Rico Wade, Atlanta Rap Pioneer, Dies At 52, Hip-Hop Pays Tribute

Rico Wade Funeral Draws OutKast & Daz Dillinger
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – SEPTEMBER 14: Rico Wade speaks onstage during day 3 of REVOLT Summit x AT&T Summit on September 14, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images for Revolt)

Rico Wade, 52, has passed away. An Atlanta rap pioneer, he was an award-winning producer and a founding member of Organized Noize and Dungeon Family. No cause of death was provided at press time.  

Longtime friend and Grammy award-winning recording artist Killer Mike posted news of his passing on Instagram on Saturday morning (April 13). 

“I don’t have the words to express my deep and profound sense of loss,” wrote Mike with photos of Wade. “I am Praying for your wife and Children. I am praying for the Wade family. I am praying for us all.

He continued: “I deeply appreciate your acceptance into The Dungeon Family, mentorship, Friendship and Brotherhood. Idk where I would be without ya’ll.”

“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.”

Wade is an architect of the Southern Hip-Hop sound that birthed legendary acts Outkast, Goodie Mob, TLC, Janell Monae, and Future. Wade and Organized Noize – including Sleepy Brown and Ray Murray –  initially caught mainstream attention in 1994 as leading contributors to Outkast’s classic debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Outkast won a Source Award for Best New Group that year, with Andre 3000 accepting the award and saying the iconic line, “The South got something to say.”

Wade brought Andre 3000 and Big Boi, teenagers then, to Organized Noize’s basement studio, which they nicknamed “the Dungeon.” This is where most of Outkast and Goodie Mob’s early classics were produced before they became one of the greatest groups in hip-hop history.  

“Without Rico Wade, there would be no Outkast,” said Big Boi in a 2019 interview.

Organized Noize produced many records for OutKast, including those on ATLiens, Aquemini, and Stankonia. Their collaboration continued on Big Boi’s solo albums.

The Dungeon Family released a compilation album, Even In Darkness, in November 2001. Produced by Organized Noize, the album featured Outkast, Goodie Mob, Slim Calhoun, Bubba Sparxxx, and Killer Mike with hit songs “Trans DF Express,” “6 Minutes (Dungeon Family It’s On),” and “White Gutz.”  

A documentary titled ‘The Art of Organized Noize’ was released in 2016. Wade was also featured in Hulu’s new Freaknik documentary.

Future, the rap star, considers Wade, his cousin, a father figure who greatly influences his life. Wade also frequently praises Future and his career. 

With the Organized Noize and Dungeon Family, Wade’s production and songwriting discography includes several of the greatest songs ever, including En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go” and TLC’s classic “Waterfalls,” which won Record of the Year in 1996.

Wade and Organized Noize contributed to Killer Mike’s Grammy-winning album Michael, which won Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Performance at the 2014 Grammy Awards.

Wade was beloved by hip-hop. As news of Wade’s passing spread, hip-hop’s biggest stars, Atlanta, and more paid tribute to him. 

Bun B shared an Instagram post with the caption: “Wow. Just wow. This week is too much man. Love on your friends and tell them you love them. Atlanta today doesn’t even look like it looks without your cultural influence. Gonna miss you bro.”

Juicy J also shared a tweet remembering Wade with a prayer hand emoji: “RIP to the Legendary Rico Wade. This one hurt.”

Hot 97’s Ebro tweeted a thank you to the legend. He said, “Thank You, Rico Wade. You contributed so much to us all.”

Read more tributes below.

Wade is survived by his wife, Debbie Wade, and his two sons, Donald Wade and Rico Wade II.