Russell Jones was a unique soul, never destined to fit within society’s constrictions. He was unpredictable, often unreliable and always genuine. As Ol’ Dirty Bastard, he warped the definition of a rapper. With his missing teeth, crazed expression and half slurred, half shouted rhyme style, Jones was never anything other than himself.
ODB’s best friend Buddah Monk was there on and off camera. They spent more time together than anyone besides their parents. Since they were 10 and 11 year’s old, Buddha had Dirty’s back. They laughed, made music, fought, travelled and partied together. Monk acted as security, co-produced songs, took ODB to interviews, watched his money and helped in family matters.
Buddha and writer Micky Hess released novel The Dirty Version to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s death, late last year.
While several unauthorised books exist, The Dirty Version is the first in-depth biography on ODB from someone who actually knew him.
Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book.
“Most of the major events in his life that people remember, I was there. You’ve heard the stories. Dirty once picked up his food stamps in a limousine, Dirty lifted a burning car off a four year old girl in Brooklyn, Dirty was kicked out of rehab for getting drunk, Dirty stole a fifty dollar pair of sneakers while on tour – and he had five hundred dollars in his pocket. It seems like everybody’s telling a story instead of telling the true story. Dirty was a loving brother, a caring friend, and a very supportive father to his children. Even on his bad days, no matter how bad he was, tomorrow would come and it was hard to stay mad at him, because that’s just who he was. It wasn’t a character. It was him.”
I talked to Buddha for over an hour discussing the book and Dirty’s life. We covered ODB’s time growing up in Brooklyn, his relationship with RZA, how he parented 13 children and the tragedy of his death, partly caused by ODB’s heart-breaking stint in jail where he was given sedatives and under constant physical threat. — Jimmy Ness
In The Dirty Version, you described ODB’s family as hard working, educated and musically talented. They would play records outside of their building and party. His uncles were dancers and his mother, Miss Cherry, was an amazing singer.
Right. There used to be a time when he didn’t even want to do music, he just loved hearing it and singing with his family. When he got with RZA and everybody, when his cousins and little nephews and everybody started talking, they got him more interested in becoming an entertainer. At first him and me used to rap and DJ, and we didn’t think we were going to do something big like this.
ODB’s whole family can sing. He was a comedy fan and he developed his unhinged style because he wasn’t the best singer, but he wanted to create a sound incorporating his sense of humor.
It actually became one of the monstrous things in hip-hop, making something sound so good, but at the same time funny. It became like he was one of the best entertainers and on top of that he made you laugh, you never know what he was capable of doing next.
What was Dirty like as a kid?
We were the type of kids who would hang around the block, sing, take 40s out of the store and sit on the stoop watching uncle Freddy and everyone dance and party. He had a loving family, see he didn’t come from a broken home. He came from a home where everybody was considered family whether you were real family or not. If you sat on the same stoop as me you were considered my family. If I ate an ice cream or ate pizza with you, you were considered my family. He didn’t discriminate or hate anyone. He had love for everybody.
Even when ODB was earning a lot of money, he didn’t want to be a fake celebrity and he wasn’t always comfortable in the spotlight. Do you think that’s why he didn’t like doing videos and interviews?
I don’t think it’s that he didn’t want to do any interviews or anything like that, I think Dirty felt like he was being used by the industry. It’s like they give you this little bit of money, but they want you to do so much work to make them millions and you only make scraps. You go home with maybe $250,000 while they go home with $10 million. In that sense, he made up this word “pupperize.” He didn’t want to be “pupperized” by the industry.
Was there ever a racist element to the way he was portrayed in the media?
I wouldn’t say racist. I would say a disturbing force in the chain of command, in how this world works. They thought – what he does, nobody will have control of it and if we don’t lock his ass up then everybody in the world is going to think they are able to do anything that he can do. They couldn’t let one person show “Hey I’m free. No matter what you do to me. No matter what you do to my heart, my soul or the way I move my feet, I’m free at heart and I won’t let nobody chain me down.” So the only thing they could do is poison his thoughts and stop him from being this great entertainer that everybody loves so much.
