Even when forced to move out of Dungeon headquarters, Rico was not bitter but reflective. “[The Dungeon artists] kept their money. But [Organized Noize] had opportunities to make more money than anybody and still be making money. So I don’t fault nobody but us…us not really being prepared.” He also blames a former accountant for failing to file taxes back in the ’90s when the biggest checks started coming. “We ended up catching a tax debt for like a million dollars,” he says.
Despite everything, Rico seems in surprisingly high spirits. He talks a mile a minute about opening up a Dungeon café, and hitting the studio again. But once whispers of his foreclosure began circulating around the industry, Rico’s old friend Marqueze Etheridge (who’s credited with writing TLC’s Organized Noize–produced smash “Waterfalls”), called him at the studio to see if he was okay. “I was trying to be all cool on the phone, like, ‘Whattup boy!’” Rico recalls. “But he was like, ‘Rico…for real, what’s been going on?’” Overwhelmed, Rico broke down and started crying over the phone. It was the first time he came to grips with his hard reality.
“Rico’s gon’ be alright,” says, Gipp adding that the “Family” has put aside any differences to support him throughout his humbling financial crises. “Rico’s just finding out all the love he got out there,” Gipp adds, assuring that—without going into financial details—Rico is now “good.” After all the ups and downs, the Dungeon Family may now be closer than they’ve ever been.
In his darkest hours, Rico’s thoughts turned to a conversation he had with his mother, back before the house, when he was first bringing the Dungeon Family together to hang out, make music, and change their lives. “My mama told me once, ‘I think everybody around you is using you,’” says Rico. “‘You got a car, you pick them up, you take them home, you place everybody’s needs over yours.’ And I said, ‘Mama… what if I’m using them?’” Not understanding, she asked for an explanation. “I said, ‘They got dreams, mama, that I can make a reality,’” he pauses, reflective. “I just appreciated hearing about their dreams,” he says. “It gave me something else to believe in.” ––Linda Hobbs