Rico Wade, Renowned Producer for Atlanta Hip-Hop, Dies at 52

Rico Wade, Renowned Producer for Atlanta Hip-Hop, Dies at 52
By: Pitchfork Posted On: April 14, 2024 View: 58

Rico Wade, a member of the renowned Atlanta-based production and songwriting trio Organized Noize who helped shape the sound of Outkast and Goodie Mob, has died, reports The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was 52.

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of our son, father, husband, and brother Rico Wade,” Wade’s family wrote in a shared statement. “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.”

Organized Noize and the Dungeon Family also released a statement to reflect on their relationship with Wade and the role he played in their legacy. “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. 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 didn’t just play a pivotal part in the sound of Southern hip-hop in the ’90s, but he helped to define it, which would go on to shape the direction of the genre at large over the ensuing years. Alongside Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown, Wade formed Organized Noize in the early 1990s as a way to reinvent how genres could merge together to make regional sounds distinct from one another, choosing to imbue hip-hop with funk and soul through a pop filter. Organized Noize’s sound immediately stood out on the radio in the shape of countless hits, including TLC’s “Waterfalls,” En Vogue’s “Don't Let Go (Love),” and Ludacris’ “Saturday (Oooh! Ooooh!).” The former earned Wade his first Grammy nomination for Record of the Year.

Where they established undeniable dominance and singularity was in their tight-knit relationship with Outkast and Goodie Mob. While both groups were a part of Dungeon Family—the Atlanta music collective that’s known for its star-making acts like Future, Janelle Monae, Killer Mike—it was Outkast whose openness towards experimentation allowed Organized Noize to shine. Wade’s touch as a producer and songwriter is traceable across their entire discography, including Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – the only rap album to ever win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Organized Noize originally worked out of the basement of Wade’s mother’s house in Atlanta’s East Point neighborhood. Eventually, it came to be known as the Dungeon, earning a reputation as a welcome haven for aspiring musicians as long as they were willing to audition. It was there that Wade helped craft dozens of hits for artists, and the name eventually become a reference checkpoint for those in the scene. (On “Ain’t No Thang,” Outkast namechecked Wade’s studio in song, singing, “We havin’ a smokeout in the Dungeon with the mary jane.”)

In 2016, Wade’s work was covered in The Art of Organized Noize, a documentary about the production trio that features interviews with Andre 3000, Big Boi, Future, Ludacris, 2 Chainz, and more.

Numerous artists and rappers have shared tributes in Wade’s honor, including En Vogue, ScHoolboy Q, Alchemist, Juicy J, El-P, Open Mike Eagle, and Mike Will Made-It. “I don’t have the words to express my deep and profound sense of loss,” Killer Mike wrote on Instagram. “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 y’all. 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.”

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