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Ol' Dirty Bastard

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  • Born: Brooklyn, NY
  • Died: Brooklyn, NY
  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

One of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, who recorded some of the most influential hip-hop of the '90s, Ol' Dirty Bastard was the loose cannon of the group, both on record and off. Delivering his outrageously profane, free-associative rhymes in a distinctive half-rapped, half-sung style, ODB came across as a mix of gonzo comic relief and not-quite-stable menace. Unfortunately, after launching a successful solo career, his personal life began to exhibit those same qualities. ODB spent much of 1998 and 1999 getting arrested with ridiculous, comical frequency, building up a rap sheet that now reads not so much like a soap opera as an epic Russian novel. At first, his difficulties with the law made him a larger-than-life figure, the ringmaster of rap's most cartoonish sideshow. Sadly, his life inevitably slipped out of control, and the possibility that his continued antics were at least partly the result of conscious image-making disappeared as time wore on. It was difficult for observers to tell whether ODB's wildly erratic behavior was the result of serious drug problems or genuine mental instability; bad luck certainly played a role in his downfall, but so did his own undeniably poor judgment. Despite being sentenced to prison on drug charges in 2001, it's worth noting that while he was running amuck Ol' Dirty's offenses were largely nonviolent; the saddest part of his story is that, in the end, the only person he truly harmed was himself.

Ol' Dirty Bastard was born Russell Tyrone Jones in Brooklyn in 1969, and grew up in the neighborhood of Fort Green as a welfare child. As he got older, he started hanging out more and more with his cousins Robert Diggs and Gary Grice; they all shared a taste for rap music and kung-fu movies. The trio parlayed their obsessions into founding the Wu-Tang Clan, renaming themselves Ol' Dirty Bastard (since there was no father to his style), the RZA, and the Genius, respectively. The Wu grew into an innovatively structured hip-hop collective designed to hit big and then spin off as many solo careers for its members as possible. Buoyed by the RZA's production genius and a number of strong personalities, the Wu-Tang Clan's first album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was released at the end of 1993 and became one of the most influential rap albums of the decade. Earlier in the year, Ol' Dirty had been convicted of second-degree assault in New York, the only violent offense ever proven against him; trouble continued to stalk him in 1994, when he was shot in the stomach by another rapper in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn following a street argument.

Luckily, the injuries weren't serious, and Dirty became the second Wu-Tang member to launch a solo career (after Method Man) when he signed with Elektra and released the RZA-produced Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version in early 1995. The stellar singles "Brooklyn Zoo" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" both became hits, making the album a gold-selling success. Additionally, his guest spot on a remix of Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" produced one of the year's unlikeliest hitmaking teams. With the concurrent success of the other Wu solo projects, anticipation for the group's second album ran high, and when the double-disc Wu-Tang Forever came out in the summer of 1997, it sold over 600,000 copies in its first week of release. Included on the second disc was "Dog Shit," two and a half minutes of perhaps the most bizarre, scatological ODB ranting that had yet appeared on record. And then, the saga began.

In November 1997, Ol' Dirty Bastard was arrested for failing to pay nearly a year's worth of child support -- around 35,000 dollars -- for the three children he had with his wife, Icelene Jones (by this point, he'd fathered a total of 13 children, beginning in his teenage years). Things picked up in February 1998: he started his own clothing line, dubbed My Dirty Wear, and along with several protégés, he rushed out of a New York recording studio to help save a four-year-old girl who had been hit by a car and lay trapped underneath. The very next day, at the Grammy Awards (where the Wu had been nominated for Best Rap Album), there followed the incident that truly established the Ol' Dirty legend. During Shawn Colvin's acceptance speech for her Song of the Year award, ODB rushed the stage seemingly out of nowhere, clad in a bright red suit. He took over the microphone and launched into a rambling complaint about buying an expensive new outfit but losing the Grammy to Puff Daddy, whom he described as "good" but not as good as his own group, because "Wu-Tang is for the children." Hustled off-stage after this puzzling, oddly timed outburst, ODB was the talk of the next day's news reports, and many mainstream outlets had to find ways of avoiding the "bastard" portion of his name. He further confounded the public by announcing in April that he was scrapping his Ol' Dirty Bastard alias (which headed up a long list that included Osirus [sic], Joe Bannanas [sic], Dirt McGirt, Dirt Dog, and Unique Ason) and calling himself Big Baby Jesus. None of his explanations in interviews even verged on coherence, and the press never took the switch all that seriously; even the erstwhile Big Baby Jesus himself seemed to forget about the idea after a short time.

