Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB) was born 1968 in Brooklyn, New York as Russell Jones. He and his cousins Robert Diggs (RZA) and Gary Grice (GZA), who all shared a love for rap music and classic martial arts movies, formed the group “Force of the Imperial Master” which eventually became the Wu-Tang Clan.
ODB started his solo career March 28, 1995 with his first solo album “Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version”, which included both hit singles "Brooklyn Zoo" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and reached platinum status.
With his latest album still in the US top ten charts ODB gained notoriety when, while he was being profiled for an MTV biography, he took two of his thirteen children by limousine to a New York State welfare office to pick up his welfare check. The entire incident was filmed by an MTV camera crew and was broadcast nationwide.
In 1997, Ol' Dirty Bastard appeared on the Wu-Tang Clan's second album “Wu-Tang Forever”. He had fewer appearances on this album than the group's debut, contributing to one solo track "Dog Shit", three verses "Maria", "Reunited", "Heaterz", one hook "As High as Wu-Tang Get", and the spoken introduction to “Triumph".
In early 1998 ODB witnessed a car accident from the window of his recording studio in Brooklyn. He and a friend ran to the accident scene and organized about a dozen onlookers, who assisted in lifting the car, rescuing a 4-year-old girl from the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital with first and second degree burns. ODB frequently visited the girl in the hospital until he was spotted by members of the media.
The evening following the traffic accident at the Grammy Awards, Ol' Dirty Bastard rushed on-stage unexpectedly as Shawn Colvin took the stage to give her acceptance speech for Song of the, where he announced that he had purchased expensive clothes in anticipation of winning the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album but instead lost to Puff Daddy. As ODB took the stage to a round of applause, he asked the audience, "Please calm down, the music and everything. It's nice that I went and bought me an outfit today that cost a lot of money today, you know what I mean? 'Cause I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win. I don't know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. You know what I mean? Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best, Okay? I want you all to know that this is ODB, and I love you all. Peace!" This incident was widely covered in the mainstream media.
In 1999, ODB released his second studio album “Nigga Please” with notable commercial success. The album included the hit single “Got Your Money” which gained international chart success. The song was produced by The Neptunes and featured chorus vocals by R&B singer Kelis.
While doing jail time for drug possession in 2001 ODB’s record label Elektra Records made the decision to release a greatest hits album despite the fact that ODB had only released two albums yet. This was clearly an attempt to cash in on the publicity generated by ODB’s legal troubles before cancelling their contract with the artist. After the contract with Elektra was terminated, the label D-3 records released the album “The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones” in 2002, composed of tracks compiled without ODB’s input.
On the day he was released from prison in 2003, with Mariah Carey and Damon Dash by his side, Ol' Dirty Bastard signed with Roc-A-Fella Records. While living at his mother's home under house arrest and with a court-ordered probation, he managed to star in a VH1 special, “Inside Out: Ol' Dirty Bastard On Parole”. He also recorded a new album, originally scheduled to be released through Dame Dash Music Group in 2004; it has since been shelved indefinitely. In October 2004, one month before his death, his last collaboration was with Jon B. on the track, "Everytime" from the album “Stronger Everyday”.
ODB collapsed from a drug overdose at approximately 4:35 p.m. on November 13, 2004, only two days before his 36th birthday at RZA's 36 Chambers recording studio in New York City. He was pronounced dead at 5:04pm. His funeral was held at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center and drew a crowd of thousands.