Not All It's Cracked Up To Be ...

With an appearance by Chris Rock.

Sometimes the reviews just write themselves. Famous examples:

"Less Than Zero," " 'Poltergeist 2,' Audience 0" and Richard Marx's

Repeat Offender. And now, Ol' Dirty Bastard's N***a Please,

as in, "Are you seriously putting out an album that sounds as though it

was recorded by a total lunatic? N***a, please." Also as

in "N***a, please take your conspiracy-theory-touting,

pseudo-mack-daddy-acting, Mad-Dog-drinking, steady-smoking,

off-key-singing self out of my face before I hose you down with pepper

spray."

If there was ever any doubt that ODB is an off-kilter man living life

on the edge — the edge of sanity, edge of civilization, edge of

the law — it is removed by hyper-jumpy rapping and raspy,

off-key singing on N***a Please. Unlike mad hip-hop genius

Kool Keith, ODB's lyrics here give the listener the

impression that RZA put together some funky tracks, made ODB stand in

front of the mic and commanded him to rhyme. Kool Keith sends his

listeners eloquently written (if sexually explicit) postcards from the

edge, while ODB sits in a subway station yelling "You Don't Want To Fuck With Me" and "I Want Pu**y" to anyone who will listen.

Which is a shame, because ODB's work with the Wu-Tang Clan and his 1995 solo

debut have shown that he's capable of kicking inventive lyrics that are as funny

as he's trying to be throughout N***a Please. Of course, those

albums were recorded before ODB had built his "you-so-crazy" persona, so his

tighter game disallowed lyrics such as "I'm the ODB /as you can see/ FBI don't

you be watching me" on "Got Your Money," or "Who get drunk at night till the

early morn?/ Tap dances at the party like it's going on?" on "Recognize."

He's also inconsistent when it comes to his message, beyond

"I'm-a-loon-who-can-clear-a-karaoke-bar-in-four-seconds-flat" — which he

proves quite capably on his, uh, duet with Lil' Mo on the blues classic "Good

Morning Heartache" (RealAudio excerpt)

and his electro-funk cover of Rick James' "Cold Blooded" (RealAudio excerpt). On

"Rollin' Wit You" (RealAudio exceprt), he declares himself a black god and warns blacks that whites

are trying to "take over." Later in the album, "All In Together" finds ODB

declaring himself a "Dalmatian ... I'm white and I'm black/ you can't understand

it/ then fuck you!" So, is half of ODB trying to take over? Where does he stand

in this situation described on "Rollin Wit You"? Do you engage the guy who hands

you flyers about the CIA breeding half-human chickens in Central America? Of

course not. Do the same with ODB.

N***a Please isn't completely without merit. Only ODB could make a

potential Southern-bounce hit out of a loop from the theme to "T.J. Hooker." RZA

and his Wu-Tang production squad took a break from strings-and-piano loops on

this album and instead concentrated on backing music bearing the imprint of '70s

soul — especially on the Curtis Mayfieldesqe "Recognize" (which features

Chris Rock trying in vain to out-knucklehead ODB), the disco "Got Your Money" and

the driving horns and light guitar of the title track. There's something oddly

appealing about ODB's foul-mouthed lyrical rampages about everything and nothing,

though they are madly inconsistent. "I Want Pu**y," for example, is

like a demo that needs a lot of work, while the goofball riffing on "Recognize,"

"N***a Please" and "Gettin' High" sounds loosey-goosey but focused enough to

warrant inclusion on the album.

When it comes down to it, ODB is the crazy cousin your family worries about but

loves to have around to liven up get-togethers. He's that guy on the periphery of

your circle of friends who you love to tell crazy stories about. He's the dude

sitting at the end of the bar striking up half-sane conversations while singing

along with the jukebox.