Heller’s Ruthless Return

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said there are "no second acts in American lives," but then he never met Jerry Heller. The former mega-agent, West Coast rap mogul and author is partnering with veteran record producer Johnny "J" and Pablito Vasquez to create a new record label, Streetlife/Klock Work Records.

Heller went from an agent representing now-classic rock acts including Van Morrison to co-founding Ruthless Records with a then-unknown rapper by the name of Eazy-E, to barely waiting for the ink to dry on his memoir, "Ruthless," before announcing the new venture.

"Our goal is to bring back economic integrity to the music business," Heller said of his reentry into it. "The record industry was supposed to be a win-win situation between the artists and the label. The way the business is structured now, however, many artists on major labels have to sell close to a million-and-a-half units to recoup and break even.

"That is not what our label will be about. The music industry is supposed to be about making money."

It’s also about making music, and Heller has partnered with one of the industry’s top producers. Johnny "J" – owner of Klock Work Entertainment – produced more than 150 songs with Tupac Shakur including "How Do U Want It" and "Hit ‘Em Up." He has created album tracks that have collectively sold more than 100 million units worldwide, according to a statement.

"Every day I am heard on the radio throughout the country, and that has been consistent throughout the years," Johnny "J" said in a statement. "I decided to partner with Jerry Heller, who is a major figure, responsible for the success of West Coast rap music. The fire would not have been set off without Jerry providing the business acumen."

The third partner in the venture, Vasquez, heads up Streetlife Records and will serve as a liaison between the artistic and business sides of the company. He will be the interface between the label and "the street," according to Heller.

Vasquez describes his role with the label as that of "intercessory," between creative and business sides and in contract negotiations with Heller.

"This label will not be tied down to or limited to certain musical styles or genres," Vasquez said. "This is going to be way past the ‘hoods. It is going to be about the streets, but we will release music and artists that will transcend both cultures and neighborhoods."

Ultimately, Heller said, Streetlife/Klock Work Records will emulate the vision of Ruthless.

"Part of the Ruthless model was having great production, a strong business vision, and a deep connection with the streets," Heller said.