Russell Tyrone Jones (November 15, 1968 - November 13, 2004) was an American rapper and occasional producer, who went by the stage name Ol' Dirty Bastard, ODB, Ason Unique, Osirus, and Big Baby Jesus. He was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, a rap group primarily from Staten Island, New York that 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. However, his professional success was hampered by frequent legal troubles, including incarceration. He died in late 2004 of a drug overdose, two days before his 36th birthday. Prior to his death, Ol' Dirty Bastard managed to record his third solo album, which has been repeatedly delayed and as of 2012 has not been released. 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 a childhood alias given by RZA, the relevance of which was articulated by Method Man's assertion that there was "no father to his style".
Early life / formation of the Wu-Tang Clan:
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.
Ol' Dirty Bastard's solo career began in 1995, making him the second member of the Wu-Tang Clan to release a solo album after the group's formation, following Method Man's 1994 album, Tical. Released on March 28, 1995, 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 "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". Around this time, 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 pick up his welfare check; 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. 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 announced that he had recently purchased expensive clothes in anticipation of winning the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album that he lost to Puff Daddy. As Colvin took the stage to a round of applause, he asked of 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, 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!" This 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 world-wide chart success. The song was produced by The Neptunes, and featured backing vocals by R&B singer Kelis, both of whom would go on to pursue successful recording careers. 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 him "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, giving the song the title "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 some money off 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 put together without Jones's input, using the vocals he had recorded with hype-woman Sic-wif-it (Salome), DJ extrordinaire Organix (Eden), and the high- profile lyricist T-Time (Tamara) prior to his capture by authorities. The label recruited many guests including several Wu-Tang Clan affiliates, No Limit Records artist C-Murder, Too $hort, E-40 and Mack 10. However, the album was critically panned and sales were poor. 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 collaborated on "Blah-Blah-Blah" with Brooke Valentine from her album, Chain Letter.
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 pled 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. In February 1999, he was arrested for driving without a license and for being a convicted felon wearing a bulletproof vest (the first person arrested for this infraction under a new California law). 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. After his arrest, Ol' Dirty Bastard reportedly asked the police to "make the rocks disappear". During his court hearing in January 2000, he called a female prosecutor a "sperm donor." 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 on the lam, 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 connections to three murders, a shoot out with the NYPD and a RICO 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 that "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 p.m. on November 13, 2004 (two days before his 36th birthday) at RZA's recording studio (36 Records LLC on West 34th Street in New York City). He was pronounced dead at 5:04pm. 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, a synthetic opioid. The overdose was ruled accidental and witnesses say that Jones complained of chest pain on the day he died. In November 2009, a video documentary about Ol' Dirty Bastard's life, Dirty: The Official Ol' Dirty Bastard Biography, was released. The documentary features interviews and stories from Wu-Tang members, affiliates, and family members, as well as old interviews and live footage. Michael K. Williams has agreed to play ODB in Dirty White Boy.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license