Sussex

Eazy-E seaside memorial bench in Newhaven unveiled

(L-R) Rappers MC Ren, DJ Yella, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre of the rap group NWA pose for a portrait in 1991 in New York Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption (L-R) Rappers MC Ren, DJ Yella, Eazy-E and Dr Dre were in the rap group NWA

A British seaside town has unveiled a memorial bench honouring "Godfather of Gangsta Rap" Eazy-E - despite the two having no connection whatsoever.

Hip hop fan Guy Stevens suggested the seat be installed near the bandstand in Newhaven, East Sussex, as a joke.

But his campaign attracted enough donations for him to realise his dream of a permanent tribute to the US rapper from Compton, California.

Newhaven Town Council admitted they had never heard of the musician.

Eazy-E, real name Eric Wright, was a former drug dealer and founding member of NWA, who released influential album Straight Outta Compton in 1988.

The record was a huge hit which tackled the hostile, underprivileged side of American life.

'2Pac bench'

Mr Stevens said it was "hilarious" that the artist had been honoured in a town almost 5,500 miles (8,800km) away where only a handful of people knew his music.

He had first asked for a statue to sit alongside Newhaven's sculpture of communist leader Ho Chi Minh, who is said to have worked on cross-channel ferries docked there.

But he later admitted that request had been "tongue-in-cheek", according to the council, and downgraded his request to a bench.

Image caption The plaque reads: "Rest in peace Eric 'Eazy-E' Wright 1964-1995"

Mr Stevens said the success of the campaign, which donors predicted would put Newhaven "on the world stage", was flattering.

He suggested others might follow his lead and pay tribute to other deceased hip hop "legends".

"I'd like to see more benches dedicated to 2Pac and Biggie in neighbouring towns or even here in Newhaven," he said.

"Or even rename Newhaven Newcompton."

Compton vs Newhaven

Image copyright Getty Images
  • NWA's music arguably cemented Compton's reputation as being ridden with drugs and gangs
  • Newhaven, on the other hand, is a port town with links to France which is bordered by the South Downs - an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Compton, population 96,455, is a predominantly African-American city founded in 1867. Since NWA's formation in the 1980s, a huge amount has been ploughed into urban regeneration and efforts have been made to end a bitter rivalry between the Bloods and Crips - two notorious gangs
  • Newhaven, population 12,232, can trace its origins to Roman times. Officials recently opened the Ouse Estuary Nature Reserve, "offering opportunities for walking, cycling and bird watching"
  • Tourist "must-sees" in Newhaven include its historic fort, described as a "clifftop fortress", and dinosaur-themed family attraction Paradise Park
  • Meanwhile, Tripadvisor users suggest the LA Hood Life bus tour is one of the best ways to take in the sights of Compton. The city also boasts a memorial to Martin Luther King
  • Compton has produced many acclaimed rap artists, including Tyga, Kendrick Lamar and Dr Dre
  • Newhaven's famous sons include Leonard White, producer of 60s spy series The Avengers, and Charles Webb, author of campus adultery classic The Graduate
  • Compton is known as the Hub City due to its location in the centre of Los Angeles
  • Newhaven is known for its fish; fleets have been based there for hundreds of years and a festival is held each summer in celebration of its fishing industry

So popular was Mr Stevens' campaign that he actually raised more than £1,600 ($2,024) in his bid to fund the £1,177 ($1,489) bench.

In a further tribute to Eazy-E, who died of Aids in 1995, the extra cash was donated to two Brighton HIV charities, the Sussex Beacon and Terrence Higgins Trust.

'We don't ask questions'

Mayor of Newhaven Graham Amy said Mr Stevens's request left councillors "a little surprised", as there was no obvious connection to the town.

"Eazy-E appears to have led a rather colourful life," he said.

"But if someone contacts us wanting to buy a memorial bench to their aunt, say, we don't ask questions about her lifestyle.

"Indeed, Eazy-E is greatly admired in some quarters."

The mayor added: "I'd never heard of gangsta rap. The Beatles were more my thing."

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