In 1995, rap artist Eazy-E, a major figure in the commercial development of “gangsta” rap and co-founder of the group N.W. A. announced that he had AIDS and was in dire condition. AIDS would be the disease the eventually took his life only a few weeks after making the announcement. While HIV/AIDS was still relatively taboo in the Black community, instead of quietly going away, Eazy made the decision to courageously make the announcement to share with the world in hopes of helping others to know the truth.
Wright–a self-described ex-gang member and former drug dealer–did not say how he contracted the AIDS virus. But in his statement, he indicated that he had had a number of sexual partners. “Before Tomika I had other women. I have seven children by six different mothers. Maybe success was too good to me.”
But it was what he said after that, that really had an effect on generations to come.
“I’m not religious, but wrong or right, that’s me,” said Wright, 30 at the time. “I’m not saying this because I’m looking for a soft cushion wherever I’m heading. I just feel I’ve got thousands and thousands of young fans that have to learn about what’s real when it comes to AIDS.”
Wright went on to say he “would like to turn my own problem into something good that will reach out to all my homeboys and their kin because I want to save (them) before it’s too late.”
“I’ve learned in the last week that this thing is real and it doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone.”
It was raw, real and courageous, much just like his music. His decision meant a lot for people at that time and really gave a face to how HIV/AIDS was attacking our community.
Eazy-E was one of the first major music performers to announce he has the disease. Health experts and AIDS activists in 1995 said his declaration forces the public face of AIDS into another community, just as the AIDS death of tennis star Arthur Ashe, the HIV diagnosis of Magic Johnson and the AIDS diagnosis of diving great Greg Louganis have touched the world of sports.
“It will cause many people or kids who may have just casually glossed over information about HIV to really look closer,” Bishop Carl Bean, executive director of the Minority AIDS Project, said of the singer’s condition.
Since 1995, many things have happened for the good:
-After Eazy’s announcement, many rappers were tapped for “Get Tested/Knowing Is Beautiful” campaigns to advocate getting tested
-Condom use among 16-21 years in urban areas tripled, thus preventing many from STD’s including HIV/AIDS