 3 percent chance of that happening.
“Needle sticks are an extremely difficult way to get HIV,” Justin Goforth said. “That’s really different from sharing injection drug needles where you’re actually injecting a decent volume of the other person’s blood into you. That’s different than a stick.”
With only one episode of the docuseries released, it’s too soon to say what revelations or conclusions Wright, Jernagin, and Simpkins will draw from their investigation. But it’s clear that it’s shaping up to be nothing more than a wild goose chase.