In the book, you said ODB taking a limo to pick up food stamps was misunderstood. Dirty didn’t do it to brag that he was still receiving money from the government and getting away with it. He did that to show he was proud of where he came from and there was no shame in collecting welfare, but politicians used him as a scapegoat for welfare reform.
Yeah and everybody else took it like he was trying to take from the government and didn’t care. When he actually did that, he had just got the [record] deal. The deal wasn’t even finalised, he didn’t even receive checks. They were already doing video drops and stuff on Dirty before he had even got any money or signed the ink for the deal, but it was just to get the hype ready to show he was about to become a major artist and that he was going to be travelling all over the world. So he was like “for the time being and until all this happens, I’m going to take my family in this limousine and show them how we are living until I become a successful star.” So he showed himself taking food stamps.
ODB’s time in prison broke his spirit and he was never the same since. He was afraid of going in and received death threats before even being locked away.
Dirty wasn’t a scaredy cat. If Dirty told you somebody was trying to do something to him, I would believe him. I would not take it for granted for one second that nobody was trying to kill him or hurt him, because if I go to see you in jail and you have a broken arm or a bruised face or your leg is bruised and you got something wrapped around your finger, then obviously somebody in the jail did it. He didn’t do it to himself. In the newspaper they never said that he inflicted any injuries on himself and yet he was always found with injuries.
He feared the correctional officers and said they were corrupt.
The correctional officers were the main ones doing stuff to him, because they felt like “oh, you’re ODB so you think you’re going to get special privileges here. We’re going to show you how we treat people here. You are just like everybody else, you are our fucking dog.”
He felt betrayed his own cousins rarely came to see him, RZA only visited a few times and the rest of the Wu Tang never came except Method Man.
Because he realised that if one of them went to jail or got in trouble, Dirty would have been there every day for them. They know that. So why if Dirty’s gunna be there every day for ya’ll, how come ya’ll isn’t going there every day for him? There’s no way in the world that you’re RZA and people have seen you on TV making a million dollars, you get in every club with no problem, that the jail system is not going to realise that. If it was Mariah Carey going to see Dirty they would make sure they got Mariah Carey in to see him as fast as possible. So if they would do that for Mariah Carey, why couldn’t they do that for fucking RZA, see what I’m saying? If Damon Dash went to see him, why couldn’t RZA? Why would RZA claim they went and nobody would ever let them in? You’re just as known as Damon Dash and Mariah Carey, if not more RZA? You got albums that went platinum and nobody going to know that you’re the RZA and that you’re coming to see Ol’ Dirty Bastard? It’s bullshit, so that’s why he felt bad about it.
Did you ever say anything to RZA?
Nope, the only concern for me was to keep making sure that Dirty was okay, that’s all that mattered. That’s how I wound up talking to Jarred and getting Jarred to help get Dirty out.
In The Dirty Version, Buddha says that before prison, ODB was abusing cocaine and suffering from PTSD as a result of the various attacks on his life. Instead of rehabilitating him, prison doctors forced Dirty to take anti-psychotics that made him gain about 35 pounds. One of the medications was Haldol, which is known for severe side effects and rarely prescribed in private practice, but still used in prisons because it’s cheap. Dirty claimed he was so sedated that inmates would punch him and his reflexes were too slow to protect himself.
ODB was severely affected by medicine he was being prescribed and struggled to record music once he left prison. During his post-jail press conference he seems dazed.
When me and Jarred would go see him, we’d be having a conversation then all of sudden he’d say something to the left and I’m like “Dirty what happened man? This wasn’t you before you went to jail?” And he’s like “I know nigga, it’s that shit that they are putting in me man. That’s why ya’ll niggaz gotta get me the fuck out of here. Listen Jarred, Buddah, you both have to get me the fuck out of here.” We were the ones that helped get him out, but when it came to the world knowing, they made it like Damon Dash, Jarred, Dirty, Moms and everybody else. Buddha was just somebody sitting in the car like everybody else, making it look like I was happy to see him like I didn’t have nothing to do with him getting out.
