NEW YORK — Family, friends and fans came out to Harlem on Wednesday night to attend a public viewing of the body of Russell Jones, better known to hip-hop fans as Ol' Dirty Bastard.
A founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, ODB died mysteriously on Saturday evening (see "Rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard Dies"). On Wednesday, tears poured and laughter rang out as dozens shared memories of one of hip-hop's all-time greats.
"I miss him," his father, William Jones, said outside of St. James Presbyterian Church, where the viewing was held. "Next week when I go back to Virginia, it's really gonna come down on me. He was the light in the family. He always kept something funny going on in a loving way."
Jones remembers his son's humorous antics as a considerable portion of the entertainment during family gatherings.
"He was wild," Jones said, smiling. "He would kid around all the time and joke. We used to have a lot of family over and he would be the jokester. All the rest of them could sing. Dirty couldn't sing, so he would do something to make everybody laugh. He was a good kid. We used to go fishing in Far Rockaway [Queens] and that was his passion. People don't know he loved to fish."
"Dirty was like our brother," Ieasha Richardson, his first cousin, said. "He was the craziest out of everybody. You didn't know what was coming next."
"He would knock at your door at like three o'clock in the morning like, 'Yeah, we having a party,' " another of Dirty's cousins, Charisma Young, said. "The music would start poppin', everybody gets up out of their sleep. 'Y'all want something to eat?' He'd hit us off with $300 to go to the diner. When we found out [he died], it was like, 'Wow.' "
Shortly after his cousins arrived at the church, Wu-Tang's U-God showed up. Roc-A-Fella artist Peedi Crakk also attended, and later Roc-A-Fella CEOs Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke came to pay their respects in a cavalcade of cars that included Dirty's mother, Cherry Jones.
Dash said he was upset at losing a friend and colleague, but also saddened because Dirty didn't get to see a lot of his dreams come to fruition, such as releasing his new album and various other business ventures that were on tap.
"I'm very disappointed because I know what was about to happen for him," Dash said. "He wasn't getting his life together, his life was together."
"He was on the right track," concurred Dirty's cousin, Freedom Allah, who's better known as Papa Wu from his appearances on the various Wu-Tang Clan projects. "He had a clothing line, they just gave him a label [ODB records]. He was doing everything positive. The world has been robbed. They didn't understand what was about to come."
Papa Wu also lamented about members of the press who didn't understand Dirty's freewheeling ways. He said he hoped that as people look back on ODB's life, they don't vilify him.
"With our culture, people don't understand hell is what a man has to go through to really get right in his life," Papa Wu explained. "It's trials and tribulations you must go through. He did his. Everybody in this world has got some type of bullsh-- with them. I been around the world three times with [the Wu-Tang Clan]. Everybody in the world loved that man. That man is a legend, an icon. He used to leave his car parked at a [stop] light, jump out and give all the kids money. Police used to be like, 'Dirty, you have to move your car.' He wouldn't move his car until he gave everybody money. He showed people love. He was so real."
Due to the suddenness of Dirty's death, many fans, as well as those closest to him, still haven't settled on the fact that he's gone (see "Ol' Dirty Bastard's Death Stuns And Saddens His Peers ").
"We all lived in the same house together and ate mayonnaise sandwiches together [growing up]," said Richardson, who added that one of her fondest memories of her cousin was him accepting a dare to jump off the roof of a house. He broke both legs. "This is a shock to me. I haven't even gone through the [church] door yet. I'm thinking this is some type of publicity stunt where he's just gonna wake up and be like, 'Y'all think I was gone? Y'all can't kill me, n---a. Let's get the party poppin'. Where's the Moët and Cristal at?' "
"I can't believe he's gone," Dirty's manager, Jarred Weisfeld, said after the viewing. "He used to call me like 15 to 20 times a day. I'm still looking at my cell phone every time it rings, hoping that it's him."
Final farewells will be said on Thursday evening, fittingly in the borough he grew up in and bigged up in his classic "Brooklyn Zoo." One of the most celebrated and wildest men the hip-hop world has ever known will be laid to rest at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center at 7:30 p.m., following a two-hour wake that begins at 4 p.m.
"He's all right now," Papa Wu said. "He don't have to go through this no more. He don't have to worry about nobody bugging him half to death. Where's he at now, he's all right. Sh--. Makes me wanna be there right now."