Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who lived a life as wild as his lyrics, collapsed and died inside a recording studio today (Nov. 13). He was 35. The artist, whose real name was Russell Jones, had complained of chest pains before collapsing at the Manhattan studio, according to a statement from his label, Roc-A-Fella Records.
Jones, who was also known variously as Dirt McGirt or Big Baby Jesus, was a founding member of iconic hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan in the early 1990s. With his offbeat, unorthodox delivery, he segued into a successful solo career and released several hit singles, including 1999’s “Got Your Money.”
But he was frequently in trouble with the law, mostly for drug possession. In February 1998, he crashed the stage at the Grammy Awards and hijacked a microphone from singer Shawn Colvin as she accepted an award, apparently upset over losing the best rap album Grammy to Puff Daddy. Later that year, he was wounded in a shooting during a robbery in his apartment.
In 2001 he was sentenced to two to four years in prison for drug possession plus two concurrent years for escaping from a rehab clinic. He was released in 2003 and immediately signed with Roc-A-Fella, for which he’d been at work on a new album.
ODB would have turned 36 on Monday. “To the public he was known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard but to me he was known as Rusty,” his mother, Cherry Jones, said in a statement. “The kindest most generous soul on earth. I appreciate all of the support and prayers that I have received. Russell was more then a rapper he was a loving father, brother, uncle and most of all son.”
“All of us in the Roc-A-Fella family are shocked and saddened by the sudden and tragic death of our brother and friend, Russell Jones, Ol’ Dirty Bastard,” said Roc-A-Fella CEO Damon Dash. “Russell inspired all of us with his spirit, wit and tremendous heart. He will be missed dearly, and our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences go out to his wonderful family. The world has lost a great talent, but we mourn the loss of our friend.”
The Wu-Tang Clan reactivated this summer for its first show with all of its principal members in 10 years. Several of them, including ODB, appear on the soundtrack to “Blade: Trinity,” due Nov. 23 via New Line Records. The group is also the subject of the book “The Wu-Tang Manual,” which is in production via Riverhead.