Jerry Heller, at 75; former N.W.A manager
By Sandy Cohen
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Jerry Heller, the music manager who helped introduce gangsta rappers N.W.A to the masses, died Friday. He was 75.

His cousin, Gary Ballen, said Mr. Heller died at a hospital in Thousand Oaks, Calif., after suffering a heart attack while driving earlier in the day.

Mr. Heller cofounded Ruthless Records with Eazy-E, which released N.W.A’s seminal album ‘‘Straight Outta Compton’’ in 1988, launching the West Coast gangsta rap movement.

Ruthless was also behind such artists as J.J. Fad, ­Michel’le, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

Actor Paul Giamatti played the veteran music manager in last year’s hit film ‘‘Straight Outta Compton.’’ Mr. Heller sued the film’s producers for defamation after its release, claiming it portrayed him as a villain.

Ballen said his cousin was ‘‘always kind of tormented’’ by his parting with Eazy and the label. In 2006, Mr. Heller released ‘‘Ruthless: A Memoir,’’ which Ballen said was being adapted for the screen.

Mr. Heller had a history of heart problems and suffered from diabetes.

Born in Ohio, Mr. Heller started his career in the 1960s as an agent and promoter, working with such acts as Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. He set up Elton John’s first US performance, Ballen said.

Ballen remembered how excited Mr. Heller was to play him a cassette of N.W.A’s early tracks.

‘‘He said, ‘You watch, this is going to be the biggest music ever. This is going to take over rock ‘n’ roll,’ ’’ Ballen recalled. ‘‘Jerry was a real visionary.’’

Besides Ballen, Mr. Heller leaves a brother and a nephew.