Just over four years ago, the mad Wu-Tang affiliated rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard (Russell Jones to his mother) met an untimely end, collapsing on a studio floor two days short of his 36th birthday. His complicated legacy--the fragmented clan he left behind, the wild antics he became famous for, and the bewildered fans who remain--has become the subject of a book by onetime Voice writer Jaime Lowe. Part bio, part book-length critical essay, Digging For Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB is an unlikely examination of an unbelievably complicated life. The book comes out today; we caught up with Lowe to mark the occasion.
So why ODB?
I would say it started with seeing him at CMJ [at the Knitting Factory, in 2003]. And kind of being well aware of the trajectory of his public persona, and of his general self-destructive and bizarre antics. And then seeing him put onstage in a way that was really mortifying, because he was so clearly gutted of any life or sense of himself and was up there as this kind of shell. I don't know if you were at the show.
It was like--he was slack-jawed, he was crying, he was not actually rapping, he was just sort of--his mouth was open, and [Wu-affiliate] Buddha Monk was rapping in back of him. And it was one of the most disturbing things that I think I've ever seen. I was really interested in trying to figure out how he had gone from this incredibly vibrant presence in hip-hop to this really destroyed soul.More »