ODB’s manager Jarred Weisfeld has been painted negatively in the press, but you said he was one of the few people that looked out for him in his last years.
Jarred was the best person for Dirty. Let me tell you something just to take it further, it was me telling Jarred what not to do. Do not let them change your mind, do not listen to what they think is best. You do it Jarred and trust me. If they try to make him go a certain way and do a certain thing, do not have him connected with them because they are going to try to tell him to do it differently from what you are doing Jarred so just stay on your agenda. Do not listen to anybody.
Jarred had a few reality shows in the works for Dirty.
The reality show was like I had a couple of girls, that would do anything. We would be having girls come through the crib. You would see girls walking around naked. You would be seeing us doing music, chilling, getting with entertainers, hanging out. We had one of the DeBarge brothers singing with me and Dirty in the park. We was doing that, we were also doing his every day life. Getting up, going to the studios, hanging out with his family. There was stuff at his mother’s house. Everybody else is doing [reality show] stuff right now, I’m talking about like husbands or housewives with Kevin Hart and everybody else. Dirty and me were first. We got the first deal and was already doing that, but once he passed, Jarred never put it out. We still got all the footage from that show. Spike TV still got the footage they just never put it out.
What about “Stuck On Dirty” where a guy was literally chained to ODB?
Whoever won this contest, they would be chained Dirty for the whole day, do everything that Dirty did. They would go to the studio, rap together. The only time this thing would really come off was when they would take a shower, Dirty would take his shower then he would take his shower. They put their clothes on, but when they get to the mirror they finish their hair, they brush their teeth together, walk around the city and shit, chained. You would be chained to Dirt Dog for a day to see what his life was about. No matter how bad it got, you couldn’t escape because you were in handcuffs. Spike TV still has the footage.
How did Dirty handle having a rumoured 13 children from multiple women?
When he wasn’t working, he always wanted to be with all of his kids. He would take them to the movies. Days when we were supposed to be working we would have to stop at his different baby mother’s houses from here to Jersey. He would take them food. Take them sneakers and clothes. Take them out and make the mother’s feel good. He was always trying to figure out a way to make all of the baby mother’s understand that he had different kids with them. He wasn’t trying to play them. He would still want to be in their lives as well as being in the other baby mother’s lives. It wasn’t like he would be having sex with one girl and would tell the other girl he wasn’t having sex. He would tell them “you know I’m Ol’ Dirty Bastard. You know other girls are going to be with me. So you just need to accept how this is going down or you can leave me alone. But at the same time, I don’t want you to take my kids away.” So when the girls can’t get what they want out of it, they would try get money. They would see him on TV with a lot of money and would try get child support.
Did a lot of the women accept the situation?
Most of them, yeah. I think the only one that it hurt was his wife because I don’t think Shaquita would sign up for something like that. She’s a great woman, regardless of how anybody else looked at her. She fed me. I had a lot of complications with my cribs and I would move and live with them. She looked at me like her brother. She knew I was always there for Dirty and his best interests. So she didn’t like [the other relationships], she knew and had her little disagreements with him. At the same time, she was an earth [Mother of his children] and that’s something in our [Five Percent Nation] lessons and everything. She knew that he was capable of being that way, but she still stuck around. It wasn’t like she left him. They started breaking up after I think he got locked up.
ODB was paranoid about his women being taken away from him, He was quite protective of them.
