For the 20th anniversary of ODB's seminal album 'Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version,' we've rounded up 9 little-known facts that shed light on the record's importance then and now.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of ODB's debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. Having first captured listener's attention on Wu-Tang's solo group offering, many were struck by his rugged style and relentless energy that to this day is evidenced in contemporaries like Danny Brown, Tyler, The Creator and more. To mark the event, we've gathered 10 tidbits that shed a little bit of light on the various aspects of the album's creation as well as the antics that seemingly always surrounded ODB's outlandish lifestyle.
Richard Pryor's voice is the first thing you hear on "Shimmy Shimmy Ya"
Richard Pryor's comedy album That N****** Crazy was recorded live at Don Cornelius' Soul Train nightclub in early 1974 and went on to win the Grammy for Best Comedy Album the same year. Utilized in the intro to ODB's song, the original joke is called "Have your ass home by 11:00."
It was the second solo studio album from the Wu-Tang Clan
On their classic, debut album, Enter the 36 Chambers, Method Man and GZA have the distinction of being the only members to have their own songs ("Method Man" and "Clan in the Front") - with Masta Killa only appearing on one track, "Da Mystery of Chessboxin." It was no surprise that Method Man was the first Clan member to get a solo album - 1994's Tical. But it was rather surprising that ODB was next in line considering he only had four verses on their debut album.
Two days after the album was released, MTV aired a controversial segment
Despite having secured a $45,000 USD advance from Elektra Records for the album, ODB still believed he was entitled to reap the benefits of the welfare system. Two days after the album was released, MTV aired a segment that saw him cash a welfare check for $375 USD dollars and also pick up food stamps. ODB said, "The people that want to cut off the welfare, man, I think that's terrible. You know how hard it is for people to live without nothin'? You owe me 40 acres and a mule anyway. For real. I'm in this rap game to get money .... I got babies. It's time to take care of my babies."
After his case worker saw the MTV segment, he was promptly stripped of his benefits. ODB responded on the song "Diesel" by rapping, "To the president, you say I'm a welfare fraud/You motherfucking right! Let's burn this dark house white!"
The first single, "Brooklyn Zoo" has a dual meaning
While many have come to understand the title refers to ODB's upbringing in Brooklyn, it's also an homage to a Wu-Tang affiliate, Brooklyn Zu, that was comprised of Merdoc, Raison the Zoo Keeper, 12 O'Clock, Buddha Monk, and Shorty Shitstain.
Two Wu-Tang members didn't appear on the album
Featuring an array of guests like Killah Priest, Prodigal Sunn, Brooklyn Zu, Buddha Monk, and his fellow Clan affiliates, the only two official Clan members not to appear were U-God and Inspectah Deck.
The iconic cover art was created by Brett Kilroe
Having served as Vice President of RCA Music Group and now currently the Creative Director for the Kings of Leon, Brett Kilroe also holds the distinction of designing the cover for Ol' Dirty's first album. Greg Burke, the VP Creative Director at Atlantic Records, said of the cover, "Visually, it's an impactful cover. Plus, no one at the time had ever thought to put such a personal item of theirs on the cover. Sure, we had seen family pics of artists, and pics of them as children, but to use your public assistance card was a glimpse of creative brilliance. Though this album didn't influence any of the work I've done, it did inspire me to think outside the norm. I'm sure in today's current music climate this kind of album would be impossible to pull off because of all the people who would be saying things like, 'This is clowning our artist' or 'He doesn't look good in this picture.' So for me this will always be on my top ten list."
RZA & GZA allegedly wrote most of the lyrics
According to HipHopDX, Method Man stated that most of ODB'd lyrics were penned by RZA and GZA. "The majority of the verses on that album are old RZA rhymes and GZA rhymes,” he said. “’Approach the school, 9:30, you’re late,’ that’s RZA’s shit. I heard that shit when I was 14 years old. That whole, ‘Easy on my balls, they’re fragile as eggs,’ ni**as said that in a rap battle in fucking 1989. Dirty took all their shit and made it his own and GZA ain’t say shit,” he continued. “Most of [Dirty’s verses] was GZA’s shit. I remember GZA and ODB got in an argument one night and GZA was like, ‘N**ga most of that shit you say on your fucking album is mines anyway!'”
ODB Performed "Brooklyn Zoo" on what was then the "Jon Stewart Show"
While we all know him as the host of the The Daily Show, there was a two year period where Jon Stewart hosted his own show on MTV - with many viewing him as many as a potential successor to David Letterman who at the time was moving from NBC to CBS. Boasting a number of notable musical guests including The Notorious B.I.G. who performed "Big Poppa" on the show as well as Marilyn Manson who trashed the stage, it also served as a platform for ODB to show off his talents as a solo act.
During the recording of the album, the F.B.I. was investigating both ODB and the Wu-Tang Clan
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, Rich Jones was able to file a petition that made the F.B.I. turn over any materials they had on ODB after his death. In turn, almost 100 pages of documents were released alleging things like, "The detectives have documented, in their case files, that the WTC [Wu-Tang Clan] is heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, car jackings, and other types of violent crimes..."