On a hazy Atlanta night, Fredrick Calhoun, 37, sits near a downtown bar sipping a beer. He’s unshaven, and his hair hasn’t been cut in a while. Giving off a distinct construction worker vibe is the rapper known as Cool Breeze.
Ray, who hasn’t seen Breeze in years, calls him “the oddest brother in the Family.” But back in the day, Breeze was a hot commodity. His single “Watch for the Hook,” from his 1999 East Points Greatest Hit (Interscope), featured cameos from most of the Dungeon Family. He solidified his thug with the trippy follow-up “Cre-A-Tine (I Got People…).” But the man who coined the term “Dirty South” with his 1995 guest verse on a Goodie Mob track of the same name says he never felt like a star.
As a teenager, Breeze got attention from girls by day and got into trouble by night, from selling “a little bit of everything” to stealing cars. Discovering that rap was more fun than “thuggin’,” he made a demo called I’m Down for Mine in the bedroom of a buddy named 2 Cold Capone, then formed the East Point Chain Gang, which also included future Goodie Mob member Big Gipp. Capone gave the demo to Joseph “Joe” Carne, 37, another popular East Point Kid, whose mom, Jean Carne, had been assigned to Philadelphia International and Motown Records.
Impressed by Breeze’s demo, Joe alerted Rico. “Joe was like, ‘He the next Ice Cube.’” Recalls Rico, who went to school with Breeze and claims his ego was as exorbitant as his talent. “I was like, ‘Boy, stop!’” Rico says. But Breeze was soon part of the Dungeon Family.
“Our mentality was, ‘You touch one of us, it’s over with,’” says the politically conscious gangsta rapper. “We can touch each other, but nobody else can.’ The atmosphere in the Dungeon was the bomb… Before fame came,” Breeze adds, cracking his knuckles. “The Family is kind of an orphanage. The Dungeon orphanage.” He holds up a half-empty beer glass: “Ain’t nothing like family.”
Rico ascends the spiral staircase to his bedroom. Downstairs is where Ramon Campbell, 37, stays, and has stayed. Ramon is light-skinned, muscular, and carries a pistol. He earned the nickname “Mean-Ass Mone” for his way of handling crazed fans approaching Rico’s estate. “Nobody has ever tried to come up on the yard except for a few,” Mone says dryly, “and they got dealt with.”