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André 3000 pays tribute to Rico Wade at Atlanta Jazz Festival

Legendary rapper honors the executive who gave him a chance

André 3000 never forgot where he came from.

The rap legend is an international music superstar who has crossed multiple genres of influence thanks to melodic hits like “Roses,” “Prototype” and “Hey Ya” with his group OutKast and his latest journey as a flutist.

After starring in movies and creating his own show on Cartoon Network, 3000 reached a level of celebrity that would be uncomfortable for anyone, especially a fairly reserved Southern man who thought he would sell paintings for a living growing up. So, at the peak of his fame, he slowly took himself out of the public eye. He didn’t adapt to the era of smartphones and social media; he rarely did interviews. Instead, he picked up a flute and began playing it while walking on sidewalks.

Before he got famous to the point thousands of people packed Piedmont Park to watch him improvise jams on a flute with a live band for an hour at the 2024 Atlanta Jazz Festival, 3000 was a teenage boy in metro Atlanta when a man named Rico Wade gave him and Big Boi a safe space to record music in a place dubbed “The Dungeon.”

“This is where it all came together,” Wade once said in an interview, posted by Big Boi. “This is where the magic happened. My mother allowed 10 Black men, 17, 18, 19 years old to spend the night, smoke weed and be here before she let us be out in the street. That’s what made it a family. That’s what made The Dungeon Family.”

On April 13, Wade died of heart failure at 52.

As a man without social media, fans were in the dark about what 3000 thought about Wade’s death. He attended the private funeral service, but it wasn’t until his 49th birthday — during his Memorial Day free hometown performance at the Atlanta Jazz Festival — that the general public would hear his thoughts.

“The last time we were here, we did a residency about five, six shows,” 3000 said, “and Rico Wade showed up. Now, one thing y’all don’t know about Rico, Rico Wade …”

He then paused to gather himself in front of the tens of thousands of fans standing in Atlanta’s sweltering heat for a glimpse of the music icon standing on stage yards away in the 185-acre green space.

“Sorry, y’all,” he said. “Rico Wade … So Rico Wade made sure my raps were tight. There were times where I would say a rap to Rico in his ears, and he would walk off like, ‘That ain’t good enough.’ So just for a moment, I want y’all to make some noise for King Rico.”

The audience followed suit and gave a rousing ovation.

“Dungeon Family all day,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here on this stage or able to do any of this. I wouldn’t have the confidence to do any of this if it weren’t for Dungeon Family. They raised me. My family taught me how to dream. Taught me how to dream and go for it. Big Boi taught me how to dream, get at it and go for it. The Dungeon was the grounds for a lot of things. Our entire thing was to keep pushing, keep stretching out.”

He then related his start in music to his current stage.

“For me, it’s a natural progression,” 3000 said. “It’s the same way I started rapping. I thought I was going to be drawing and painting growing up. I was supposed to be a visual artist; that’s what I grew up thinking I was going to be — then I started rapping. So, for me, I guess what I’m saying is it’s all coming from the same source. It’s just creating, man. It comes from different ways, and you never know how it’s going to come.”

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