New song from Big Zak and Greg Street honors Rico Wade, Clay Evans

Atlanta songwriter and radio legend come together for song honoring fallen music pioneers.

Writing poetry is something songwriter and rapper Big Zak hasn’t done in nine years. That changed when Atlanta music pioneers Rico Wade and Clay Evans passed away this year. After Wade’s death on April 13, radio legend and longtime collaborator DJ Greg Street approached Zak about penning a dedication song.

It was time to come out of quasi-retirement.

“I just thought about how much hurt we’ve endured due to these sudden losses …,” he says. “I started to just really think about them in that light and thought I want to honor them with a tribute and do it in the best possible way.”

That homage on wax is Big Zak and Greg Street’s song, “2xs For Reek,” which debuted on V-103. The track features Zak rhyming over the Goodie Mob song, “The Day After.” The record is the closer for the group’s 1995 debut album, “Soul Food,” which was produced by Organized Noize, the influential production trio that included Wade, Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown.

On this version, Zak turns an underappreciated Goodie Mob song about pressing forward amid insurmountable odds into a poignant celebration for two men who helped shaped Atlanta’s hip-hop identity. As if simply sharing memories of old friends, Zak’s lyrics over a haunting piano and rolling drum pattern connects Wade, Evans and their legacies.

“Clay, you were like our Clarence Avant/I thought you’d be making plays till 2081 or advising Tip about what he should’ve done,” he says equating Evans to music and film executive known as “The Black Godfather.”

The verse then goes on to acknowledge the late Dungeon Family co-founder.

“Now Rico Wade sailed off to a New Blue Sun/The vision and ambition/you are the definition/you built a whole family on healthy competition,” he raps, nodding to Andre 3000′s new album, “New Blue Sun,” and Wade’s influence in forming one of hip-hop’s greatest collectives.

The delivery feels effortless, but emotional, as Zak gets into the end of the hook, “One time for Clay, two times for Reek!”

For Zak and Greg Street, these were friends. “It was just a synergy that me and Zak had about our personal love and passion for them as not just colleagues, and not just peers, but brothers,” Street said.

Zak first met Wade growing up in East Point. He remembers being 14, admiring Wade and what the up-and-coming creative was building with other cool Black kids from the area. They’d hang out at Lamonte’s Beauty Supply or the video store next door listening to rap music, dressing like B-boys and dope boys. Zak found inspiration in seeing the success of classmates like Outkast and his best friend CeeLo Green thanks to the positive push from Wade.

Success found Zak as well. The musician’s writing credits include Ciara’s “Goodies,” Lloyd’s “Get It Shawty,” and Keri Hilson’s “Turnin’ Me On,” often collaborating with producer Jazze Pha. It’s around this time that he meets Evans, the CEO of Rubicon Brand Management and vice president of Grand Hustle Records. Like Wade, Evans was crucial in guiding the careers of music and entertainment heavyweights including, T.I., Travis Scott and comedians Lil’ Duval and Erica Duchess.

When Zak stepped into the world of food as the owner of the Vine City health-conscious eatery Local Green, Evans became a regular, stopping by as many as four times a week. With Local Green’s success, Zak shifted his focus into doing more entertainment work. He produced Jeezy’s live shows with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He hosted the show “City Eats Atlanta” on Aspire TV.

Three days before Evans suffered a massive stroke, Zak was by his side for three stops on the Legendz of the Streetz tour. Just before he died, Zak visited Evans at Grady Hospital. It’s those experiences and his encyclopedic knowledge of Atlanta music that led Greg Street to tap Zak for “2xs For Reek.”

“Sometimes people overthink those processes, like we need to get so and so on it,” Street says. “Zak being born and raised in East Point like Rico, it only made sense.”

Greg Street presented his vision to Organized Noize’s management with hopes of debuting the song at Wade’s funeral.

The first time Zak put pen to paper, he felt like bars were “too rappy.” Then trouble hit home. His mom fell ill and ended up in the hospital. He wouldn’t be able to get the verse done in time for Wade’s service. However, sitting in the hospital next to his mom, thinking about the losses of Wade and Evans it hit. “That’s how much it was on my mind,” he says.

Zak challenged himself to show up to Patchwerk Studios the day his mother was released, rewrite lyrics and record one of his best cuts. At the studio was Patchwerk founder Curt Daniels, Greg Street and hip-hop historian Larry “Nuface” Compton. They were looking at funeral programs for Evans and Wade then Daniels pulled out two-tracks from Pimp C. Zak found a new muse in their shared memories about the men and Southern hip-hop.

For his part, Zak hopes he and Greg Street are giving family, friends and fans an Atlanta version of Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” or Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.).” The song is also one of many collaborations between Street and Zak, most notably their work on the radio host’s famous theme song. Like “It’s 6 O’Clock” they see “2xs For Reek” as a love letter to Atlanta.

Street says there are plans to release the song to more audiences, with proceeds going toward the families. They may go back and make more tweaks. They’re also leaving the possibility open for members of Dungeon Family to add their bars.

As Zak says, there are more stories about Wade and Evans to be told.

“These last 30 years, you just start thinking about Atlanta culture and music and your friends and it just makes you more appreciative of the time that you spent with them, the way you were able to be impacted by them and the love and your commitment to continue to cherish their memory,” he says.