Ol' Dirty Bastard: Osirus, the Official Mixtape

Ol' Dirty Bastard
Osirus, the Official Mixtape
JC Records

In top form, the late Ol' Dirty Bastard was your cousin's embarrassingly bombed best man, delivering the greatest wedding toast ever just before collapsing head first, conveniently, into the maid of honor's lap. ODB, a.k.a. Big Baby Jesus, Dirt McGirt, and Russell Jones, was Biz Markie with a gun, an addle-brained natural, a latter-day funkateer, a trimmed-down Falstaff. "I don't have no trouble with you fucking me," he once rapped in a nice summation of much male thought, "but I have a little problem with you not fucking me."

Dirty' s solo debut, 1995's RZA-enhanced Return to the 36 Chambers, is an experimental funk and comedy classic. N***a Please was a relatively more conventional follow-up and more than a little muddled, but still essential listening for freaks of various persuasions. After N***a Please came a two-year prison term and The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones, a cobbled together album that Dirty was barely involved in making (he was sentenced for releasing a lame album--no, not really). Smelling a comeback, Roc-A-Fella Records signed the rapper and made him do studio time with Ludacris, the Neptunes, and his Wu Tang brethren. The attempted comeback was reportedly nearly finished at the time of ODB's death of an accidental overdose last November.

Osirus, the Official Mixtape isn't the comeback album, though some of its tracks must have been cut for the still-to-come Roc-A-Fella outing. Released on a new label run by the rapper's apparently not-too-grief-stricken-for-business mother, Cherry Jones, and his manager, Jarred Weisfeld, Osirus is a collection of unreleased tracks and scraps of unexplained origin. As the "mixtape" subtitle indicates, Osirus is an odds-and-ends affair, not a cohesive statement. Nor is it a splashy posthumous cash-in; it's an unsplashy cash-in, very uneven and short on the rapper's inspired mania. It is, however, appealingly bare-bones, noncommercial, and typically danceable. Enter with modest expectations and you're likely to come out a winner.

As with Trials, some of Osirus appears to be unfinished songs "completed" by contributions from guest rappers. (Trials featured several verses pulled from previous ODB recordings and set to new tracks; I haven't yet spotted any such recycling on Osirus.) It's especially disappointing that Dirty couldn't fully sink his teeth into the hard-as-iron "High in the Clouds," which features Black Rob (ODB nails the chorus with top-form shower singing). Other cuts are more fully ODB's own, and while most merit only a shrug, a few stand with his best. "Pop Shots (Wu-Tang)," produced by DJ Premier, is both skittering and tight. "Dirty Dirty," a bangin' old-school jam produced by Marc Ronson, should lead off your own January '05 mix tape. "Dirty Run," on which our hero is caught in flagrante delicto "ripping off your mama's thong," squeezes some life out of David Bowie's "Fame" and is a fine expression of one piggish wacko's hypercarnality. "Baby, I'm about to explode!" he yowls. Explode in peace, Mr. Jones.

 
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