Well, let me tell you something about the “paranoid” situation. You would get paranoid if someone is trying to kill you all the time. You’re getting shot at. You know you haven’t done nothing to nobody. You know you ain’t robbed nobody. You know it’s nothing from your childhood. This is something new and you didn’t have nothing to do with it. It’s not really paranoia. It’s being fearful when someone is trying to take your life for no reason. It makes you upset and makes you stay on point to make sure nobody is taking a shot at you. You would look paranoid, but of course I would look paranoid if someone is shooting at me for no reason. Now the situation with his wives, him being paranoid about that, he wasn’t paranoid. That was just Dirty. I would consider that more insecure of the fact that somebody might try talk to his girl behind his back, but he was willing to talk to everybody else’s girl behind their back. Not our girlfriends, but like other dudes. You don’t know if that girl has a man, so you’ll try kick it to this girl and she might still come out with you to spend time. So what you do unto others, you have to be careful it might be done back to you. He didn’t personally try to mess with other people’s women, but he told me one thing that I’ve always remembered, “Never let your woman go.” Even if they aren’t yours anymore or whatever the case may be “Never let your woman go.”
In the book, you mention how you were constantly keeping track of Dirty. From making sure he made appointments to keeping him out of prison, it was a full time job. Did anyone ever thank you? RZA, or even Busta Rhymes, the latter who you helped collaborate with ODB?
Never. To this day I still see them and neither one of them, nobody has ever said “You know what Buddha? I appreciate all that you have done. I appreciate everything you did for Dirty. Thank you. I appreciate everything that you did for me, Buddha.” Not Busta Rhymes, none of them. You know when you go around it’s not like they won’t offer me to come sit down and drink Champagne with them at the table, but that’s not like a thank you, you know?
You put a lot of work into co-producing ODB’s albums and never received credit. RZA was being sued at one point over royalties?
Yeah, because there was a lot of stuff that I helped with and that I should have got my royalties from and Elektra would wind up giving them to RZA. RZA, he moved the vocal, he didn’t produce the track, putting Dirty’s vocals on the track is not producing the music. That’s producing a vocal. So he would take money out of my royalties for producing the music.
Money management wasn’t Dirty’s strong point. Did you feel like people were using him?
Of course. 100%. Always. You know we live in a world where there’s always someone trying to use somebody. Unfortunately, Dirty had a heart of gold and people tried to use him every day. I think that’s a reason he kept me around because I wouldn’t allow it. I would watch his back, make sure he didn’t lose his money. Make sure people don’t steal his stuff. People didn’t really like the fact that I was always with him, but his mother and every body was happy that I was with him because she knew I would keep her son safe.
It sounds like he spent so much money on other people. He let members of Brooklyn Zu take his cars and they would crash them.
Well, they all share each other’s stuff. They did a lot of sharing, but at the same time, there was stuff he did say “hey, don’t touch it” and then when he was gone they would touch it anyway and he would come back like “hey, why do you all have my stuff?” He would say a lot “yeah, my family steals from me all the time.” For him, he didn’t really go too crazy about people taking stuff from him because you know why? It was his family taking it from him and they were wearing it and not trying to hide it from him or something like that. He just felt like “yo, that’s something I wanted to wear. I wanted to keep it personal for myself and now ya’ll niggas has got it.” He didn’t really like that, but I guess he settled for it.
Dirty never held back from showing appreciation to other rappers.
Yeah, Dirty was always the type to show love to artists. Even when he did the song with Pras and Mya, he just walked up into the station. They were already in the studio recording and he walked up in there by accident and when he saw them he was like “Nah man I want to get on this song, I’m not leaving until I get on it” and they wound putting him on the song. That was just him. He showed love to everybody. There wasn’t nobody he didn’t like in the industry, there were some people he couldn’t rap with. He loved LL Cool J, but he just couldn’t do a song with LL Cool J.
Did he turn down a song with LL?
Yeah, he actually turned the song down and they wound up putting Method Man and Redman on the song. The one where LL had the whole symphony of different rappers on it. Dirty was the first one that LL asked to be on it, but we stayed in the studio for two days and Dirty was like “I don’t know what it is man, I can’t do a song with LL, I just can’t.” So Dirty wouldn’t do it. [The song is “4, 3, 2, 1” from the album Phenomenon]
How did ODB feel about Puff Daddy? I don’t think he disliked him, but he frequently mentions him in interviews as someone he could never be like.
