Russell Jones was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 15, 1968. As Ol’ Dirty Bastard, he rose to fame as part of the Wu-Tang Clan and with his own 1995 debut album, later scoring hits with the tracks “Ghetto Supastar” and the remix of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.” After many arrests, the rapper was placed into rehab and later prison. He died on November 13, 2004, from heartfailure due to an overdose of drugs, at 35.
Russell Tyrone Jones was born in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York, on November 15, 1968. Having had a rough-and-tumble youth, Jones and his cousins Robert Diggs and Gary Grice formed a Hip Hop group that incorporated symbolism from the martial arts films that they loved.
The nine-member group was named the Wu-Tang Clan and went on to be one of the most successful Hip Hop acts of the ’90s. Having a variety of MCs with distinctive aliases (Diggs became RZA, for instance, handling production duties), Wu-Tang spun off an array of solo acts from its debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
Jones took on the moniker Ol’ Dirty Bastard, with the reported implication that there was no sire to his particular brand of rhyming. Also known as ODB, the rapper developed a crazed, free-flowing style that incorporated singing and warbling.
Off the successful launch of Wu-Tang, ODB released his debut solo album, Return to the 36 Chambers. It reached the Top 10 of Billboard’s main albums chart and featured the singles “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo.”
ODB was also known for his shout-out rhymes on the intro and bridge to the remix of Mariah Carey’s 1995 hit “Fantasy”; he later had another hit collaborating on “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are),” with rapper Pras and singer Mýa from the soundtrack of the film Bulworth (1998). The song reached the Top 10 on the R&B chart and Top 20 on the pop chart.
Starting in the fall of 1997, however, Jones faced a number of charges. He was arrested in November for not paying child support for the three children he had with his wife Icelene. The following year, he was shot in the back during a robbery, though the wound was not severe. More arrests followed over the ensuing months, including charges of sneaker theft, missed court dates, public threats of violence to others, traffic violations and drug possession. While Jones’ media antics were often the butt of jokes, there was a terrible, real cost.
By the summer of 1999, it was clear that Jones had an addiction to drugs, and he admitted himself into a rehab facility in New York. Around this time, in September 1999, he released the album N***a Please, which also reached the Billboard Top 10.
After being sentenced to several months of mandatory rehab time, Jones left the Los Angeles facility in the fall of 2000, defying the parameters of said sentence and becoming a fugitive. Eventually he was arrested again, in Philadelphia. In the spring of 2001 he was sentenced to two to four years’ jail time.
Elektra, his record label, released the compilation album The Dirty Story: The Best of Ol’ Dirty Bastard in late summer 2001. The next year, the D-3 label released the album The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones, a project containing some rhymes from Dirty and filled out by additional rappers.
Jones was signed by Roc-A-Fella records upon his release from prison in 2003 and began creation of a new album. Working in the studio in the late afternoon on November 13, 2004, Jones experienced severe chest pain and collapsed. He died two days before his 36th birthday. It was later found that he had accidentally overdosed from a mix of cocaine and the pain medication tramadol.
A documentary on ODB’s life, Dirty: One Word Can Change the World, was released in 2009. As of 2013, two movies on the rapper’s life are slated to be released. One, with a tentative title almost exactly like the documentary’s, focuses on Jones’ youth and his rise to fame. The other, Dirty White Boy, focusing on the rapper’s later years, is slated to feature actor Michael K. Williams from the HBO series The Wire and Boardwalk Empire. ODB’s cousin and Wu-Tang bandmate Diggs is involved with both original films.