Dungeon Family PART ONE (pg. 5)

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By: Vibe / January 16, 2010

“Our competition was The Chronic,” says Ray. “That was the best album ever. So we was like, ‘We gon’ make something like that,’” Where Ray and Sleep were more hands-on, Rico was focused on quality control. “Rico will hurt your feelings in a minute,” says Big Boi. “You be in the Dungeon, got a fresh rap, think it’s the shit, and this muthafucka acting like he don’t even hear it… You knew you wasn’t really saying shit if Ric didn’t acknowledge it.”

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was bigger than OutKast,” Cool Breeze says of the Dungeon debut. “It was about Organized Noize, and that sound.” Future Goodie Mob members Cee-Lo and Big Gipp were featured on the single “Git Up, Git Out.” T-Mo and Khujo––who had their own single group, the Lumberjacks––also made guest appearances. “[LaFace] wanted to sign all understanding that everyone was going to do solo albums.

Goodie Mob created a blueprint for political street rap that transcended region––as if N.W.A. was swallowed up by Public Enemy. Their voices were country, but their story was universal: former street kids rapping about revolution. Their name, shorthand for “Goodie Die Mostly Over Bullshit,” captured that worldview.

After settling in at LaFace with OutKast and Goodie Mob, Organized Noize was about expanding their brand––but it didn’t come easy. “It was so much animosity and adversity,” Ray recalls. “Everything we did was just to prove that we could do it.”

In 1995, he hired industry veteran Erik Nuri, a Harvard University grad best known for introducing Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds to Clive Davis, which resulted in the LaFace deal with Arista Records. Nuri helped Rico handle business affairs and shopped Organized Noize production to other artists. “[Noize] resented a lot of the independent practices,” says Nuri, 54, who now works as an independent consultant. “They wanted to sign artists and writers without having an interest in their publishing making sure nobody exploited anyone else.”

Rico knew his philosophy was a departure from the norm. “That’s how Puffy became rich,” he says. “And Suge Knight owned some of Vanilla Ice’s publishing. I know people looked at us like we were young and dumb for that. But we were taught you couldn’t be the manager, producer, and the goddamn record company,” he says. “It wasn’t morally correct.” In 1994, OutKast’s management was taken over by Michael “Blue” Williams, who was affiliated with Queen Latifah and ShaKim Compere’s Flavor Unit. The lucrative publishing rights for Goodie Mob and OutKast were administered by Chrysalis Publishing. “Rico didn’t dick OutKast,” says former Goodie Mob manager Bernard Parks, 39. “He didn’t take their publishing, he didn’t lock them up. I’ve sat in meetings telling Ric, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’”

Rico insists he has no regrets but says he would rethink those decisions going forward––especially since he started receiving foreclosure notices on his house last year. “I wouldn’t do that now,” says Rico of his past approach to business. “We want it all.”