The rest of 1998 was a slow downward spiral. In April, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted assault on Icelene Jones, resulting in a protection order against him; the following month, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest after he missed two court dates concerning his child support payments (he finally did show up and signed an agreement to pay off the debts). In late June, ODB was shot in a robbery attempt in Brownsville, Brooklyn; two assailants pushed their way into ODB's girlfriend's apartment, stole some money and jewelry from the rapper, and shot him once. The bullet entered his back and went through his arm before exiting his body, but luckily the wounds were superficial, and several hours after receiving emergency-room treatment, ODB ignored the hospital's request for overnight observation and simply walked out. Only one week later, ODB was arrested in Virginia Beach for shoplifting, after walking out of a shoe store wearing a pair of 50 dollar sneakers. Adding insult to injury, his SUV was stolen from outside a New York recording studio a couple weeks later. Undaunted, Dirty went ahead with his plans to tour, set up his own Osirus Entertainment label, and recorded with a group of protégés called D.R.U.G. (Dirty Rotten Underground Grimies). As a result, he missed several court dates concerning his Virginia Beach shoplifting charge, resulting in an order for his arrest.

That difficulty seemed to matter less when, in September, ODB was arrested in Los Angeles for making terrorist threats. He'd been attending a concert by R&B singer Des'ree at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, and refused to be escorted outside by security who'd grown tired of his drunken rowdiness; after he was kicked out, he returned and threatened to shoot the security staff -- a felony in California, punishable by up to three years in jail. Not two weeks after posting bail, ODB was kicked out of a hotel in Berlin, Germany, for lounging on his balcony in the nude (no charges were filed). He later returned to California, where he was arrested once again in November on more charges of making terrorist threats -- this time allegedly threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend (and mother of one of his children). ODB pleaded not guilty in both "terrorist" cases, and returned to New York in January. At this point, it was still difficult to view ODB as a genuine criminal -- not that his conduct had been exemplary by any means, but there was a possibility that he was simply misunderstood, or that the California criminal justice system was essentially criminalizing the act of being a blowhard.

Shortly after ODB's return to New York, he was pulled over for a traffic violation while driving with his cousin. What happened next was never fully clarified. The officers claimed that ODB got out of his vehicle and started shooting at them; he was arrested and charged with attempted murder and criminal weapon possession. However, the police were never able to produce a matching weapon, ammunition, or empty ammo shells to support their claims, and there were a multitude of conflicting stories reported from their side as to the exact details of the incident. In February, a grand jury decided there was not enough evidence and dismissed the case, after which an outraged ODB filed suit against the arresting officers. Just a couple of weeks later, ODB once again fell victim to the vagaries of the California legal system. After citing him for double-parking his car in Hollywood, police discovered that he was driving without a license, and when they searched him, they found that he was wearing a bulletproof vest. This was understandable, given his recent experience in New York, but California had recently passed a law making it illegal for convicted violent felons to wear body armor -- and because of his 1993 second-degree assault conviction, ODB fell under that category (in fact, his arrest was one of the very first under the law). In March, now back in New York, ODB was pulled over for another traffic violation (this time driving without license plates), and police found a small amount of crack cocaine in his SUV, leading to misdemeanor drug possession charges. Five days later, ODB was pulled over and cited again for driving without license plates, as well as driving with a suspended license. In the face of this impossible legal maze, April brought one small bit of good news -- the terrorist-threat charges involving his ex-girlfriend were dismissed due to lack of evidence. What was more, former O.J. Simpson defense attorney Robert Shapiro signed on as ODB's legal representative.

Still, ODB's run of ill luck continued. At the end of July, he was jailed in California for failing to pay a portion of his bail from the House of Blues case (in a recent court hearing, he'd acknowledged financial difficulties stemming from his legal bills). He was able to post the money and was released; however, just days later, he was arrested in New York after running a red light. He was still driving on a suspended license, but what was more serious, officers discovered not only marijuana, but 20 vials of crack cocaine. He was able to post bail, but didn't return to Los Angeles for a hearing in the body-armor case, and his bail there was revoked and a bench warrant issued for his arrest. In mid-August, ODB checked himself into a rehab center in upstate New York, hoping to address his escalating problem with hard drugs; he soon transferred to a different center in California.

