The world lost an original when Ol’ Dirty Bastard departed in 2004. ODB is one of hip hop’s most eccentric characters, An artist whose personal demons often overshadow his lethal rapping skills.
He lived a life that could trump a work of fiction, with the Wu-Tang founder even spending a month as a fully-fledged fugitive. In 2000, the rapper was sentenced to spend time at a court-mandated drug facility after being found with marijuana and 20 vials of crack cocaine; however, ODB managed to escape from the compound.
While on the run, he even managed to link up with RZA, and they hit the studio despite the police being on his tail. Remarkably, ODB even joined Wu-Tang on-stage at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York before eventually being arrested in a McDonalds in Philadelphia.
ODB was the star of Wu-Tang’s debut, but his work rate dropped significantly on their follow-up, and their third album, The W, only included one contribution from the rapper.
The latter stages of his life were engulfed in legal troubles. Still, despite the chaos, he crafted work that cultivated an iconic legacy despite the short time frame of his career.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s 5 best songs
After the success of Wu-Tang’s first album, the collective decided that it was time for the members to flex their solo muscles, and ODB’s first attempt, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version was a triumph.
‘Brooklyn Zoo’ was his first single and was a devastating way to introduce himself outside of the paradigm of Wu-Tang. The track showed that ODB could carry a track by himself, and there’s a rare authenticity to his flow that makes you believe every single word he’s saying.
‘Protect Ya Neck’
ODB had a knack for getting debut singles perfect. ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ made everyone realise he was a solo star, and three years earlier, Wu-Tang entered the collective conscious in devastating style with ‘Protect Ya Neck’.
It’s one of the defining hip hop tracks of the era and still one of the most treasured songs that Wu-Tang released. ODB’s verse is all killer, no filler, as he raps, “First things first, man, you’re fuckin’ with the worst, I’ll be stickin’ pins in your head like a fuckin’ nurse, I’ll attack any nigga who’s slack in his mack, Come fully packed with a fat rugged stack, Shame on you when you step through to, The Ol’ Dirty Bastard straight from the Brooklyn Zoo”.
ODB’s electrifying input to their first album dissipated somewhat on their sophomore album, Wu-Tang Forever. When he spoke, you listened, and his appearance on ‘Triumph’ is one of the most thrilling verses the rapper ever produced.
Even though his role in Wu-Tang had diminished, ODB stepped up behind the microphone; it was exhilarating. On ‘Triumph’, he addresses his absence in the opening verse, “What? Y’all thought y’all wasn’t gonna see me? I’m the Osiris of this shit, Wu-Tang is here forever, motherfuckers, This like, this ’97, Aight my n***** and my n*********, Let’s do it like this, I’ma rub your ass in the moonshine, Let’s take it back to ’79.”
‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’
Another drop from his debut solo album, ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’, is ODB in full flow. Lyrically the rapper is at his disgraceful best as he teams up with his Wu-Tang teammate RZA. Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s unique vocal style is best exhibited in this song, where he does things with his voice that you didn’t think were possible by a rapper.
On the track, he hilariously spits, “Lyrics get hard quick cement to the ground, For any emcee in any fifty-two states, I get psycho killer, Norman Bates, My producer slam my flow is like bam, Jump on stage and then I dip down.”
‘Got Your Money’
When you think of ODB, the first thing that comes to mind is his collaboration with Kelis on the dancefloor-filling, ‘Got Your Money’. The production point of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, AKA, The Neptunes are on-point and complement the Wu-Tang rapper’s flow tremendously.
On top of that, the juxtaposition between the delivery of ODB and Kelis is sensational. Perhaps, on paper, the list of names involved in the track probably shouldn’t work, but they merge in a gilt-edged fashion.