According to Sleepy, Interscope showed little interest in his album, so he went to Bang II Records, which released The Vinyl Room in 1998. “He used Interscope money to fund this album,” Ramon says, “so Bang Records ended up getting a free album. Jimmy was so upset about that.” Before long, Iovine cut off funding for Organized Records. “They got the Lil Will album and never put it out,” Dede says. “That was [Interscope] saying, Okay—we don’t want to fund your venture anymore.”
“I don’t regret putting out that album” Sleepy says by phone from Los Angeles. He’s now signed to Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon and was also prominently featured in OutKast’s 2003 No. 1 hit, “The Way You Move.” “What I regret is that me and Rico had the little disagreement. I wish I had handled that a whole lot better.”
In late 1999, Organized Noize had to let most of their 25 employees go. “It was a crazy time,” says Sheryl Merrit. At the same time OutKast was working on their smash album Stankonia (Laface, 2000), Rico’s company closed its offices on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta and he began working out of his home. “I paid $150,000 out of my own pocket for Kilo’s last video, ‘Baby, Baby,’” Rico says. Kilo showed his appreciation by going on an Atlanta radio station and accusing Rico of being a lousy businessman.
Meanwhile, a new generation was building on what the Dungeon Family had started. One night in 1999, Kawan “KP” Prather, 36, an artist from the group Parental Advisory, called Rico. “I got this kid on Bankhead,” KP said. “He kind of cocky, but Ric––he hot.” Rico invited them over. The slender guy was 19, raised on OutKast and Goodie Mob. In the ’hood they called him “Tip.” “I just remember the feeling like he was a kid,” says Rico. In mid-conversation, Tip called himself “the king.” Rico frowned: “OutKast the kings of the South!”
“It was one of them nigga please moments,” KP says with a laugh. He’s now executive president of A&R at Island Def Jam. “It was sort of sacrilegious to say something like that. But it made T.I. want to go harder.” It also served notice that the Dungeon Family had started something that could become bigger than all of them.