Puff Daddy was considered an entertainer. He’s not really a rapper or professional artist. Everybody knew that about Puffy. We thought he was just being a businessman. Dirty is more loved by the people because he’s a true artist. He’d be in the streets, he’d hang out with people, he would go places. He’d be in the ghetto and while everyone else was at the awards or something, he’d be in the hood just hanging around with people standing around on the block having 40s. There were times that he should have been in the studio where he just wanted to show love to the people in the streets. He was the type of person where he knew he was big, but you know what, he figured out something different from everybody else. If the president was walking through every hood and every city and every block all year round, then when the elections come he would probably have unlimited votes for him as the president. Because he doesn’t really come out and has to be protected all the time, he can’t do that. Dirty didn’t want that kind of life, he wanted to be able to reach out to masses and hang out in the hood. That’s how he wound up being in the hood when that little girl was under that car that was on fire and he helped lift the car off her, understand what I’m saying? His notoriety was about taking it to the streets. That’s what he did, he got his ideas from being in the streets and talking to the people and hearing “”hey Dirty you should do this on a song” “Yo, you know what me and my homie were talking about? How about if you were walking around with a pamper on or something like that?” You know he would think about it and you would see it on a show or awards, should he decide to put out that little thought that someone in the streets gave him. That helped create the Ol’ Dirty Bastard that people loved and it worked for him.
Do you feel like part of Wu Tang died with ODB?
I think so. Dirty kept it together because no matter what, even when everybody was always fighting, Dirty was the voice of opinion and the reason for everybody to continue to stay together and to make it right. RZA and GZA valued Dirty’s opinion on the music industry a lot. Dirty was giving them the ideas that would make it so big, more than everyone else and once they lost that element, it meant the music lost that element and if your music loses that element then you lose what could have been even a better album. Certain songs that were on this album, I don’t think Dirty would have ever let them put those songs out. He probably would have cursed them niggas out until they changed it, that’s what Dirty did or he didn’t show up.
Everybody loved Dirty. Wu Tang Clan had a problem with always fighting on stage and in the streets and shit, but the funny parts of what would happen at the fights was when Dirty was there when it was taking place and then everybody would be like “man, no matter what, I love Dirty. No matter how that shit went down or what happened, I still love that nigga Dirty.” I think with him still being alive, they would have been at a higher plateau than they are now.
In Dirty’s final days he told people including his mother Cherry that he would die soon.
Yeah, well you know how much your body, mind and soul can take as a person and as a human being. I can tell certain days when my body is starting to hurt more than usual. If I feel heavier than I normally do because I have a burden on my heart or my thoughts. You try to cope with it, but after a while you just feel like you’re just tired. You don’t want to be bothered no more. Your heart and soul have a tendency to give up and don’t want to do things and that’s the worst time to give up because that means you’re slipping into a state of unawareness. You have to be man enough to be able to fight that and to keep fighting. Dirty did that and I was one of the reasons why because I would stay on him. I would ask him questions like “How long are we going to keep doing this for?” and he would be like “Yo, we going to keep doing this until we’re like 70. I said “word, like 70?” He would be like “yeah man, let’s do it.” Nobody expected the things to happen the way they happened and everybody would say “it’s just an overdose.” It was actually a mixture of things. It was him taking a pill [tramadol] and him having a bag [cocaine] inside his stomach. Both of those chemicals caused a reaction that made him die. He didn’t deliberately try to take an overdose. It wasn’t like he was sitting at a table and started to sniff his life away in the last moment and couldn’t stop. It was a freak accident.
What made him stop taking the medication he was being given?
