Old Dirty Bastard, 1969-2004

This is a sad one. I think it's made even sadder by the fact that so many people won't be surprised by it. Russell Jones, known to the world as the Old Dirty Bastard, died Saturday, a couple days shy of his 36th birthday. If you are, or were, any kind of a Wu-Tang fan, you'll miss the Big Baby Jesus. He was an integral part of their success, like an updated, edgier Flavor Flav to match the Chuck D role played by a collective group of the other Wu members. Just like PE wouldn't have been the same without Flav, the Wu's first couple albums wouldn't have been outright classics without ODB.

But most people might know ODB more for his nutty behaviour. There is the bizarre story of him lifting a car off a little girl. Shortly after that he bumrushed the mic at the Grammy's to semi-diss Puffy tell people Wu-Tang was for the children. He was shot twice. He had some problems with drugs, which might have led to some of his strangest behaviour. Drugs also led him to jail, and to a court appointed rehab centre, which he escaped from before arrested again in the parking lot of a McDonald's. ODB's life was controversial, and it seems there may be more controversy caused by his death. The story of Old Dirty's 13 children from 13 different women was often told, but according to his wife it was more a legend than fact. He also left behind no will, so hopefully Osiris' kids, whoever and wherever they are, get taken care of.

So hip hop has lost another of it's bright lights far too soon. Some solace can be taken in the fact that he wasn't killed by "a rival rapper" in a shootout that would give the press a stiffy as the detailed the latest bloody hip hop feud. But that isn't all that comforting really. As crazy as he was and through all the wacky stuff he did, I never got the feeling that Old Dirty was a bad guy. He just seemed like a dude who made many bad choices and was always in the wrong place at the right time. It's also a shame that ODB had been trying to straighten himself out recently and re-connect with his family. Dirty's albums were characterized by a few great songs and the rest kind of un-focused filler. His second album was a landmark in that it sort of introduced the Neptunes, who produced most of it. It was when I became aware of them anyway. But I always waited for him to get focused and create that classic album that would fully capture his wacky style and take it to that next level. It's a shame he won't get the chance.


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