1. Intro // 2. Shimmy Shimmy Ya // 3. Baby, C’mon // 4. Brooklyn Zoo // 5. Hippa to the Hoppa // 6. Raw Hide (feat. Raekwon & Method Man) // 7. Damage (feat. GZA) // 8. U Don’t Know (feat. Killah Priest) // 9. The Stomp // 10. Goin’ Down // 11. Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie) // 12. Snakes (feat. Killah Priest) // 13. Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane) (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 14. Protect Ya Neck II The Zoo (feat. Brooklyn Zu, Prodigal Sunn, Killah Priest & 60 Seconds Assassin) // 15. Cuttin’ Headz (feat. RZA)
16. Dirty Dancin’ (feat. Method Man) // 17. Harlem world
The album that marks Ol’ Dirty’s alleged return to the 36 Chambers marks the post that marks my return to the blog. Hi, I hope you all have been doing well in my absence, though I am sure you’ve managed to get by without me.
One thing is for sure: If any rapper in the clan had the charisma of nine men rolled up in one, evoking memories of the Wu’s collaborative debut’s messy charm by him self it was Old Dirty Bastard, the man born as Russell Jones. ODB’s debut was the second solo album by a Wu member following the clan’s own debut, and because every member could choose what label to sign their individual solo-deals with, mr. Jones didn’t end up on Loud which the Clan was signed to, or with Meth on Def Jam but inked a deal for himself with Elektra, home of the likes of Busta Rhymes.
Every well balanced hip-hop crew has tends to a member that stands out because of his kinetic energy and wild mic presence rather than his tight rhymes or flows.
N.W.A’s least lyrical member (not in the last place because he didn’t write his own lyrics) Eazy-E got by rapping, and ended up having the most pop appeal to boot, because of his charismatic, high pitched wine of a voice. Public Enemy’s Flava Flav didn’t even do much rapping beyond the occasional throwaway verse, he simply talked some shit alongside Chuck D, but talked shit so well helped make shit undoubtably sound fresher than it would’ve sounded without him.
The Wu-Tang’s very own ODB follows that tradition, and goes into overdrive with it with his rhymes that where nonsensical, grotesque, incoherent or two or more of these things and may not do much for anyone when written down, beyond raising the occasional eyebrow (Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea. Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea – Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the Wu-Tang’s Shame on a Nigga), but when delivered in Ol’ Dirty’s unique rhyme style, which appeared to be inspired by a psychosis of sorts (a style to which according to Method Man there wasn’t a father), they could be intriguing. And his contributions to the Wu’s posse album certainly are a part of why that album was so good. The Clan will never be the same with the Bastard gone. He is missed, even if he wasn’t just the worst rapper in the Clan from a technical point of view, but technically one of the worst rappers of all time bar none (he was).
Could be intriguing. Like the likes of Eazy or Flav (and every rapper on the planet if we’re being entirely truthful) the Bastard relied a lot on his collaborators and most on his producer (and cousin) RZA. After all madness becomes unpleasant to listen to without some sort of method and RZA’s dusty basement beats help give The Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version some much needed structure and cohesion, and although shitty beats have never done any musician, rap or otherwise, any favours ODB in particular is known to have sucked spectacularly when paired with the wrong beat (*caugh* Ghetto Superstar *caugh*) Also, though a supporter of the man I am, the guest rappers do help make this album a lot easier to digest than it would be without them. If this were sixty six minutes of pure uncut ODB then I doubt even the most ardent Wu/ODB fan would ever play this in its entirety. Although he’s hardly unique in that perspective, and this is essentially why guest appearances have been invented. Anyway; his Wu-brethren Rae, Meth, RZA, GZA, Ghost and their interns Brooklyn Zu, Killah Priest, Bhudda Monk, Prodigal Sunn and 60 Second Assassin help break this album up in digestible pieces, but they don’t overpower the main attraction, although you’d probably need a team of Busta Rhymes, DMX, MOP and Mystikal to marginalise Ol’ Dirty on a track, but I digress. The guest appearances are just right in numbers and well placed.
