Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version" Gets the 'Classic Rotation' Treatment
Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version turns 20 today. Rap music’s most eccentric figure isn’t here to celebrate the occasion, but he did leave behind a phenomenal LP during his time here on earth.
Produced in large part by the RZA, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version elaborates on the rugged and raw Wu-Tang style they displayed on their famous LP Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
Twenty years ago, critics received the album with open arms. The Source gave it 4/5 stars, Rolling Stone did the same, Vibe called it favorable, and fans loved it all the same. What did they love about it?
Well, let’s start with the most obvious: There is no one like Ol’ Dirty Bastard out there. There never was and there never will be. As Method Man said, “There ain’t no father to his style. That’s why he the Ol’ Dirty Bastard.” This is apparent from the “Intro”, where he sobs over contracting gonorrhea before singing these words:
“The first time, ever you sucked my dick - Thank you thank you! / I felt, the earth tremble, under my balls / Somethin' shot out of me real fast!”
Initially, it’s kind of insane the album was even released (by Elektra), let alone that it earned a Grammy nod for Best Rap Album. But as you listen on, ODB’s genius comes out one track at a time.
“Brooklyn Zoo,” the lead single off Return to the 36 Chambers takes the Wu-Tang’s hardcore hip-hop style one step further. ODB is also given some producer credit on the track that he raps:
“Niggas catching headaches, what? What? You need Aspirin?
This type of pain, you couldn't even kill with Midol
Fuck around, get sprayed with Lysol
In your face like a can of mace, baby
Is it burning? Well, fuck it, now you're learning
How I don't even like your motherfucking profile
Give me my fucking shit: CH-CH-BLAOW!”
His sound effects were unconventional at the time, and his pseudo-singing can never be copied.
The second single off the album, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” has RZA flipping The Emotions and Ol’ Dirty hitting the reverse button on the second verse. Along with a super-catchy verse, it results in a captivating track that is as fresh in 2015 as it was in 1996.
Stylistically, the album follows the singles’ direction. Irregular flows, tongue-in-cheek singing, hilarious moments, questionable lyrics, and killer beats.
On “Raw Hide”, he raps:
“Tired of sittin on my fuckin ass
Niggaz I know, be runnin around with mad fuckin cash
Who the FUCK wanna be an emcee
If you can't get paid, to be a fuckin emcee?
I came out my momma pussy -- I'm on welfare
Twenty-six years old -- still on welfare!
So I gotta get paid fully
Whether it's truthfully or untruthfully
With my Boston bloodthirsty process
Nobody in one's right mind would ever say those words in that order, but Ol’ Dirty was anything but like the rest of us. Thank God, because the world became way more interesting each time he dropped a track.
On “Goin’ Down”, Ol’ Dirty sings “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” while getting chewed out by a woman. It’s his way of saying, “I don’t give a fuck what you’re saying,” and it’s absolutely hilarious. We’ve all been there.
On “Drunk Games [Sweet Sugar Pie]”, the Bastard sings through the majority of the 4:20 track, omitting the bars completely. Ol’ Dirty may never be taken seriously as a singer, but he was actually pretty good at it. The barbaric orgasm towards the end of this track will pretty much make anyone feel uncomfortable, but that’s something ODB always got off on.
As far as Wu-Tang solo efforts go, this was one of the most focused records they ever did. The beats are all concise, and it features Raekwon, Method Man, GZA, Killah Priest, RZA, Masta Killa, Buddha Monk, Prodigal Sunn, and 60 Second Assassin on bars. The entire Clan didn’t quite make it on the LP, but it was pretty damn close.
Ol’ Dirty was seriously intense at making you feel his personality in his raps. The dude was crazy, and you felt that insanity ooze through the speakers into your eardrums. Check out this verse on “Snakes”:
“Bad, bad, Leroy Brown
Baddest man in the whole damn town
Badder than the deep blue seaaaaa
Badder than you and meeeeee
Niggas comin thru the trees, like a salamander, bitin'
Like a piranha, but I'm bitin' you back, like a black pantha
The style I'm ampin' the... fuck my name, who I be?
Fuck the game, it's all about the moneyyyy!
Owahhaerahh, sometimes I get high with the Meth
Then I turn to the Killah Priest
When it comes TWELVE O'CLOCK!!
I turn into the demon beast, yo
Yo fuck that shit!”
Not everyone can get away with this type of rapping. When you think about it, a lot of the crazy rappers that have come after him owe a little bit of their style to him. Would Eminem have existed if it weren’t for ODB’s rhymes? Danny Brown? What about Die Antwoord, MF DOOM, Lil B, or Young Thug? Ol’ Dirty Bastard made it okay to be completely weird in the rap game.
He also made it cool, for better or worse, to get completely violent on the track, leaving dudes like Insane Clown Posse, Tyler The Creator, Tech N9ne, and more to rap about mutilating dead bodies. Love it or hate it, there’s a huge market for gory violence, one that, in hip-hop at least, ODB helped create.
Ultimately, Ol’ Dirty Bastard is one of the most unique, twisted MCs of all time. His style, to which there is truly no father of, can be imitated, but never duplicated. We can’t help but wonder what it would be like if he was still here to make new music, but we’re eternally grateful for what he did with his time in the rap game. RIP ODB.