10 Thoughts I Had While Watching 'The Art of Organized Noize' Documentary

Netflix screenshot
Netflix screenshot

1. The documentary was excellent and I highly recommend you watch it on Netflix if you haven't already. Especially the first hour. It chronicled the beginnings of Organized Noize in East Point to their ascent with Outkast to Goodie Mob and TLC (though they got an early look via TLC way before producing "Waterfalls"), etc. Because I so vividly remember those times of my life (I was a teenager and music, like ball, was life), seeing the documentary that coincided with my own personal history was dope. The second half of the documentary wasn’t as hot for one simple reason: ONP is looooooooooooong past their heyday. Anything past 2000 (Bubba Sparxxx, Killer Mike, Calhouns, etc) is sporadic and just not as memorable. Which is okay; their legacy is solid and firmly cemented in hip-hop, especially southern hip-hop, lore. Drugs, as was somewhat implied, didn’t kill their mojo. It’s just that all of their artists got old. Outkast (and both unsurprisingly and surprisingly, Ceelo) were the only viable superstar artists they worked with after their downturn, and both were artsy enough to wade into the production waters themselves (more on this later). I’m glad they got their just due with a documentary, though. The south has had something to say for years and Organized Noize, particularly in Atlanta, was instrumental in saying it. That was a pun.


2. In the doc, they show Rico’s house after he moved out of the Dungeon of Lakewood Ave. It’s on Adams Rd in southwest Atlanta. I remember driving by that house ALL the time on my way to Greenbriar from my house on MLK and ALWAYS looking at that house wondering if Outkast or Goodie Mob or whoever was in there making magic. Every. Single. Time. I remember driving by one time and seeing a ton of fancy cars out there and being so hyped like I was going to be able to get into the gates. In my head, they were in there cooking up something special. I had no idea who they was, but they were were there and my life was going to be better for it. That’s how hyped I was about Organized Noize.

2b. The part about The Dungeon, where they describe it and how much time they spent down there…good Lord. That was some real hip-hop shit. It was basically a hollowed out crawl space with dirt walls. That's how you go from nothing to something. That part alone is worth watching.


3. I don’t think Ray Murray has ever gotten the credit he deserved. For instance, until that doc, I don’t think I understood how vital he was. To let the magazines, interviews, and name recognition tell it, Rico Wade is ONP and ONP is Rico Wade. We all knew Sleepy Brown and Ray were part of the family, but it wasn’t until I watched it that I realized that at ANY point during their heyday, if Ray was like “fuck this” the whole shit would have come to an end. He’s the musical backbone, which is so interesting, because again, when I think ONP, I think Rico, which always made me think he was the main musical force, and it turns out he was basically Yoda. Ray, I salute you and all of the great music you brought to my life as the general architect. And it isn’t to say that Rico didn’t produce, because he did, I just didn’t realize how MUCH Ray was responsible for.

4. At the same time, as I’m supremely removed from Atlanta at this point, I’d almost forgotten just how ATL Rico Wade is. Good gotdamn. Rico sounds like every hood ATL dude you’d ever meet. In college, I lived on MLK, on the Westside, in my family's old house on Peyton Place, SW (it looks like HELL now). Well, down the street and right past the Cascade Family Skating Center (Cascade as you all saw in the movie ATL), there’s a Checker’s that had the 99 cent chicken sandwiches. Man I loved that place and the 99 cent chicken sandwiches. Me and my boy went there one day, and when I tell you that my boy, a southerner from Alabama, couldn’t understand SHIT the dude was saying at the register? It was like a Black SNL skit, where I had to translate the entire transaction for him. To me, he sounded normal. Those real thick ATL accents are something else, shawty, and can be damn near unintelligible. I felt that way about listening to Rico talk at first. I had to reframe my mind back to that ATL lean.