Somehow, in the middle of his incredible, headline-dominating run as a bicoastal outlaw, ODB had found time to record a new album under the auspices of several different producers, including the RZA and the Neptunes. Released in September 1999, Nigga Please entered the charts at number ten, aided by his position as the undisputed king of hip-hop bad boys; it also spawned a minor hit single in "Got Your Money." In November, ODB received more good news, of a sort: his sentencing in the two pending California cases (the body armor and the House of Blues) came out to one year in drug rehabilitation and three years' probation, with no prison time. Despite the fact that a resolution was in sight, ODB complained during the sentencing hearing that he felt police had been targeting him excessively. That sense of persecution manifested itself in a January 2000 hearing in New York, related to his drug charges; apparently exasperated by all the chaos, a sullen ODB ignored the presiding judge, talked dirty to a female DA (in typically bizarre fashion, he reportedly called her a "sperm donor"), and actually took a nap, thereby erasing any inclinations the prosecution had toward leniency. Afterward, he apparently got drunk, violating the terms of his rehab program and probation conditions; upon returning to California, he was kicked out of rehab and transferred to jail. Although he could have faced prison time for breaking probation, ODB received a more lenient sentence of six months in rehab.

Up until this point, ODB had managed to avoid prison time, since he was clearly a drug addict in need of help. Yet at the same time, his apparent unwillingness to be helped meant that, for better or for worse, he was running out of chances. While he'd suffered some terrible luck in his run-ins with the law, the last straw was entirely of his own making: in October 2000, with just two more months in rehab to go, ODB made a run for it. He spent the next month as a fugitive from the law, making his way across the country and secretly recording some new material with the RZA. ODB turned up in a very public fashion at the November record-release party for the new Wu-Tang Clan album, The W (which had been dedicated to him, and featured his vocals on one track, "Conditioner"; other contributions had been deemed too bizarre for release). He took the stage in the Hammerstein Ballroom in front of hundreds of incredulous, wildly cheering fans, and only added to his mystique by managing to leave the facility without getting arrested, despite the large police presence outside. After a few more days on the lam, ODB was captured in a McDonald's parking lot in Philadelphia while signing autographs for a large crowd of fans; in fact, the crowd was so large that the restaurant manager had called police, not knowing what was going on. ODB was extradited to New York, where he stood trial on not only his prior drug charges, but also the various traffic violations and a charge that he violated the protection order on Icelene Jones in 1998. After several trial postponements, in April 2001 ODB accepted a deal from prosecutors that essentially wiped out his other offenses in New York in exchange for a guilty plea to the cocaine possession charges. He received the minimum sentence of two to four years in state prison, and received credit for the eight months he'd already served; moreover, he was allowed to serve the jail time he owed the state of California concurrently. Still, the daunting prospect of state prison was nearly too much for ODB to bear; in July, he had to be put on suicide watch pending a psychiatric evaluation, and reports surfaced that he'd suffered a broken leg after being assaulted in a holding facility.

It remained to be seen how ODB would hold up under the harsh environment of prison, and whether he would ever resolve his legal problems to the point where he could once again enjoy a productive recording career. Accordingly, Elektra issued the best-of compilation The Dirty Story: The Best of Ol' Dirty Bastard in late 2001, despite the fact that he'd only released two albums. In early 2002, some of the material he'd recorded during his fugitive days surfaced on the new album The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones, put out by the small D-3 label. With a dearth of actual ODB material to rely on, the album was padded out by a number of guest rappers and handled by unknown producers (even the RZA steered clear of the affair), and ODB himself went on record as knowing virtually nothing about the release. The reviews were almost uniformly scathing, calling Trials and Tribulations a shoddy piece of exploitation. In 2003 ODB was released from jail and quickly signed to Roc-a-Fella Records. The following year found him working on a new album, work that ended suddenly when ODB collapsed in a recording studio and died shortly thereafter.


Russell Tyrone Jones (November 15, 1968 – November 13, 2004), better known under his stage name Ol' Dirty Bastard (or ODB), was an American rapper and producer. He was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, a rap group primarily from Staten Island, New York which first rose to mainstream prominence with their 1993 debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

After establishing the Wu-Tang Clan, Ol' Dirty Bastard went on to pursue a successful solo career and contributed as a rapper/producer for the Fugees. However, his professional success was hampered by frequent legal troubles, including incarceration. He died on November 13, 2004, of a drug overdose, two days before his 36th birthday. Before his death, Jones managed to record his third solo album, which remains unreleased.

Jones was often noted for his trademark microphone techniques and his "outrageously profane, free-associative rhymes delivered in a distinctive half-rapped, half-sung style". His stage name was derived from the 1980 martial arts film Ol' Dirty and the Bastard (also called An Old Kung Fu Master, starring Simon "Ol' Dirty" Yuen); Method Man articulated its relevance on track 5 of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), stating there was "no father to his style".