Dirty went cold turkey. They wanted to him to continue to take his paranoid medication and all that shit when he got out and Dirty was like “that shit isn’t doing anything but making me fatter. It’s slowing me down and making me not be able to function the way I want to function with doing music and everything.” So when Dirty went cold turkey, everybody started seeing the real him come back. Here’s a drug that would make you feel like relaxing and feel like you’re high all the time. Who wants to be high all the damn time like yo, there’s gotta be some days in your life that you’ve got to be able to be in society without feeling like you’re high. This was some shit that they were trying to give him to the rest of his life to try and make him seem like he’s paranoid and they tried to make him really believe that he needed these pills, but check it out he never needed them fucking shits before he went in there so why the fuck does he need them when he get’s out?
Many of those prescription drugs are illegal now?
Some are legal. Some are illegal. Again it’s the government setting the rules because too many of their kids are getting caught with those same fucking drugs that were the killers of us and now it’s killing their own fucking kids.
How is Dirty’s mother Cherry Jones?
She’s doing good. I talked to her yesterday. She lives in Florida now. She has a nice big crib and she’s living good out there. She’s happy. She told me any time I’m in town to just come. I’ve got a bedroom. I’ve got food. I don’t need to worry about going anywhere to do no work, no cooking, no nothing. Just come home whenever I’m ready. Even I need a break from music or anything I can just come to her house, no matter what.
Do you still keep in touch with Jarred?
Of course, Jarred was the first one to congratulate me about the book and the first person to buy a copy.
Are you involved in the ODB movie?
Well, there’s two different ones. There’s one that Jarred’s doing about when he became his manager and I’m supposed to be in that one. Raison who is doing this new movie, he actually reached out to me two days ago and said that he wants me to be in the movie. I saw a couple pieces of the trailer and it’s got Young Dirty Bastard in it. It’s coming together pretty good and by the grace of god, I hope everything turns out to be successful with it. I know once it does come out the world is going to be very surprised because it’s totally different from everything you’ve seen on television.
What happened with the shooting incident in 1999? Two officers fired eight shots at ODB after stopping his car. He was later cleared by a grand jury and they found no shell casings or weapons belonging to him.
What happened was him and 60 Second Assassin were in the car driving. They were on their way to the studio and they ran past this light. They didn’t run a red light, the light just went green as they were driving through. The cops saw a car that identified as one that apparently was shooting at the cops before. So seeing as they thought it was the car, they started shooting for the simple fact that in their minds this was the car that just shot at the cops. So instead of pulling the car over and asking questions they just started firing on Dirty. So Dirty gave them a high-speed chase, they finally were caught by some cops that didn’t shoot and locked up. The cops came to find out that they weren’t the ones that actually did the shooting. So the case got dismissed, they [ODB etc] tried to sue them, but the cops claimed they were fired immediately after shooting at them, so they couldn’t even get the lawsuit. But I heard it’s still in court for him to get money for that situation, which I think will go to the kids.
The police in that era were well known for harassing rappers.
Of course. Every time we turned around whether we were in the street or we were doing shows. There would be police standing inside our shows. They would say things like “I’m telling you, if he takes his shirt off, we’re locking him up.” “Or if these girls get up there and start trying to grab on him and everything, we’re locking you up because you should have more control.” But why would you lock us up when the security is supposed to be keeping kids off stage? They have nothing to do with us. One time we were performing and Dirty had taken both his pants and shirt off and started dancing and rapping and the police shut all of the power off.
That must have been a pretty frightening time, were you scared?
Nah, I was more the guy who kept him [ODB] thinking positive. I would keep his head level about situations. I wasn’t just his producer. I was his brother. I was the one person who he looked up to for questions and answers for his music. I was also the person that if he wasn’t talking to Popa Wu or RZA and them, he would talk with me. Like we would take the cars from the venues after the show and leave the rest of the Clan, and me and him would ride back to New York while the Clan would take the truck if Dirty got tired of waiting for them. We would be on the bus, riding at the back talking about what we wanted to do in this industry with the music and the things we wanted to do. I never feared it because you know what, it comes with the turf of changes in life. Basically when I saw the Michael Jackson movie and The Temptations movie, how people were rushing them, I figured okay this could be happening to us at any moment and I was already prepared for it.