Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard Dies Suddenly in New York
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard, whose criminal lifestyle and strange behavior overshadowed his work as one of the founding members of rap collective Wu-Tang Clan, collapsed and died in New York Saturday, his record label said.
The artist, whose real name was Russell Jones, was found in a recording studio complaining of chest pains, a source told Reuters. Paramedics were called but were unable to save him. A label spokeswoman said the cause of death was unknown.
Jones, 35, had a history of drug abuse. But a spokesman said he was clean at the time of his death and had been taking court-mandated drug tests.
“Russell inspired all of us with his spirit, wit, and tremendous heart,” said a statement from Roc-A-Fella Records, the label founded by rapper Jay-Z. “The world has lost a great talent, but we mourn the loss of our friend.”
In the hip-hop genre, where many performers attract the attention of the law and most spare no expense flaunting their extravagant lifestyles, Jones was in a class of his own.
Jones fathered 13 children, according to Blender magazine. His other stage names included Dirt McGirt and Big Baby Jesus, the latter moniker inspired by his belief that “I always been Jesus.”
He was released from a New York state prison in early 2003 after serving almost three years for drug offenses and probation violation, and subsequently received treatment at a mental hospital.
His life on parole was filmed for a documentary broadcast by music cable channel VH1.
Following a 1999 arrest for possession of crack cocaine, he reportedly asked the police to “make the rocks disappear” because it would hurt his standing as a role model. During one of his many court appearances, he called a female prosecutor a “sperm donor.”
His rap sheet also included arrests for making terrorist threats, wearing a bulletproof vest, and involvement in a shootout with police.
In 1998, he stormed the stage during the live telecast of the Grammy Awards to complain that Wu-Tang Clan should have won a prize in part because he went to the trouble of buying an expensive new outfit.
Jones, who was born in the New York borough of Brooklyn, co-founded Wu-Tang Clan with cousins Gary Grice (aka GZA) and Robert Diggs (aka RZA) in 1992.
With the personnel clocking in at nine members, the group released its debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” the following year and it peaked at No. 41 on the U.S. pop album charts. Its 1997 follow-up, “Wu-Tang Forever,” boasting some bizarre ranting by Jones, debuted at No. 1.
Members of the loosely knit group engaged in solo projects, with Jones’ first effort, “Return to the 36 Chambers,” peaking at No. 7 in early 1995. In 1999, “Nigga Please” peaked at No. 10.
A spokesman said Jones had almost completed a new album.
In addition to his children, Jones is survived by his mother, Cherry Jones, who said in a statement that her son was the “kindest, most generous soul on Earth.”