SXSW Film review: ‘The Art of Organized Noize’

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From Left) Sleepy Brown, Ray Murray & Rico Wade of Organized Noize at Stankonia Studios, Atlanta.
From Left) Sleepy Brown, Ray Murray & Rico Wade of Organized Noize at Stankonia Studios, Atlanta.

From Left) Sleepy Brown, Ray Murray & Rico Wade of Organized Noize at Stankonia Studios, Atlanta.

Organized Noize created the dirty south sound from the dungeon in Southwest Atlanta, and since the early 1990s, rap, hip-hop, soul, rhythm and blues and American popular music in general has been forever changed.

The trio altered and expanded the sonic landscape, blurring lines, transcending genres. “The Art of Organized Noize” tracks the relatively unsung production visionaries, Ray Murray (the beat-making musical brain), Rico Wade (the Don, ambassador and conductor) and Sleepy (Patrick) Brown (silky smooth vocalist and arranger). It deals with their meteoric ascent, their stumbles and then levels out to the present.

To give you an idea of the gravitas of this team, they’ve produced, collaborated and influenced Outkast, T.L.C., U.G.K., Curtis Mayfield, Killer Mike, George Clinton, Future, En-Vogue, Ludacris, Kendrick Lamar, Goodie Mob, Witchdoctor, Cool Breeze, J. Cole and Parental Advisory. The film is optimistic, a life-affirming history lesson ushering fans and the uninitiated into Organized Noize’s family-centric selfless philosophy .

 

“The Art of Organized Noize” comes from a sense of community, a togetherness, where family trumps all and artistic expression combined with inspired collaboration is more important than profit. Murray, Wade and Brown did and do things differently, and the film shows the overwhelming emotional benefits from keeping their family together, from trusting their vision even when it became bleary-eyed from the trappings of money and drugs.

An engaging technique used smoothly by director Quincy Jones III was to bring the original musicians back to play their intros, hooks and rhythms live then segueing into Organized Noize’s recordings.

These powerful moments gave me chills. Organized Noize arranged more than a few songs to the soundtrack of mine and many of my peers’ lives, and thankfully they are continuing to do so. It’s quite possibly the most important urban music documentary of the modern age.

“We are incorporating musicianship with the energy from the hood,” says Wade. You can catch “The Art of Organized Noize” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdy at the Alamo South and at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Alamo Ritz. “The Art of Organized Noize” will premiere on Netflix March 22.

 


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