RZA, who produces all but three tracks on here, he does his mid-’90s RZA thing: dusty drums and basslines and lo-fi piano keys that form a distinctive sound but always leave room for a rapper to showcase himself. It has been said that this album has sloppier beats than for instance Tical has, I couldn’t tell you whether that’s Prince Rakeem adjusting to his collaborator or the beats sounding different only because they happen to be in ODB’s gravity field. Oddly enough the best beat, the one on Brooklyn Zoo isn’t his, it’s done by one of his lieutenants, True Master and the Bastard himself. (An even wierder realisation is that Jermaine Dupri pretty much jacked it verbatim for that Alicia Keys song Girlfriend he produced, and how unawkward either song sounds in spite of each others existence.)
As for ODB himself, he is most definitely one of the most weirdly charming characters the hip-hop world has ever known. His vocals couldn’t be accurately described as either rapping or singing. It’s some weird hybrid, and not like Ja Rule or Eminem trying to save money on hook-singers. It’s almost as though the Bastard can’t stay in his limited range, like a drunk person pulled over, walking the line but failing, yet somehow that is supposed to be somewhat positive. This man was oddly funky. And listening to the Return it’s difficult to explain why he was one of the Clan’s most successful, but it makes sense. I’m sure no-one, including ODB understood it but everybody got it.
Highlights include the catchy-as-fuck, but inexplicable smash hits Brooklyn Zoo and Shimmy Shimmy Ya, Drunk Game on the first half of which he sounds the calmest he does anywhere on the album (until he starts faking an orgasm, go figure), the sinister Rae-ODB-Meth triple threat Raw Hide, the RZA/ODB duet Cuttin’ Headz, which has the balls to reverse the Clan in da Front-beat for its instrumental and still comes off as dope and the minimalistic but funky Meth-duet Dirty Dancin’ (featured as a bonus track). Though the Bastard tends to sound better when dueting other Wu-members, he has an especially good chemistry with Meth. Meth’s smooth sandpapered voice and Dirt McGirt’s insanity mesh really, really well.
There’s the cliché of somethings being perfectly inperfect, or rather suck so much they’re kinda good. This sort of applies to The Dirty Version, an album by a rapper who prides himself in not only sounding but also living old and dirty, but that doesn’t really cut it. In stead of being so bad it’s kinda good, it’s so fucking horrible it’s perfect, and it’s good quality isn’t well explained by the negative times negative equals positive because the man was literally incalculable and too incomparable to equate to anything. And I’ll be the first to admit that the grade really is a shot in the dark. You could give this a 30 and you could explain yourself very well arguing that this isn’t very good musically, but you’d probably feel that there’s something not right about your judgement. You could give this the full 100 from the bottom of your heart, but not have a leg to stand on. Love him or hate him, he was the rockstar from mars with the substance abuse problems, the illegitimate offspring, the legal troubles and the charm that Charlie Sheen wished he was. When his music is on ODB has your attention to the degree that it’s hard to look away, and more often than not that sort of confusion of being mesmerised by a mixture of raw reality and alientaing surreality that drops you right in the middle of the uncanny valley could be a sign of your senses being stimulated by high art. Unlike most people said to make high art however ODB would ironically enough seem the kind of person to be blissfully oblivious to such a pretentious qualification because all he wants is pussy and drugs. ODB was pure, honest, raw and out of his mind, and there doesn’t exist a better example of the inimitable artist or the weird and wonderful human being he was than this album. May he rest in peace.
Shimmy Shimmy Ya
You should probably give this a spin on grooveshark or spotify before making up your mind buying this or not. ODB is not for everyone, and it’s quite alright not to enjoy him. If you do however cop the album, please do not play it in front of your little hipster friends. This shit is so intrinsically weird they will on impact irrevokably feel the need to try to understand and worse yet interpret this, which will lead to some undoubtably ghastly, daft psychoanalytic ideas, where there in reality is nothing but flesh and bone, so proceed with caution.