5. Rico Wade was REALLY upset that he didn’t get a chance to work on Speakerboxx/The Love Below. And I get it, you taught them everything they know and then they decide they don’t need you anymore; that has to sting a bit (though they did a lot of production on one of Big Boi’s later albums). However, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit of retrospective saltiness. Speakeboxx/The Love Below went diamond and won a Grammy for Album Of The Year. And then they get up to receive the award and don’t thank ONP on stage. Okay, I get it, they could have given them a thanks. But if that album tanked and was trash, would he have cared? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. But when something blows the fuck up, and you ain’t apart of it after having been apart of the lead up to it, you tend to catch feelings. Mind you, he said this from inside Stankonia Studios, the former Bosstown Studios (previously owned by Bobby Brown), that is currently owned by Big and Andre 3000. So he’s got feelings, but they’re all apparently still cool. But I also find it hard to believe that Rico didn’t see that coming. Apparently, “Elevators (Me & U)” (for my money, one of the greatest beats in hip-hop history) was the first song they produced (with Mr. DJ as part of their Earthtone 3 production group) on their own without ONP on ATLiens, and they produced other songs on ATLiens and then Aquemini, etc. They were going to do it all themselves one day. They were too talented NOT to.

6. You want to know REAL saltiness? Here’s real saltiness: I’ve been by the Dungeon before, but never inside during its heyday. See my older sister and her friends all hung with all them niggas. So while I have family who know them all personally and hung out with them (also YoungBloodz), I never actually got to hang out or with any of these people. THAT is real salt. My older sister’s best friend – who is so part of our family that she comes to our family reunions, without my older sister – counts some of these folks as actual confidantes and shit. Yet, I know none of them in a real personal capacity. THAT is saltiness, turn tables over style. When Cam'ron says, "you mad?" Yes. I am.


7. Kind of like Ray never got his due, neither did Goodie Mob. Outkast went global, but Goodie Mob’s Soul Food album felt like the heart and soul of Atlanta. “The Day After” still makes me all emotional. Ceelo was the clear superstar of the group, and that’s proven true in recent years as his presence and voice stood out above all even back then. Though I have to say, I have NEVER liked TMo. In fact, every time he says the words “life of crime” on the album, which he does more than too many times, I cringe. Also, what the fuck was he talking about on the title track, “Soul Food”. Everybody’s talking about food and he’s talking about the OJ Simpson trial. Just stop , TMo. He was hilarious in the video though, they all were. I never liked TMo. Also, I’m surprised that their song “Beautiful Skin” off of Still Standing doesn’t get more love. More also, I hate TMo on that song as well.

8. I was wondering where Witchdoctor and Cool Breeze were. They were not good rappers, but good gotdamn did they get some of the most amazing production from ONP. Cool Breeze I definitely expected to be there since he was one of those artists that the Dungeon Family and ONP were specifically trying to get out there. “Watch For The Hook” a song where everybody BUT Cool Breeze (and TMo because of course TMo) came for blood, was such a big deal when it first dropped that I’m surprised it didn’t get any play in the doc. That was during the Interscope days where they left the money on the table but Cool Breeze was supposed to be the next big thing. Point is, Cool Breeze was a notable omission from the documentary.


9. Since I’m sure nobody else on the Internet will give this song its necessary props (or mention it again for the next 20 years), Lil Will’s “Lookin’ for Nikki” is such an ATL classic that I get misty thinking about it. I cannot stress enough how much this song banged in the A and how much it STILL bangs now. Organized Noize were KILLIN’ the A-town game in the 90s, fam. Unheralded outside of Atlanta songs like this and Backbone’s “5 Deuce 4 Trey” and stuff like Mista’s “Blackberry Molasses” (I know that went a bit larger than regional) are the reasons folks love ONP so much. They made such great music. Not just beats, but music.

Like Ray Murray said when discussing how old music formats used to entertain like 7 minutes songs: “after the first 3 minutes, you start to elaborate, AND THEN THE SHIT GETS BEAUTIFUL…” Organized Noize cared about the music.


By the way, if I ever write an autobiography, “And Then The Shit Gets Beautiful…” might be the title.

10. I don’t think I really ever gave it a second thought until the documentary, but its entirely possible that motherfucking Pebbles is responsible for my youth. Thank you Pebbles.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

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NUMBER 4!!!!

I'm not from ATL by a long stretch, but living there 8 years taught me at least one thing:

Real Atlanta Natives don't pronounce NAAN "T" in Atlanta. It's "Alanna."

And a deep ATL accent is about as thick as Flying Biscuit bread. Words all backed up and sopping each other like a full plate of soul food. It's a beautiful, hilarious, elemental thing.

God, I miss that place palpably.