In 2007 his right-hand man Ramon went to stay in L.A. for a year. When he returned, he noticed a change in Rico. “He was going through a period where he was dealing with so much in his personal life,” Ramon says. “I wanted to be careful about how I addressed it, because he’s like a brother to me.”
Once flashy and vibrant, Rico seemed less motivated and slightly unkempt. Rico would eventually sit Ramon and Ray Murray down in his kitchen and reveal that he had been using cocaine.
“It’s just a mind stimulant,” Rico says. “If you was tired, it wakes you up. But for me, it’d just make me want to do music.” He says the first time he tried the drug, it reminded him of ecstasy, which he says had him walking around his house, laughing at himself, “[like] nobody was here… I was so paranoid.”
“I didn’t go to rehab,” Rico continues. “I kicked the habit because of God. You look at yourself in the mirror and it’s like, come on man, we grew up in the hood, we’ve seen crackheads, we’ve heard stories, laughed at people. You’ve got to want to do it for yourself.”
Though his friends stuck by him, Rico’s last girlfriend, left him during his battle with drugs. “I really feel in my heart that she left because it just didn’t seem like I was going to get better,” he says. Though she has since married another man, Rico says she called him on his birthday. “If you don’t love [a man] for thinking outside the box, then you don’t love them, because all the financial security and all that stuff—if that’s what you’re around for, then you can get that from a nigga working at UPS.”
Back at the house, Rico, Ramon, and Money-B from Digital Underground dip into the seafood platter, and talk passionately about George Clinton, and one of 2Pac’s Death Row-era producers Johnny J, who committed suicide in October 2008.
After being deeply involved in the hip hop industry for over a decade, it’s a wonder Rico has been able to survive so much. In May of this year he received notice that he was losing his “white house”—including the legendary Dungeon West studio in the basement—because of unpaid taxes. He moved into Ray’s home, Dungeon East, several days before this story’s photoshoot this past June.
“The bank put a lien on the house,” he explains calmly. “The equity I got in my home I can’t get out.” He says girlfriends have criticized him for being so blasé about his financial problems. “They start thinking like, He’s never mad. Like, You need to be tripping. You need to be calling niggas right now, tripping. And it’s like, I agree, but that’s just not the way God has built me.”