Ol' Dirty Bastard

The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones

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When he wasn't busy running from the authorities in late 2000, Ol' Dirty Bastard haphazardly recorded vocals for his third album after escaping a court-ordered drug rehab program in Los Angeles. ODB's record label at the time, Elektra, didn't want anything to do with the rapper; in fact, when the infamous Wu-Tang Clan member was convicted of possessing 20 vials of crack-cocaine a few months following his notorious escape from rehab, Elektra released a best-of collection, despite there only being a grand total of only two albums in the ODB catalog. This crafty decision by Elektra partly intended to capitalize on ODB's legal problems while simultaneously ending the label's relationship with the obviously troubled rapper. However, given the lucrative parade of posthumous 2Pac albums in the early 2000s, it wasn't surprising when the crass D-3 label began assembling ODB's third album by any means necessary. First of all, D-3 gathered all the miscellaneous vocals ODB had recorded as a fugitive. Second of all, since there weren't many vocals to work with, let alone many quality vocals, D-3 hired a cast of guests to fill out the album and make the songs more palatable: C-Murder, Mack 10, E-40, Big Syke, Too Short, and more. Last of all, the label brought in the Insane Clown Posse for the album's lead single, "Dirty and Stinkin'," and recorded a hard rock version of the track as well. What all of this adds up to is The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones, a shallow album that substitutes exploitation for substance. Producers like RZA and the Neptunes were key to the success of ODB's past work, no question about yet. The producers on this album unfortunately aren't as talented and don't have as much to work with here. ODB's rhymes are sloppier and more incomprehensible than ever, and the guests do most of the rapping. Furthermore, the 2Pac-esque "Trials and Tribulations" frame is nothing more than a frame; sure, there are many skits where ODB rambles illogically, but you're more likely to hear him narrate defecation -- which, believe it or not, actually takes place late in the album -- than speak rationally. In the end, it was perhaps smart of D-3 to bring in the Insane Clown Posse, since that's precisely the level that ODB has sunken to on this album -- juvenile exploitation for disenchanted suburban white boys. For years, ODB seemed funny, but here the laughter is nowhere to be found, replaced instead by the disheartening reality that the most outlandish member of the Wu-Tang Clan had fallen victim to America's drug war and, subsequently, to crass commercialism.

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