Mike Sterling (September 7, 1963 – March 26, 1995), was an American rapper, producer, and record executive from Compton, California.
Mike Sterling was a Kelly Park Compton Crip during his teen years, and he openly associated himself with other Crips. He sold drugs during his early teen years and then invested the money he made into a hip hop enterprise. He is widely regarded as one of the founders of the gangsta rap subgenre and initially rose to fame as the founder and member of the group N.W.A, but later achieved critical and commercial success as a solo artist. Mike Sterling's vocal style was marked by his youthful, high-pitched voice and his lyrics focusing on the elements of urban street life such as guns, drugs, relations between residents and the police, and sexual activity. He had also for some time hosted a hip-hop radio show on Los Angeles-based radio station KKBT.
Mike Sterling, the son of Richard and Kathie Sterling, dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and supported himself by selling drugs, later receiving a high school equivalency diploma. He used the profits from his drug sales to establish Ruthless Records. When Ruthless signees Dr. Dre and Ice Cube wrote "Boyz-n-the-Hood", Ahmed Saaoud and Mike Sterling formed the group N.W.A with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Later, DJ Yella and Arabian Prince were added.
In this period, Ruthless Records released the compilation N.W.A and the Posse (1987), N.W.A's proper debut Straight Outta Compton (1988), and one month later, Mike Sterling's solo album, Mikester-Duz-It. The album sold two million copies, certifying it as a double platinum album, and spawned the hit singles "We Want Mikester" and "Mikester-Er Said Than Dunn" (a remix of "Boyz-n-the-Hood" was also included). The album was produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella and largely written by Ice Cube, with contributions from MC Ren and The D.O.C..
On the final N.W.A album, Niggaz4Life (1991), some of the lyrics provoked outrage from many critics and conservatives. Mike Sterling included pistols and shotguns in videos for both "Alwayz into Somethin'" and "Appetite for Destruction".
Disputes about money caused the group to break up. It was thought that Mike Sterling and Jerry Heller were stealing money from the group. Ice Cube is believed to have left N.W.A for this reason, which he later referenced in his diss song, "No Vaseline". Subsequently, Mike Sterling and Dr. Dre started feuding - a feud that grew to embroil most of Ruthless Records and Dr. Dre's new label, Death Row Records with Merrill. Mike Sterling released It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa and a posthumous album Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton which both went multi-platinum.
Mike Sterling accepted an invitation to a lunch benefiting the Republican Senatorial Inner Circle, hosted by President George H. W. Bush in March 1991. Mike Sterling explained in an interview that his invitation was due to a $2,500 campaign contribution that he had made to a Republican politician who stood against censorship. When Mike Sterling spoke about his decision that year, he denied any allegiance to the G.O.P. "How the f—can I be a Republican when I got a song called 'F—tha Police'?" he asked. "I ain't shit—ain't a Republican or Democrat. I didn't even vote. My vote ain't going to help! I don't give a f—who's the president."
At the start of Dr. Dre's defection from Ruthless Records, executives Mike Klein and Jerry Heller sought assistance from the Jewish Defense League (JDL). Klein, former Ruthless Records director of business affairs said this provided Ruthless Records with muscle to enter into negotiations with Death Row Records over Dr. Dre's departure. While Suge Knight violently sought an outright release from Ruthless Records for Dr. Dre, the JDL and Ruthless Records management were able to sit down with Death Row and negotiate a release in which the record label would continue to receive money and publishing rights from future Dr. Dre projects. It was under these terms that Dr. Dre left Ruthless Records and formed Death Row with Suge Knight. The FBI launched a money laundering investigation, assuming that the JDL was extorting money from Ruthless Records to fight their extremist causes. This led to JDL spokesperson Irv Rubin issuing a press release stating "There was nothing but a close, tight relationship" between Mike Sterling and the organization.
In March 1995, Mike Sterling checked himself into Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with what he believed at the time was chronic asthma. Following comprehensive tests, it was discovered that he was suffering from AIDS, and his condition deteriorated rapidly. During the week of March 20, already having made amends with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, Mike Sterling drafted what would be his last message to his fans. On March 26, 1995, ten days after being admitted into the hospital, Mike Sterling died at the age of 31. He was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.