^ Huey, Steve. "Ol' Dirty Bastard Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 2, 2011. ^ "Official Site of the Wu-Tang Clan". Wu-Tang Corp. Retrieved July 16, 2010. ^ "Ol' Dirty Bastard | Music Videos, News, Photos, Tour Dates, Ringtones, and Lyrics". MTV. Retrieved 2010-07-16. ^ Zahlaway, Jon (December 15, 2004). "Autopsy shows Ol' Dirty Bastard died of accidental drug overdose". LiveDaily. Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2012. ^ "An Old Kung Fu Master (1981)". HKMDB.com. Retrieved May 15, 2015. 


Biography1.1 Early life, formation of the Wu-Tang Clan1.2 Music career1.3 Legal troubles1.4 Death


Early life, formation of the Wu-Tang Clan[edit]

Russell Jones was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1968. He and his cousins Robert Diggs and Gary Grice shared a taste for rap music and martial arts-style movies. Jones, Diggs, and Grice (later known Ol' Dirty Bastard, RZA, and GZA respectively) formed the group Force of the Imperial Master, which subsequently became known as All in Together Now after their successful underground single of the same name. They eventually added six more members to their group, calling it the Wu-Tang Clan. The group released their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in 1993, receiving notable commercial and critical success.

Music career[edit]

Ol' Dirty Bastard's solo career began March 28, 1995. His first solo album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, spawned the hit singles "Brooklyn Zoo" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya", which helped propel the album to platinum status. The album's sound was noted by several music writers as being as "raw and gritty" as 36 Chambers, with RZA and 4th Disciple producing beats of an even more minimalist and stripped-down style than on the group's debut album. In this same year, Ol' Dirty Bastard collaborated with Mariah Carey for the "Fantasy Remix".

It was around this time that Jones gained notoriety when, as he was being profiled for an MTV biography, he took two of his thirteen children by limousine to a New York State welfare office to cash a $375 welfare check and receive food stamps; his latest album was still in the top ten of the US charts. The entire incident was filmed by an MTV camera crew and was broadcast nationwide. Although he had recently received a $45,000 cash advance for his first solo album and was earning a cut of the profits from the Wu-Tang Clan's debut album, ODB was still listed as eligible for welfare and food stamps due to the fact that he had not yet filed his taxes for the current year. His caseworker revoked his eligibility after seeing the MTV segment, and the incident was viewed as an example of the welfare abuses that led to the significant welfare reforms enacted in 1996.

In 1997, Ol' Dirty Bastard appeared on the Wu-Tang Clan's second and most commercially successful work, the double album Wu-Tang Forever. He had fewer appearances on this album than the group's debut, contributing to one solo track ("Dog Shit"), three verses ("Maria", "Reunited", "Heaterz"), one hook ("As High as Wu-Tang Get"), and a spoken introduction/refrain ("Triumph").

In February 1998, Jones witnessed a car accident from the window of his Brooklyn recording studio. He and a friend ran to the accident scene and organized about a dozen onlookers, who assisted in lifting the 1996 Ford Mustang—rescuing a 4-year-old girl from the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital with first and second degree burns. Using a false name, Jones visited the girl in the hospital frequently until he was spotted by members of the media.

The evening following the traffic accident, Jones rushed on-stage unexpectedly as Shawn Colvin took the stage to give her acceptance speech for Song of the Year at the 1998 Grammy Awards, and he announced he had recently purchased expensive clothes in anticipation of winning the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album that he lost to Puff Daddy. As Jones took the stage to a round of applause, he asked the audience, "Please calm down, the music and everything. It's nice that I went and bought me an outfit today that costed a lot of money today, you know what I mean? 'Cause I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win. I don't know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. You know what I mean? Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best, Okay? I want you all to know that this is ODB, and I love you all. Peace!" The incident was widely covered in the mainstream media.

In 1999, Ol' Dirty Bastard wrote and recorded his second studio album, Nigga Please, between jail sentences. The album received notable commercial success, although it failed to parallel the critical praise of his debut. This release included the single "Got Your Money", which garnered worldwide chart success. The song was produced by The Neptunes and featured chorus vocals by R&B singer Kelis.

In 1999, Jones was paid $30,000 to appear on Insane Clown Posse's album, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers. Completing his track in two days, his recording consisted of his "rambling about bitches". Insane Clown Posse re-recorded the track and re-edited Jones' vocals in order to form four rhymes out of his rambling, titling the song "Bitches".

