10 years ago today the Hip Hop community lost one of its most controversial and influential characters when Russell Jones aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB) died of a drug overdose at the age of just 35. Wu Tang Clan exploded onto the scene with the release of their debut LP in 1993, bringing a raucous energy and unconventional style both in terms of lyrical delivery and production. Whilst Wu Tang as a group has maintained a strong identity, both in terms of their sound and aesthetic, each individual member also quickly forged their own identity, spawning a legion of successful solo careers. Not least among these unique characters was ODB, his signature, raw and untamed rap singing style central to the early Wu Tang sound, his ‘wild card’ vocals being the key to the success not only of his own solo material, but also many memorable collaborations.
Here we pay tribute to ODB with a run down of his top 5 most popular appearances (most visited pages) on WhoSampled:
5 – Got Your Money (1999) (contains 1 sample, sampled 12 times, covered once, remixed once)
Taken from his second full length LP ‘N***a Please’, ‘Got Your Money’, second only to ‘Ghetto Superstar’ is perhaps ODB’s most pop-orientated appearance. An early production by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo under their Neptunes, moniker, this track features a catchy vocal hook from New York singer-songwriter Kelis whose contributions helped to make this an instant classic. Drawing inspiration from Rick James this track features a vocal interpolation from ‘Cold Blooded’ and has provided samples for several artists including electronic music pioneers The Chemical Brothers and Modeselektor.
4 – Show and Prove (1994) (contains 3 samples, sampled 2 times)
Produced by DJ Premier this classic posse cut is taken from the Big Daddy Kane album ‘Daddy’s Home’ and features guest verses from ODB, long time Kane backing dancer Big Scoob, a pre-Rocafella Sauce Money, and young Wu Tang affiliate Shyheim and showcases a then relatively unknown Jay-Z, whose fast paced delivery style shares little in similarity to his later work. The track opens with a scratched sample from ‘The Show’ by Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick and The Get Fresh Crew and includes a brief lyrcial reference to Isaac Hayes classic ‘Theme from Shaft’. Big Daddy Kane also drops a rhyme previously used when collaborating with The Notorious B.I.G. on ‘The Garden Freestyle’. ODB’s verse, which closes the track is also notable for it’s final phrase, ‘Danger‘ which forms the hook to Blahzay Blahzay‘s 1996 underground smash of the same name.
3 – Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are) (1998) (contains 3 samples, sampled 9 times, covered 2 times)
Ghetto Superstar, another of ODB’s more pop orientated appearances, this Platinum certified single was produced by Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis for Pras‘ debut solo studio album of the same name. Featuring vocals by Mýa with lyrics heavily influenced by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s ‘Islands in the Stream’, a song originally penned by the Bee Gees. Also appearing is a an iconic James Brown vocal sample, lifted from Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved.
2 – Brooklyn Zoo (1995) (contains 3 samples, sampled 35 times, covered once, remixed once)
This is the debut single from ODB’s Gold certified debut album ‘Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version’ where ODB revisits and develops a rhyme previously used in ‘Protect Ya Neck’ and, as the album title suggests, perfectly encapsulates the classic Wu Tang Sound. A mid 90s mixtape and club classic, the basis of the melody is a sample from an obscure track from 1967 by Bobby Ellis and The Desmond Miles Seven called ‘Step Softly’ which creates a simple but effective backdrop for ODB’s unique vocal style.
1 – Shimmy Shimmy Ya (1995) (contains 3 samples, sampled 51 times, covered 2 times, remixed once)
This track, which is arguably one of the finest examples of ODB’s eccentric vocal style, opens with a sample of actor and comedian Richard Pryor with the apt quote “n**** can’t even sing“. The foundation of the track in classic RZA style is taken from another 60’s soul classic; ‘I like it’ by The Emotions which has been sampled 14 times by artists including Bishop Nehru and Raekwon. There are discrete elements taken from ‘D’Ya Like Scratchin’?’ by Malcolm McLaren and World’s Famous Supreme Team and interestingly, a great reggae cover of this track by Prince Fatty more recently appeared in the TV show Breaking Bad – listen to it here.
Words – John Loftus