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Rico Wade, Producer With Atlanta’s Pioneering Organized Noize, Dead at 52

Rico Wade, a member of the pioneering Atlanta production team Organized Noize that served as the auditory architects for the Dungeon Family collective — artists like OutKast, Goodie Mob, Killer Mike and many more — and helped craft Southern hip-hop’s sound, has died at the age of 52.

A representative for Wade confirmed his death to AllHipHop; no cause of death was provided at press time.

Killer Mike, the Run the Jewels rapper who got his start with the Dungeon Family, paid tribute to Wade on social media, “I don’t have the words to express my deep and profound sense of loss. I am Praying for your wife and Children. I am praying for the Wade family. I am praying for us all.”

“I deeply appreciate your acceptance into The Dungeon Family, mentorship, Friendship and Brotherhood. Idk where I would be without ya’ll,” Killer Mike continued. “This is a part of the journey. You told me ‘It ain’t been hard throughout the journey, it’s been a Journey.’ The journey ain’t gonna be the Same Journey without U. Like U say tho Umma ‘Stay Down on it’……we all are.”

Organized Noize — Wade alongside songwriting and producing partners Sleepy Brown and Ray Murray — produced the entirety of the Southern hip hop masterpiece Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, OutKast’s 1994 debut album; Wade has been credited with inviting the teenaged Andre 3000 and Big Boi to Organized Noize’s basement studio they dubbed “the Dungeon.” 

The trio also produced the bulk of OutKast’s ATLiens, as well as a handful of tracks on Aquemini (including “Skew It on the Bar-B”) and 2000’s Stankonia (including “So Fresh, So Clean”). The collaboration continued through Big Boi’s solo albums, 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty and 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.

Wade and his Organized Noize cohorts also co-wrote and produced TLC’s Hot 100-topping, Record of the Year-nominated smash “Waterfalls,” one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time; TLC’s T-Boz was in part responsible for the formation of Organized Noize, as revealed in a 2016 documentary The Art of Organized Noize. Other hits crafted by the production team include En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go” and Ludacris’ “Saturday (Oooh! Ooooh!).” 

However, Wade and Organized Noize primarily worked with their Dungeon Family, a collection of ATL-based artists that frequently appeared on each other’s work: OutKast, Goodie Mob (which featured Cee Lo Green, and whose 1996 single helped popularize the phrase “Dirty South”), and Society of Soul, as well as helped kickstart the careers of Killer Mike and Janelle Monae, both of whom are Dungeon Family alumni.

Wade was also the cousin of the rapper Future, who said in 2014 that Wade was responsible for launching his rap career. “Rico support me 1000 more times than anybody ever could,” Future said in 2014. “Nobody could ever do what Rico Wade did for me. … Everything I know about music, I know because of Rico.”

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Future continued, “I got to see Big Boi walk into the studio. Just always looking for a new Outkast album, being a fan and always being behind the scenes and seeing what it took and seeing the process of making records, and it was all just fascinating to me.”

“RIP to the Legendary Rico Wade this one really hurt,” Juicy J tweeted Saturday.

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