COMPTON — Residents of the city are mourning the death of a native son. Actor and comedian Anthony “AJ” Johnson, who was best known for his roles in “Friday” and “House Party,” was reported dead, by longtime friends in the early morning of Sept. 20. He was 55.
Locals remember Johnson as being approachable and not forgetting where he was from.
“I went to school with his children and nephews at St. Timothy’s in Compton,” remembers Jameal Carodine. “He was a legend. Somebody we could touch.
“He would let all the young boys from the neighborhood climb inside his car. He would show us stuff around his house letting us know we could get it without gangbanging or selling drugs.”
Carodine remembers he knew them all by name and would spend time with them at school.
“He is a Compton legend,” Carodine added.
Others remember him as has always being a comedian and shared fond memories of their days joining local Compton drum groups.
“I’ve known AJ since I was in elementary school, though he’s older than me,” said longtime friend Da Monsta. “He knew my sister and came over to borrow my Richard Pryor records telling her I said he could use them and I didn’t.”
He vividly recalled them playing drums for a drill team called the Compton Scorpions before Johnson joined the ‘Compton Sounders’ and him driving a Caddilac, which was too big for him and on the back it said “What They Hittin’ Fo?” with a pair of dice.
“I knew he had some health issues that he told my mother about back in 2014, and we would speak periodically after that,” Monsta said. “I had plans to shoot a music video that he said he would be in.”
Many remember Johnson playing the late Eazy E in Dr. Dre’s 1993 hit “Dre Day.”
It is being reported Johnson was found lifeless in a store earlier this month in Los Angeles and rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. So far, no cause of death has been released.
Many of the actors and directors he worked for had nothing but kind words to say about his passing.
“Sad to wake up to the news about AJ Johnson passing away, a naturally funny dude who was straight outta Compton at the same time,” said Ice Cube. “Sorry I couldn’t bring your character Ezal back to the big screen in “Last Friday…”
The actor and comedian’s career took off in 1990 after he landed the role of E.Z.E. in “House Party” and going on to do stand-up.
After appearing in “House Party,” he appeared in films like “Lethal Weapon 3” and “Menace II Society” before his breakout role playing Ezal in the 1995 comedy “Friday.”
Johnson would go on to appear in nearly 50 films and TV shows, including “Moesha,” “Martin,” “Malcolm & Eddie,” “The Players Club” and “I Got the Hook Up” and its sequel. It’s also rumored Johnson was cast to reprise his role in the upcoming “Last Friday.”
The Compton City Council adjourned its Sept. 21 meeting in his memory.
“He will be truly missed and we should create a resolution to present to his family,” Councilman Isaac Galvan said.
Johnson’s family has setup a GoFundMe account to raise money for funeral expenses.
Contributions can be made at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/home-going-celebration-for-aj-johnson?qid=f11aedc406daa5c6de8cb12440d3716d.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at email@example.com.