There is an absurdly vast selection of music movies and documentaries available on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and on and on and on. But it’s hard to tell which ones are actually worth your 100 minutes. Watch the Tunes will help you pick what music doc is worth your Netflix and Chill time every weekend. This week’s edition covers The Art of Organized Noize, which is streaming over on Netflix.
The internet collectively lost its mind a few weeks back when Gucci Mane posted a snapchat where he said “I just did a record for OutKast.” Andre 3000’s reps denied everything with a terse statement that there is “no OutKast news to report" (sad face emoji) but I dunno about all that. Their string of festival reunion shows that started two years back has been going strong all the way up to the ONE Musicfest earlier this month on their home turf of Atlanta where the whole Dungeon Family got back together. It just feels like the timing is right for something new to drop from those guys and this week’s film The Art of Organized Noize, directed by Quincy Jones III, includes some clues that point towards something... maybe... in the near(ish?) future.
To get to the future though, it pays to take a step back through the past, and The Art of Organized Noize goes back to the very beginning of the Dungeon Family and wisely puts the focus on Sleepy Brown, Rico Wade, and Ray Murray, the trio of producers who were behind not just OutKast and the Goodie Mob, but also dozens of for-hire heaters like TLC’s “Waterfalls” and En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go (Love)” In telling their story, the filmmakers have settled on a unique approach the now-marquee groups that got their start in a Southwest Atlanta basement.
By their nature, producers are generally heard and not seen. When I think of what their life looks like, I picture long hours spent hunched over laptops and drum machines, coming up for air only when the weed runs out. With Organized Noize though, you get all that (for real, The Art of... will straight up hotbox your Netflix queue) plus the dramatic tension of a well plotted rise / fall / rise again story arc holding the whole thing together. “Players Ball” and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik put everyone associated with OutKast on the fast track to fame, eventually landing Organized Noize their own multi million dollar deal with Interscope, but after a few missteps creatively the trio of producers were dropped by the label. Not too long after that, the phone stopped ringing and, in what could be seen as an unspeakably cutting act, Big Boi and Andre 3000 opted to leave them off of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below entirely. They have since bounced back, re-teaming with OutKast for a handful of tracks on Idlewild in 2006 and subsequently lending beats to every Big Boi solo album, but hearing Rico Wade talk about that double album you definitely get the sense that there are a few professional wounds that time has yet to heal.
In the big picture of the Dungeon Family, you could say that Organized Noize functioned loosely as parents. It was through their early connections at La Face Records that Goodie Mob and OutKast landed deals, with label head L.A. Reid apparently requiring multiple exposures to Big Boi and Andre before he finally recognized their greatness which, I mean, what?! The most embarrassing thing would be to have been the guy who passed on OutKast, but not far from that is for everyone to know that you (a person whose main job requires the ability to sense greatness) were astonishingly close to not getting them locked down.
The film is full of tons of great moments: Cee-Lo recalling how he quit his job the minute he heard “Player’s Ball,” Rico Wade revisiting the actual basement “dungeon” (you can still see “OutKast” written on the beams overhead), Diddy having shots delivered in the middle of his interview... All said and done though, for all the music biz talk, The Art of... does an excellent job of presenting the big weird warts-and-all family vibe that put Atlanta on the map for hip-hop (sorry, Kris Kross) and shaped so much of the music culture and industry that came afterwards.
I can’t believe that I missed out on this doc until now, over half a year after it hit Netflix, but in a way the timing couldn’t have been better. Even if the rumors are wrong and OutKast doesn’t end up dropping an album anytime soon (noooo!) I’m a hell of a lot better off after having gotten a fuller appreciation of the guys who were behind not only them and so many others, but also the supportive and loving environment environment that sprang from the intersection of Headland and Delowe. The film ends with all participants seemingly very excited at the possibility of working with each other again, so cross your fingers and maybe it won’t be long until we can drop something like $16.99 on that new new with Organized Noize at the helm.