André 3000 didn’t just speak prophecy when OutKast went up to accept the award for Best New Artist at the 1995 Source Awards. Truth is yes, the South did have “something to say,” which was a testament to the ATLien duo’s win on that otherwise tense night. But before those words were even addressed inside Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater, rap’s balance of power had already begin trickling past the Mason-Dixon Line; all thanks to a production trio by the name of Organized Noize.
In the documentary "The Art of Organized Noize," producers Rico Wade, Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown, otherwise known as Organized Noize, retrace the steps that went into carving out a signature sound that inspired generations and changed the game. Ultimately, the trio rewrote the script and established a blueprint that shifted the sound (and feel) of Atlanta.
Originally debuted at SXSW earlier this month, the doc — featuring commentary from Diddy to L.A. Reid, Future, OutKast — has since hit Netflix, reminding everyone of the trio’s genius and enduring legacy that continues to make waves. Here’s a few interesting facts uncovered from the must-see film.
The origin of the group name stemmed from “Set It Off” soundtrack.
Before changing the game with their unique production, the trio hadn’t established a group name. During the mid-90s, upon working on the “Set It Off” soundtrack, Rico Wade had a singing trio, who called themselves Organized Noise. “He called them Organized Noise because the girls, they sung loud, but it was still beautiful,” said singer-songwriter Marquez Etheridge. The group recorded the title track for the film featuring Queen Latifah. “When he first said the name, we knew it was ready,” recalled Brown about taking on the name.
T-Boz introduced Sleepy Brown to Rico Wade, two-thirds of Organized Noize.
TLC was instrumental to the production trio, as T-Boz, fellow Atlanta native, introduced Sleepy Brown and Rico Wade at the latter's job at LaMonte’s Beauty Supply. “Rico looked at me, did a little dance and said, ‘So?’” Brown remembered. “And when he did it, it cracked me up so much that I was like, ‘Yeah, I like him.’”
The location of the famous “Dungeon” was cramped, musty, and… still legendary.
Located at 1907 Lakewood Terrace, “The Dungeon” was a unique basement, based in Rico Wade’s mother’s home, that housed material recorded by OutKast, Goodie Mob, and more. As described by everyone who experienced life in the “Dungeon” lair, the spot was “musty” and “smelled of weed and dirt,” with “no room on the floor to sleep.” About 15-20 people would be holed up in the basement to work on music and while it wasn’t exactly the best condition to be in, many shared the following sentiment: “It was either that or be out in the heat or get in trouble… When you look back at it, we liked it.”
André 3000 quit high school upon meeting The Dungeon Family.
As Big Boi remembers, following their long-delayed meeting with Rico and rest of the Dungeon Family, André 3000 decided to quit school and focus on music. “He was like fuck that shit,” said Big Boi. While his partner-in-rhyme had decided on his path, Big Boi on the other hand couldn’t exactly follow suit, since his aunt made it clear that it's either: graduate or get sent back to Savannah, Georgia.
“Player’s Ball” Led To L.A. Reid Signing OutKast to LaFace Records.
L.A. Reid almost initially pleased with OutKast, despite having them featured on TLC’s “What About Your Friends (Remix).”
“L.A. Reid didn’t want to sign OutKast at first,” says Wade in the film. André also discussed Reid’s reaction to their music. “He was like, ‘Yeah, I think I like them, but I don’t think that they’re stars, I don’t know but I’ll give them a chance. I’ll give them a song… Let’s put this one song on a Christmas album compilation.” Trying to avoid going the corny route with a traditional holiday song, the group decided on a concept that would highlight their style and sound. “We just gonna talk about how we kick it,” Big Boi explained. “Let’s just try to make a song that fits that album.”
That song became “Player’s Ball,” the best untraditional holiday tune (also earning a spot on a special episode of Martin), which became the highest charting single from OutKast’s debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. “That’s the first time we got a glimpse in what life was like in Atlanta,” said L.A. Reid about the song. Meanwhile, Dungeon Family members Big Gipp, and Cee Lo Green recalled quitting their jobs once the record starting blowing up. “We quit and walked out of our jobs,” said Green, while Gipp added, “The day they played it on the radio, everyone quit their job.”
Puff Daddy directed OutKast’s “Player’s Ball”.
“I think that’s my best directed video,” said Puff Daddy about his work on OutKast’s first ever music video. The video, released in 1993, was shot in various locations around Atlanta, including Rico Wade’s family kitchen table. “I was like, ‘I direct a lot of videos. I ain’t direct no cats like this,” Puff recalled about his experience shooting the unapologetically black music video.
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is the only OutKast album without Organized Noize production.
“That was arrogant as shit,” Rico Wade reveals in the doc about OutKast's decision to sway from the trio's production on their 2003 album. This was OutKast's first album without Organized Noize’s production and also their first to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. The double-disc went on to strike a certified diamond recognition from the RIAA for sales over ten million copies. Explaining the thoughts that went through his mind at the time OutKast decided not to feature Organized Noize on the album and how they weren't acknowledged at the Grammy Awards, Wade added, “You can’t just erase me and take me out of the equation.” He shared the same feelings in regards to later albums by Cee-Lo and Goodie Mob. “Y’all need my fuckin’ opinion sometimes. … We fought for y’all. We went in there and sold this vision so it wouldn’t be compromised.”
"The Art of Organized Noize" is available now on Netflix.