So the summer of ’95 I was hanging out at my best friend’s house (well actually his parent’s house) and I had some extra cash from the job. Now being the impulsive guy that I was, I decided that we should head down to Zip’s to pickup some music.
We went down the block, entered the store and perused the Hip Hop section. He picked up Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, and hailed it as a masterpiece. I was skeptical. While I had picked up the Wu Tang debut, I avoided Method Man’s debut, which I regarded as a rushed mess of an album. But my friend promised me that I’d enjoy this album. I figured that since few people knew me as well as he did, he probably knew what he was talking about. So I picked it up, along with some other CD’s, none of which I could name at the present.
We get back to his house and put it in. At that point I notice the very clever inlay book and cover. I begin to marvel at the cover, which really strikes my fancy. Which is good, because the intro on the album was really boring me. That is until “ODB” took the mike and said “I got burnt, actually, two times.” That was when he made a fan for life.
Now I can’t explain why that line struck a cord with me. I’ve never had an STD (knock on wood), so it wasn’t a personal thing. It may have been the sense of continuity that it brought to the album. I did remember when he rhymed about getting burned, so the fact that he was referencing it was a nice touch. It may have also been the absurdity/courtesy of filling his listeners in on and keeping them up to date on his mishaps in the sexual realm.
Never has an intro better set the tone for the entire album. The intro tells you everything you need to know. It lets you know that the artist didn’t take himself too seriously. It informed you that this was going to be unlike any other album you had heard previously. It also gave you the knowledge that the artist wouldn’t always rhyme. That intro captured the essence of the album.
Return to the 36 Chambers had my complete and undivided attention. I can’t remember the last time I listened to an album so intently. I was genuinely interested in what the next line to come out of ODB’s mouth was going to be. He didn’t have a style where there were punch lines and set-ups; rather he just spit and you reacted. Rza’s production was an asset, but ODB had me open.
And all be honest; ODB changed my outlook on women. Not that I went around calling women “b&tches” but he eloquently argued the pros of hooking up with “nasty” women on “Don’t U Know.”
As much as I love Return to the 36 Chambers, I’ll readily admit that I don’t give it the respect that it deserves. When debates spring up about “greatest Hip Hop” albums, I’ll forget to mention it, while trying to compete or “one up” other selections. And then when I’m sitting back marveling at my impressive list of albums, I’ll remember ODB’s debut, and usually place it in the upper half of the list.
“Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie)” is a stand out track, just based on it’s earnest. The aforementioned “Don’t U Know” is an example of hilarious storytelling. Of course “Brooklyn Zoo” and “Shimmy Shimmy Ya/Baby C’mon” are classics, but my personal favorite was the last track on the CD. “Harlem World” to me seemed pure ODB, and captured most of his facets.
N**#a Please featured a cover that was equally memorable. In fact my college roommate and I thought it would have been the ultimate in cool to have a full size poster of the cover for the crib. Sadly that never materialized.
I think that one of the aspects of ODB that I appreciated the most was that he seemed to be completely Id, with little or no Ego or Super Ego. Yes, that aspect of his personality caused his descent into drug abuse. But it also provided for some of his most memorable moments.
I, for one, truly enjoyed when he crashed Shawn Colvin’s acceptance speech at the Grammy’s. It was a true and genuine moment, in a show that’s as choreographed as possible. I also enjoyed when ODB was on TRL with Pras and Mya and declared that he wanted to “find more women to put babies in.” Is it politically correct? Nope, but it’s bluntness is admirable. And despite what Jeff says Wu-Tang is for the children.
(And for those of you who were offended when ODB went to pick up his welfare check in a limo, I hope that your equally disgusted with the 2000 electoral plot to deny Black voters a voice in Florida, and with G-Dub misleading people to support a war in Iraq. All are abuses of “the system”; but two had huge ramifications.)
I got home from work on Saturday night. My roommate was on the couch. I quickly grabbed some reading material (she was in control of the remote) and sat on the couch. She said, “You heard what happened right?” To which I replied, nonchalantly “Nah, what?” “That’s right, you weren’t on the net,” she said.
At that point I knew someone had died. So I said, “what happened?” And then she told me Ol’ Dirty Bastard was dead.
My first impulse was to be cool. But I couldn’t cover my natural reaction; I was in shock. I didn’t want to believe her, but I knew that she wouldn’t kid about something like that. So I got on the net and found out what happened.
ODB was kind of like Tupac; when either made the news, you didn’t really pay attention because it was a regular occurrence. And both also often “went away”, but you knew that they’d always return. Sadly that wasn’t the case.
Wu-Tang Clan was like The Beatles of my generation, in the fact that you can clearly divide up the musical landscape in terms of “Before” and “After” and everyone had their favorite. Well ODB was like my John Lennon, and to me the world isn’t as bright a place anymore.
But In Good News: Dr. Dre Got Snuffed!
By now everyone should be aware that there was brouhaha at the Vibe Awards and somebody got stabbed. The cause of the fracas was Jimmy James Johnson punching Dr. Dre in the face.
Now I’m not condoning Triple J for punching Dre, I’m just very loudly applauding it. I think that Dr. Dre is a hack. He’s vastly overrated, almost to the level of competing with Puff Daddy. He was receiving a “Lifetime Achievement Award” when he arguable reached his peak a decade ago, and has been coasting on fumes ever since.
Had I heard about this award beforehand, I probably would have grumbled about wanting to punch Dre in his face (although truth be told, I’m more of a ‘spit in the face’ type guy, it just seems to hold more disrespect). So once again I applaud Jimmy James Johnson, for doing something that I’ve dreamed of doing for years, (at least since “Nas is Coming.”)
More Sad News
I finally took my stereo to the repair shop today. The guy said it would run between $100-200 dollars to fix the problem, which he thought would require a motor switcheroo.
I feel like a parent whose child is off at camp for the first time. My baby is away from me, with strangers. I’m worried about it, and I miss it. What’s worse is that I’ll have to use my computer to provide music to fall asleep to, which means I’ll be limited to one disc. The horror!
That’s it. Sorry to end on a down note. But these folks will cheer you up;
Aaron originally wanted to know my thoughts on EW’s 25 “Greatest Hip Hop Albums.” Maybe next week. Read The Bootleg and see why he’s a fan favorite. Nick took the week off.
The Saturday Swindle Sheet was missing this week. Police questioned Avril Lavigne, Fred Durst and Lil’ Jon about the disappearance. No charges have been filed as of press time.
Gordi continues giving you some very important Jazz albums. Psst, Gordi, ixnay on the “essencialsway”
Gloomchen has a high school tale filled with angst, but the good kind. I think.
Tom covers covers. It’s a great column.
Eric makes his official debut at IP. It’s packed with info.
Phil talks about the CD’s I sent him. Three out of four ain’t bad. But give Tip another chance.
Double M is back to form.
MSD pays his respects to ODB.
Ian doesn’t know too much about ODB, but he does have opinions on how The White Stripes should record their next album.
Five Reasons Dr. Dre Should Never Receive a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”
1. The Firm album
2. Inspiring Eminem to “produce.”
3. Dr. Dre Presents”¦The Aftermath
4. Scott Storch produced most of Dre’s recent hits.
5. Mel Man co-produced 2001