Wednesday, 6 August 2008



One of the greatest moments on Larry Sanders was the visit of the Wu-Tang Clan to the show and Hank Kingsley approaching them asking “hey, where’s Dirty Old Bitch” after having already commented to his assistant played by Scott Thompson: “my god, they look like carjackers”.  It made for a very strong argument against white people listening to rap.

Russell Jones was the wild man of the Wu-Tang Clan.  And The Dirty Version opens in appropriate fashion like a crazy fool fronting a slum opera.  Its all about the introduction, about the perception and persona.  This man had a reputation to live up to and the pressure was on not to disappoint.

This is the second solo album to come from a Wu-Tang member following Enter The Wu-Tang and often like the man it is quite mess, ramshackle and incoherent.  It helps the record that RZA was on board to produce and direct most of it but there is a definite/certain haze attached to proceedings.  The crazed style of ODB was always going to be difficult to hardness.

The record hits hard early on with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo” which are two very solid hot hits with superior structure and exceptional arrangement.  Certain sections could consider the former somewhat misogynist but do these people expect from hip hop?  He likes it raw and he is not embarrassed to admit it.  And maybe he should?

“Brooklyn Zoo” is an altogether more swank proposition with a party vibe and emphatic bounce.  This is the sound of riding a dragon but being in control.


You sense at times this record required a bit of hand holding.  Making appearances are six of his fellow Wu members in addition to a whole host of female voices airing a full range of emotions from playful and satisfied to utterly horrified and enraged (as on the aural war zone that closes “Goin’ Down” which occurs surreally wrapped around “Over The Rainbow” from the Wizard Of Oz).

Ol’ Dirty Bastard was an original.  You see and feel his influence in crazed southern acts of this era who he in effect laid the tracks for, albeit in a less disgusting manner.  Still here was a man not above critique holding lyrics that could just as easily be described as “disgusting” as well as “street poetry” while at other times he was just on a rant.

When dealing with these songs you need to bear in mind that this was a man arrested for wearing a bulletproof vest.  This persona is not strictly an act, more an exaggerated version of a very big personality.

Considered by many most exciting when “drunk as hell” he held a stand out cadence that at times was borderline scat and very much an instrument in itself.  In the words of those around him he was just “not himself when sober”.  This after all is a record with a track entitled “Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie)”.  Quite frankly what we had here just may have been the hip-hop Shane MacGowan.  If there was one member of the group that was loved, it was Ol’ Dirty.

At this point in proceedings the CD I was listening to has just died, skipped on track 13 which is “Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane)”.  It all feels appropriate; the record has reached some kind of intoxicated haze as my mind wandered to dirty climates and rotten times.  The spirit of Ol’ Dirty Bastard just crashed its way into this review seemingly with an instruction of “pay attention or fuck off”.

And now with that the disc just started back up as if haunted.  Bizarre.

Then it ends with some slick interplay with RZA on “Cuttin Headz” and one of the most disciplined workouts on the album.  He could be harnessed but only when necessary and good.

This is a scatological record, by no means generic or cohesive.  Often experimental in execution with his wayward and slanted approach there is almost accidental innovation here, a party approach that was not necessarily present in the rest of the Wu universe.  If nothing else he offered light relief.

At worst it wastes your time but at best it blows your mind.

Thesaurus moment: paradigm.

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