But I have a little problem with you...
Just stumbled upon this Ol Dirty Bastard piece I wrote five years ago randomly. With the sixth anniversary of his passing this past weekend, it seemed a coincidence worth sharing. Can’t remember where this appeared or what it was for, but here it is.
“Hut one….Hut Two….Hut Three….HUT!
Ol’ Dirty Bastard Live and Uncut!”
That was the battlecry that introduced a generation to the Wu-Tang Clan’s most charismatic and unorthadox member Russel Jones, best known as the MC with “no father to his style,” OL’ DIRTY BASTARD. From his first appearance on wax (“All in Together Now” with Prince Rakeem (Rza) and The Genius (Gza)) to stealing the show on the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut Enter the 36 Chambers to his one-of-a-kind solo albums Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version and N*gga Please he was one of the most recognizable figures in hiphop. Despite numerous legal problems and drug addictions, nothing really seemed able to slow the man down. That is, until a year ago today when this statement from his Mother was released:
“This evening, I received a phone call that is every mother’s worst dream. My son, Russell Jones, passed away. To the public, he was known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but to me, he was known as Rusty, the kindest, most generous soul on earth. I appreciate all the support and prayers that I have received. Russell was more than a rapper, he was a loving father, brother, uncle, and most of all, son.”
God Made Dirt
When memorializing ODB, it’s a challenge to pick exactly where to start. If you weren’t present to experience the trials and tribulations of Russel Jones while he was alive, I can imagine such a character would seem like an urban legend or folk tail. Somewhere between Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and GG Allin is the scope that best describes Dirty’s exploits on-and-off stage. So, with chronology being the only order to the following, some of my favorite ODB memories:
1) In 1995, following the successful release of Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version MTV asked to do a news special on the future Dirt McGirk and follow him around for the day. With an album still in the Billboard top-10, Dirty took his nine kids and MTV with him to the welfare office to pick up his food stamps. When MTV asked if this was morally appropriate, Dirty replied “Who would be dumb enough to turn down free money?” AWESOME!
2) If ODB was in the house, you could be certain something unexpected was going to happen. He was like Anna Nicole Smith, only replace huge t*ts, uncontrolled sexuality, and the ability to always appear coked out with a dirty chic clothing style, uncontrolled everything and the ability to always entertain even while he’s trying to piss you off. This was never more apparent than the 1998 Grammy Awards. The Wu had been inexplicably snubbed for Best Rap Performance by Duo or Group to Puff Daddy and the Family. So, during Shawn Colvin’s acceptance speech for “Sunny Came Home,” (and you have no idea how big the smile on my face just got from remembering this) ODB stormed the stage, grabbed the mic, declared he spent way too much money on clothes to lose tonight, and while Puffy is ‘good,’ Wu Tang is not only ‘The Best,’ but ‘for the children!’ ODB was then escorted offstage. And just when it seemed things couldn’t get any better, the next night America as a whole collectivly got to hear Dan Rather say “Ol’ Dirty Bastard.”
3) 1998 seemed like the year the Refugee Camp would take over the music industry. Wyclef’s solo was mandatory for any party, John Forte had “Flash the Message (Ninety-Nine)” getting us both nostalgic and educated to wear three condoms out in Brazil at the same time, Lauryn Hill had locked herself in the studio by herself prepping the world for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and Pras hadn’t horribly dissappointed anyone yet. This was in that hazy April-Mayish period that all runs together in a haze when you’re in grade school so I’m not exactly sure on when this occured, but the event was unforgetable. Wycelf, Pras, future girl to have sex with Game: Mya, and ODB were all in the TRL-precursor “MTV Live” studio and taking call-in questions from all over America. With Wyclef being the most outspoken member, he was answering most of the questions as to how “conscious” his clique were, and how much they are trying to give back to the community. Then, and teenage single-mother from Brooklyn (is-in-the-house) called in. She said her question was specifically for Dirty. Half-asleep, Dirty perked up and stared directly into the camera while the girl spoke. She said she could see what Wyclef and Pras were doing for the community, but wanted to know what ODB’s plans were in regard to reaching out to the community. Without missing a beat, as soon as the girl finished speaking Dirty replied “Nothin’.” A five second shocked awkward silence. Then, the whole audience (And then world) erupted in laughter. That September, at the 1998 Video Music Awards, when asked who her favorite member of the Wu Tang Clan was, Madonna said “Ol’ Dirty Bastard.”
4) In 1999, Dirty was invited in the studio to record a remix with LL Cool J. Impatient with waiting for Mr. Cool James, Dirty had to go to the bathroom and took a piss on one of Jack the Ripper’s gold records. LL kicked him out. I laughed.
5) 2003, The Dirty One (then known as both Big Baby Jesus and Dirt McGirk) was released from prison and ready to reclaim his title as the clown prince of rap. And while that Dame Dash cash could get him in the studio, and parade him around with the-the-the-R.O.C., Dirty couldn’t land any solo shows at any major venues or club that would be at his stature before he hit prison/rehab. A message on his website said that if anyone at all wanted to contact him to play a show to get in touch with his manager, who he left their email and phone number. As a result, ODB got offered several shows in the New York underground, opening for various punk, ska, and techno outfits. ODB played everyone. While in most other cases of an artist of Dirty’s caliber being forced to play such shows, eye-witness accounts describe those shows to be among Dirty’s best, having a fire they hadn’t seen since the mid-90’s Wu-Peak. Following his set, Dirty went right into the crowd and reportedly had a great time getting wild and supporting the other acts on the bill.
There’s so many other great Dirty stories, and they fall on the spectrum between signing his solo contract with Elektra and inviting an A&R for Elektra to witness a woman perform fellatio on him and declare “THIS IS HOW I GET MY D*CK SUCKED: ELEKTRA STYLE!” and getting a dozen of onlookers of a 1998 car accidnet to overturn a Ford Mustang and rescue a four-year-old girl who he visited for several weeks until the media got wind of it. He’s a puzzling figure who had a heart of gold and, in his own bizarre, twisted, and dirty way, always meant well.
One year removed from his death, his music still bangs as hard as it ever did. While numerous specials made shortly before his death (VH1’s “Inside Out,” among others) made Dirty look like an exploited disenchanted figure, and the handful of leaked scrapped songs from his sessions completing the record A Son Unique show a certain spark lost from the man who once “had more anger, call me Dr. Stranger,” stories from friends said he was happy and enjoyed life up until his last days when he collasped in the Wu-Tang West 34th St. studio after sneaking a pound cocaine and Tramadol into the states by swallowing it in double-bagged Ziploc plastic bags.
Still, despite his tragic ending that took him from us far too early, Russell Jones’ contributions to hiphop (And award show security) will never be forgotten. We miss you Dirty. You’ve been an inspiration for everyone to be themselves and still pull women, get record deals, get mainstream airplay, and piss on LL Cool J’s plaques. Respect.
“God Made Dirt, Dirt’ll Bust Ya Ass.”
R.I.P. Russell Jones AKA Ol’ Dirty Bastard AKA Big Baby Jesus AKA Dirt McGirk
11/15/68 – 11/13/04