In 2001, with Jones again in jail for crack cocaine possession, his record label Elektra Records made the decision to release a greatest hits album (despite there being only two albums in his back catalog) in order to both end their contract with the artist (see below section), as well as make profit from the publicity generated by his legal troubles. After the contract with Elektra was terminated, the label D-3 records released the album The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones in 2002, composed of tracks compiled without Jones' input.

In 2003, the day he was released from prison, with Mariah Carey and Damon Dash by his side, Jones signed a contract with Roc-A-Fella Records. Living at his mother's home under house arrest and with a court-ordered probation, he managed to star in a VH1 special, Inside Out: Ol' Dirty Bastard On Parole. He also managed to record a new album, originally scheduled to be released through Dame Dash Music Group in 2004; it has since been shelved indefinitely. In October 2004, one month before his death, his last collaboration was Jon B. on the track, "Everytime" from the album, Stronger Everyday. In 2005, he was posthumously featured on the song "Blah-Blah-Blah" by Brooke Valentine on her album, Chain Letter.

Legal troubles[edit]

In 1993, Ol' Dirty Bastard was convicted of second degree assault for an attempted robbery and in 1994, he was shot in the abdomen following an argument with another rapper. In 1997, he was arrested for failure to pay child support for three of his 13 children. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to attempted assault on his wife and was the victim of a home invasion robbery at his girlfriend's house. He was shot in the back and arm but the wounds were superficial.

In July 1998, only days after being shot in a push-in robbery at his girlfriend's house in Brooklyn, he was arrested for shoplifting a pair of $50 shoes from a Sneaker Stadium store in Virginia Beach, Virginia, although he was carrying close to $500 in cash at the time. He was issued bench warrants by the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Department to stand trial after he failed to appear in court numerous times. He was arrested for criminal threatening after a series of confrontations in Los Angeles a few weeks later, and was then re-arrested for similar charges not long after that. During a traffic stop, the details of which remain clouded in multiple versions of events, he was arrested for attempted murder and criminal weapon possession. The case was later dismissed.

On January 14, 1999 shortly before the Amadou Diallo incident, two officers from the Street Crimes Unit fired eight shots at ODB (Russell Jones) and accused him of firing at them after they stopped his car in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Mr. Jones was cleared by a grand jury and insists that the officers had been scared by his cellular phone. No weapons or shell casings (besides those of the officers) were found in the vehicle or near the scene.

In February 1999, he was arrested for driving without a license and for being a convicted felon wearing a bulletproof vest. At the time, it was illegal for felons to own body armor. Back in New York weeks later, he was arrested for drug possession of crack cocaine and for traffic offenses. With multiple cases in the past and present, he was arrested with marijuana and 20 vials of crack.

In October 2000, he escaped from his court-mandated drug treatment facility and spent one month as a fugitive. During his time on the run, he met with RZA and spent some time in their recording studio. He then appeared onstage at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York swigging a bottle at the record release party for The W, the third Wu-Tang Clan album. In late November 2000, while still a fugitive, he was arrested outside a South Philadelphia McDonald's (at 29th and Gray's Ferry Ave.), after he drew a crowd while signing autographs. He spent several days in a Philadelphia jail and was later extradited to New York City. A Manhattan court sentenced him to two to four years incarceration.

In 2012, his FBI file was released to the public after a Freedom of Information Act request. It contains details of numerous crimes, such as alleged connections to three murders, a shoot out with the New York City Police Department, and a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act investigation against the Wu-Tang Clan.


Leading up to his death, Jones' legal troubles and odd behavior made him "something of a folk hero", according to The New Yorker writer Michael Agger. Music writer Steve Huey wrote; "it was difficult for observers to tell whether Ol' Dirty Bastard's wildly erratic behavior was the result of serious drug problems or genuine mental instability."

Jones collapsed at approximately 4:35 pm (EST) on November 13, 2004 (two days before his 36th birthday) at RZA's recording studio (36 Chambers Records LLC on West 34th Street in New York City). He was pronounced dead at 5:04 pm (EST). His funeral was held at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center and drew a crowd of thousands.

The official cause of death was a drug overdose; an autopsy found a lethal mixture of cocaine and the prescription drug tramadol. The overdose was ruled accidental and witnesses say Jones complained of chest pain on the day he died.

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Appears on[edit]

^ "Ol' Dirty Bastard - Bio, CDs and Vinyl at Discogs". Discogs.com. July 6, 1970. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 
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