So this guy from LA sent me a bunch of photos of Ebie Wright, daughter of the late rapper Eazy-E who was a member of the straight-out-of-Compton, renegade hip-hop group N.W.A. Two days later he sent me another email saying that “the exclusive” was sold to a major entertainment news outlet.
The photos of Ebie were taken recently by photographer/director Mike Miller, according to the information in the email. The shoot was inspired by other photos Miller took of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright around the late 80s/early 90s. Miller photographed Eazy-E for The Source magazine. Some of those images were included in his book West Coast Hip-Hop: A History in Pictures. Some of those older photos of Eazy were also in the email I received.
The email explained that Ebie wanted to do a photo shoot with Miller to pay tribute to her father on what would have been his 53rd birthday (Sept. 7, 2017). Eazy passed away in 1995 when Ebie was only four years old.
The publicist sent me another email two days later suggesting that the story was an exclusive. Then he doesn’t actually withdraw the offer for me to use them, but instead, in a third email, he adds, “Please disregard the email below,” referring to the second email. “The exclusive has been sold to TMZ.”
All three emails were very similar, containing a press release with the words “For Immediate Release” printed in bold letters across the top, but the second email had a different subject line; the word “Exclusive” was inserted at the beginning.
In the third email, which arrived in my inbox a few hours after the second one, he said “the exclusive” was sold. So, I tried to clarify what “exclusive” meant. Was he referring to the photos alone, the copy, or the entire story about the photo shoot? It would be unusual for a publicist not to want a story to get out. That’s the main focus of their job, to spread the word.
Anyway, I started to think that getting the images sold was this publicist’s main goal. The subject line and the content in all three emails seemed to be the same, and they all indicated that the content, text and photos, were for immediate distribution.
My goal was to get the proper permission to publish the story even if it meant that I had to do it without those particular images, but since the story was about the photos it made sense to include at least one image that was being referred to.
Email number 1: Ebie Pays Tribute to Father/Gangster Rapper, Eazy-E to Commemorate His Birthday
Email number 2 & 3: Exclusive: Ebie Pays Tribute to Father/Gangster Rapper, Eazy-E to Commemorate His Birthday
I tried to clarify if he was referring to the images in the email or if the copy was included in the sale to TMZ. I was really hoping that he would honour the original offer and give me a couple of pictures for Core Magazines. I sent the guy a couple of emails saying that I had put work into my article and was ready to publish it. I heard nothing from him. I guess TMZ must have bought the bundle of images.
He must have gotten top dollar for them as Miller is a famed photographer who has worked with Tupac, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, YG, and a host of other musicians, album covers and lifestyle brands. He was working with Ferrari at the time and collaborating with Retna, and Shepard Fairey. Angelina Jolie, Jack Nicholson, Cameron Diaz, James Franco, Sony, Nicole Richie, Nike, Puma, MTV Video Awards, Coca~Cola, and Stussy were his clients at one point too.
I held off publishing the story but didn’t hear from the LA publicist, even after sending follow-up requests. At one point I thought he was an old client of mine from Voice of Montreal/Voice Magazine (Vice Magazine) days, who owned a PR company and then took an A&R job with a major music label in the mid ’90s. All those brands are familiar and many of them were a part of my client list. I thought maybe that connection was the reason why I was being offered a chance at the exclusive but bringing up Montreal didn’t make a difference.
I decided not to publish the story at that time, out of respect for the PR person, for the artist’s work, and because of my own professional and personal ethics. Plus I didn’t want to get in the way of their financial gain for their work. It would have decrease the value of the sale to TMZ and other media outlets and it would have made me an ass, which I never want to be.
Aside from all that, there’s the fact that I could have been sued even though I was given permission via the press release. Watching the news, I found out that Miller had recently made headlines after he allegedly sued members of the Kardashian family; namely Kylie, and Kendall Jenner for using his photos of Tupac Shakur without permission. Later, I realized that the information about Kendall and Kylie was also in the press release.
I might have dodged a bullet by not publishing the photos then, right? I feel like this was trouble waiting to happen, much like Ebie’s poses on the Southern California lowrider with raised handlebars, or sitting on the front of a 1964 Chevy Impala wearing a see-through lace crop-top over a nude strapless bra, patented leather pants, and the evening sun radiating her skin and waist-long auburn hair.
Trouble, like the kind that Eazy and the boys got up to in their songs about life in the ‘hood, such as in Boyz-n-the-Hood, where Eazy raps about driving around in his 1964 Impala: “Cruisin’ down the street in my ’64”.
In his book, Miller mentions that he has taken photos of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Ren, Yella, and Arabian Prince. His images of Easy-E were taken at Culver City studios on assignment for The Source. He was supposed to do a photo shoot of N.W.A. but was greeted by Eazy and ended up doing solo shots of him.
He talks about the photo with the giant American flag blowing in the wind, and photographing Eazy in the afternoon sun outside. The resulting image is black and white. He had the chance to shoot him again at Ruthless Records. He describes skating around the parking lot before Eazy pulled up in his new BMW. One of the resulting shots was also black and white with Eazy stooping down, wearing a dark jacket and trademark baseball cap, his hand balanced on his own board that he pulled out of the trunk of his car. Miller said the artwork on the board in that shot belonged to his friend Natas.
There were a couple of shots of Eazy sitting on the front of his car, that Miller added colour filters to, to give them more interest. The car-inspired shots he did of Ebie were much more dynamic, showcasing his acquired skill with the camera over the years. It does help that Ebie is a model, in addition to being a singer and TV personality and is used to being in front of the camera.
Let me know if you think I did the right thing by not publishing the photos in Core?
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