NEW YORK – Thursday night was a time to rejoice, repent, reflect upon and remember Russell Tyrone Jones. His funeral took place at the Christian Cultural Center in his hometown, the borough of Brooklyn, New York.
Most of the world knew Jones as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, an MC with unpredictable word delivery that was as soulful and fiery as your favorite old-school crooner. Somehow, he made nonsensical humor like “My hip-hop drops on your head like raaayyyyaaaain” or “My b—s are fragile like two boiled eggs” into legendary hip-hop hymns. The opening piano chords of his biggest solo record, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” could get thousands of people moving before Dirty could even say his famous line, “Ooooh baby, I like it raaaaawwwwww!” People still can’t believe he had the audacity to rap about the burning sensation caused by venereal disease — but will love him forever for saying it.
Over the years, ODB made headlines for his run-ins with the law and his out-the-blue, do-whatcha-like attitude, like interrupting the 1998 Grammy Awards because his group — the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the greatest collectives hip-hop fans have been blessed to hear — did not win that night.
He was also a man who showed compassion and bravery during his storied life. While everyone was confused by what he said onstage at the Grammys that night — “Wu-Tang is for the children” — Dirty really was for the children, handing out candy and money to kids in the ’hood and even turning tragedy into triumph by helping a congregation of adults lift a burning car off of a trapped little girl.
On Thursday night, throngs of fans and friends who loved the talented wildman joined those who knew Jones simply as Rusty — his family, here to say goodbye for now. Members of Wu-Tang and Roc-A-Fella head Damon Dash were among those in the congregation with Dirty’s parents, children and the rest of his family.
RZA was powerful and stirring, speaking with grace about his departed cousin and fellow Clan member. “He was a unique soul in the family,” RZA said. “Everywhere he went, people fell in love with him immediately.”
RZA remembered back to when Jones was a young teenager and chose the righteous name of Ason Unique. He said that as Ason Unique, his cousin was radiant, beautiful and angelic, more powerful than he was in the ODB persona. As the years passed and RZA gave him the name of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, he noticed his cousin changing more and more, adopting the characteristics of his stage moniker and going wild.
Remorsefully, RZA admitted that as Dirty’s troubles with various vices grew, he told him, “I’m dying.” RZA said he thought Dirty was high, but in fact, his cousin was suffering. He warned the congregation that we all need to keep love in our hearts and never neglect family.
During the course of the funeral, there were also pleas from the residing pastor, Reverend A. R Bernard, and Dirty’s cousin Papa Wu for those attending to not forget Dirty’s kids nor the youth of the hip-hop culture (see “Friends, Family Pay Their Respects To ODB At Harlem Church” ).
The past, however, spoke volumes as ODB’s going-home ceremony neared an end. A band started playing the beat to “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” as a video montage of Dirty was shown on two huge hanging screens. Some men took it upon themselves to fill in for the deceased star, standing up in the church and rapping his lines for him as loud as he would have.
“Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yam, shimmy yay/ Gimme the mic so I can take it away/ Off on a natural charge, bon voyage/ Yeah, from the home of the Dodgers, Brooklyn squad/ Wu-Tang Killerrr Bees on a swarm! … Ooooooh baby I like it raaaaawwwwww!”
Russell Jones would have been 36 on Monday (see “Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard Dies” ). He leaves behind seven children, a host of other family and friends, and a timeless legacy as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.