Saturday, November 13, 2004


With all apologies to Jacques Derrida, today the world lost a man who was perhaps the most nihilistic soul ever. Per Associated Press wire:

The rap artist O.D.B., whose utterly unique rhymes, wild lifestyle and incessant legal troubles made him one of the most vivid characters in hip-hop, collapsed and died inside a recording studio Saturday. He was 35.

Something tells me his death was not of natural causes. AP?

The cause of death was not immediately clear, but O.D.B. had recently finished a prison sentence for drug possession and escaping a rehab clinic. He would have turned 36 on Monday.

O.D.B. — also known as Ol' Dirty Bastard, Dirt McGirt, Big Baby Jesus or his legal name of Russell Jones — was a founding member of the seminal rap group the Wu-Tang Clan in the early 1990s. With his unorthodox delivery — alternately slurred, hyper and nonsensical — O.D.B. stood out even in the nine-man Clan, which featured such future stars as Method Man, RZA and Ghostface Killah.

One must love a man who goes by the aliases O’l Dirty Bastard and Big Baby Jesus. AP continues:

But as his fame increased, so did his erratic behavior, and fans came to expect the unexpected from O.D.B. When MTV News followed him around at the height of his popularity, he took the camera crew and several of his kids (he was said to have more than a dozen, by numerous mothers) to the welfare office — in a limousine — to get an allotment of food stamps. And he received them.

The segment of MTV News in question was one of the greatest moments in TV history, and especially surprising, given the network’s ultra-liberal leanings. It occurred around the time welfare reform was passed, the same time that Wu-Tang Clan had several rap hits and a top rap album out. They set it up as an interview with ODB. As their reporter interviews him (a difficult task), he announces that he needs to take his babies to the welfare office. The reporter questions him remarking that he has a top selling album out. Mr. Bastard begins literally crying about how people are trying to take the food out of his babies mouths. He packs up several young children and MTV shows him en route to and in the welfare office. The fact that he gets the food stamps leaves the MTV reporter in amazement and exposes a huge problem with the welfare system, one so large that President Clinton soon signed the welfare reform legislation to tighten eligibility. The entire segment lasted about ten minutes, and ODB utters few intelligible words, despite his incessant talking. More from AP:

In February 1998, he crashed the stage at the Grammy Awards and hijacked a microphone from singer Shawn Colvin as she accepted an award, apparently upset over losing the best rap album Grammy to P. Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy ). He complained that he spent a lot of money for new clothes because he thought he was going to win. The rapper later apologized.

Over the years, he was wounded in shootings and arrested on a veritable laundry list of charges, including menacing security officers, illegally possessing body armor, driving with a suspended license, shoplifting and threatening a former girlfriend.

In 2000, after escaping a court-ordered stint in a California rehabilitation center, authorities searched for him for a month. He was finally arrested in Philadelphia — three days after performing in a New York City concert with his Wu-Tang clique.

He was sentenced in 2001 to two to four years in prison for drug possession, plus two concurrent years for escaping from the clinic. He was released in 2003 and immediately signed with Roc-a-Fella.

From what I’ve seen of ODB, it’s hard to tell if he was dangerous to others or just himself. Certainly, music lovers of the world will miss his slurred, nonsensical, yet hyper rapping. A baker’s dozen or more kids will miss their daddy, although most would probably have still missed him if he was still alive. Numerous ho’s will miss their man. On the other hand, security officers can breathe a bit safer and taxpayers will have to shell out a bit less on food stamps. All in all, Ol’ Dirty Bastard is far more deserving of a kind eulogy than Yasser Arafat.


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