Rico Wade, Organized Noize Producer & Dungeon Family Member, Dies at 52

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Rico Wade, a member of the legendary Atlanta production trio Organized Noize and co-founder of the hip-hop/soul collective Dungeon Family, has died, Billboard confirmed with his representatives. He was 52.

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of our son, father, husband, and brother Rico Wade,” his family wrote in a statement on Saturday (April 13). “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of a talented individual who touched the lives of so many. We ask that you respect the legacy of our loved one and our privacy at this time.”

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Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family also shared a heartfelt message following news of Wade’s passing.

“We are devastated by the news of the passing of our dear brother Rico Wade. The world has lost one of the most innovative architects in music, and we have lost an invaluable friend,” Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family wrote in a joint statement. “Rico was the cornerstone of Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family, and we will forever treasure his memory and the moments we shared, creating music as a united team. Our hearts weigh heavy with sorrow, and we kindly request privacy and empathy during this challenging period. Rico’s presence will always have a special spot in our hearts, and in the music we presented to the world.”

Wade’s cause of death had not been provided at press time.

Wade — considered one of the architects of Southern rap sound — was one-third of the songwriting and production team Organized Noize, whose members also included Sleepy Brown and Ray Murray. The team formed in the early 1990s and played a pivotal role in OutKast’s 1994 debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, and Goodie Mob’s 1995 first release, Soul Food.

Organized Noize also produced much of OutKast’s 1996 sophomore album, ATLiens, as well as tracks on the duo’s Aquemini (including “Skew It on the Bar-B”) and Stankonia (including “So Fresh, So Clean”). The team went on to work with Big Boi on his solo projects, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010) and Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (2012).

Wade and Organized Noize were also responsible for co-writing and producing TLC’s hit song “Waterfalls,” which spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1995. TLC’s T-Boz revealed in the 2016 documentary The Art of Organized Noize that she was responsible for introducing Organized Noize’s Sleepy Brown and Rico Wade through the latter’s job at LaMonte’s Beauty Supply.

“Rico looked at me, did a little dance and said, ‘So?'” Brown recalled. “And when he did it, it cracked me up so much that I was like, ‘Yeah, I like him.'”

In addition to TLC, Organized Noize was responsible for producing En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go” and Ludacris’ “Saturday (Oooh! Ooooh!).”

Wade and Organized Noize primarily worked with their Atlanta-based Dungeon Family collective, whose members have included a range of talents including OutKast’s Big Boi and Andre 3000, Goodie Mob’s Big Gipp, Khujo, T-Mo and Cee Lo Green, as well as Killer Mike, Slimm Calhoun, BlackOwned C-Bone and Backbone.

Wado was also cousins with rapper Future, who previously noted that Wade helped launch his career in music. “Rico support me 1000 more times than anybody ever could,” Future said in 2014, according to Rolling Stone. “Nobody could ever do what Rico Wade did for me. … Everything I know about music, I know because of Rico.”

Future added, “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.”

Killer Mike, who got his start with the Dungeon Family, shared a message about Wade’s passing on Saturday.

“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,” the Run the Jewels rapper wrote on Instagram. “I deeply appreciate your acceptance into The Dungeon Family, mentorship, Friendship and Brotherhood. Idk where I would be without ya’ll.”

He concluded, “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.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens also released a statement about Wade following his death.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rico Wade,” Dickens wrote in a statement on the City of Atlanta’s website. “Rico was a musical genius and one third of the Grammy Award-winning music production team Organized Noize. A product of Atlanta Public Schools, he led in the creation of a hip-hop sound that has spanned decades and genres. Without Rico Wade, the world may have never experienced The Dungeon Family, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Future and many more. Rico left an indelible mark on music and culture around the world and for that, the South will always have something to say.”

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