“Then we got the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, cuz they ain’t no father to his style, that’s why he the Ol’ Dirty Bastard” – Method Man
Let me start by saying that it’s easy to “like” something when millions support it. So yeah, you like the Wu currently, of course you do. In the beginning it was a journey to understand the madness.
I first was put onto the Wu-Tang Clan in 9th grade — around 1992. I first heard Protect Ya Neck off a local DJ’s white label (independently pressed record usually identified by it’s plain white label) he bought while in NYC. At first listen it was an organized mess with a chaotic sonic backdrop that served as a no topic free-for-all with each clan member sounding like they had separate points to prove. What was the point? I wasn’t sure at first but that became the point. Members had distinct personalities that were revealed in their rhyme style, tone, temperament and voice. Someone like GZA maintained a monotone chokehold on a track without raising his energy level above a Central Park chess match while Method Man was jumping out of his seat during his verse.
Everyone had a different preferred swordsman but no one can deny that the Ol’ Dirty Bastard commanded attention. Meth said that there wasn’t a paternal claim to Dirt’s rhyme style, hence the moniker, which was evident by his freestyle like rants that were only held together by his charisma. Did he always make sense? No. Did he stick out like a sore thumb during posse cuts? Hell yeah. But that’s what made him special. He was a bastard.
It made perfect sense for Method Man’s ‘Tical’ to be the first out the gate after the Clan’s grand entrance. Next up was Ol’ Dirty with his debut ‘Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version’ that was launched on the back of the broken piano loop’d single Brooklyn Zoo. The album felt as if the Rza understood that Dirt had to run lawless to get the best out of him but figured a way to filter the madness into a focused effort – his only focused effort. The album featured most of the clan and some affiliates and was truly a glimpse into the psyche of the drunken master.
What made Dirty special is what ultimately made him self-destruct. His genius was often over shadowed by a history of alcohol and drug abuse that helped him create a rap sheet as long as the list of Wu-affiliates. Over a dozen kids with multiple women, crashing the stage at the Grammys and coming to the aid of a little girl trapped after a car crash are some of the things highlighted in his legacy. Let’s not forget the most important factoids – he is one of the founding fathers of arguably the most important group in hip-hop history and his debut album is nothing short of a classic.
16 years after it’s release, ‘Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version’ will be re-released with commemorative limited edition packaging celebrating one of the brightest figures to ever grace rap music. Ol’ Dirty wasn’t just the clan’s resident live wire but was truly a one in a lifetime character who captured the attention of the world, one rant and incident at a time.
The album with extra goodies, including the infamous food stamp card featured on the original album art, will be released on Get On Down Records distributed by Traffic Entertainment on November 22nd.
Russell Jones | Rest In Peace