Legendary Hip-Hop Producer Rico Wade Died at 52 Years Old

Rico Wade led the underground scene of hip-hop in Atlanta (literally) with his Dungeon studio. But in 2024, he died unexpectedly.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Apr. 16 2024, Published 12:43 p.m. ET

Rico Wade speaks onstage during day 3 of REVOLT Summit x AT&T Summit on September 14, 2019
Source: Getty Images

Rico Wade in 2019

Thirty years ago, the hip-hop scene was an up-and-coming opportunity for young musicians to rise to stardom. Rico Wade was in his early 20s and he decided to become a music producer alongside Ray Murray and Patrick Brown aka Sleepy. Together, they formed Organized Noize and opened an Atlanta-based recording studio dubbed the Dungeon at a time when mainstream NYC- and LA-based music was taking over.

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Rico and his buddies were able to break through the mainstream noise to build up their own collective, and anyone who recorded with them became part of the Dungeon Family. Most notably, they worked with Outkast to produce their award-winning debut album and later collaborated with TLC, Lil Jon, Ludacris, and more. But in April 2024, Killer Mike announced Rico Wade’s death in an emotional post. What happened to Rico and what was his cause of death?

Rico Wade and Sleepy at the 2016 Atlanta Funk Fest
Source: Getty Images

Rico Wade and Sleepy at the 2016 Atlanta Funk Fest

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What happened to Rico Wade? He died at 52 years old.

On April 13, 2024, Killer Mike announced Rico’s death on his Instagram: “I don't have the words to express my deep and profound sense of loss. I am Praying for your wife and Children. I am praying for the Wade family. I am praying for us all. I deeply appreciate your acceptance into The Dungeon Family, mentorship, Friendship, and Brotherhood. Idk where I would be without y’all.”

Additionally, Rico’s family later shared a statement with Billboard. “We are deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of our son, father, husband, and brother Rico Wade,” they said. “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of a talented individual who touched the lives of so many. We ask that you respect the legacy of our loved one and our privacy at this time.”

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Rico’s wife, Debbie Wade, is the mother of their children, Ryder and Lovie Wade. While Rico was an influential music producer, Debbie is a self-employed career woman who runs corporate events at Owner Next Door.

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Rico Wade’s cause of death has not been revealed.

Whenever we lose someone too soon, we can’t help but wonder what their cause of death was. No details have been shared about exactly what happened aside from the fact that his death was “unexpected” and that he was 52 years old.

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Though a 2010 Vibe article shared that Rico had "battled drug and money worries," it is unclear if any of this was related to his passing.

Regardless of how he died, Rico’s legacy will be heard and felt throughout the hip-hop community for decades to come. The songs and albums he created serve as the inspiration for some of today’s most popular artists, and the Dungeon Family’s influence will likely continue to make its mark on the genre.

Our condolences go out to Rico’s friends, family, and friends.

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