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Ol' Dirty Bastard: The Trials And Tribulations Of Russell Jones

Album: The Trials And Tribulations Of Russell Jones
Label: D3

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Arriving at the height of Ol' Dirty Bastard's drug-fueled notoriety, 1999's N**** Please was either an avant-garde masterpiece that challenged traditional concepts of what constitutes rap music, a self-indulgent mess, or a cry for help disguised as an unhinged rap album. No matter how it was viewed, it at least boasted the production skills of Wu-Tang Clan mastermind RZA and The Neptunes, whose work on "Got Your Money" helped launch the production team's ascent to stardom. It also boasted Elektra's marketing and distribution resources, which is more than can be said of ODB's independently released third album. The Trials And Tribulations Of Russell Jones looks like it was slapped together by students in a remedial Introduction To Hip-Hop Marketing course, starting with a cover that folds out into a blurry, out-of-focus "poster" of ODB. A mercenary, creepy endeavor, Russell Jones trades N**** Please's big-name producers for no-name talent whose work here suggests that they're likely to remain unknown. Though the rapper is currently in prison, Russell Jones feels disconcertingly like a slapped-together posthumous album, right down to its phoned-in cameos and abundant padding. Even RZA, who has a depressing tendency to slap his name on everything short of cockfighting videos, has steered clear, leaving the path open for bottom-feeders like Insane Clown Posse, whose "Dirty And Stinkin'" appears twice—the second time in a rock-leaning remix even worse than the original. But ICP's little-awaited teaming with hip-hop's raging id isn't the album's only bit of padding. The surprisingly solid E-40/C-Murder/ODB collaboration "Anybody" likewise gets the remix treatment, while "C'Mon" inexplicably finds ODB reciting the lyrics from his first album's "Baby C'mon" over an awful new beat. Even in the worst of circumstances, however, the rapper's madness leaves its mark, and for all its flaws, Russell Jones still maintains a strange sort of train-wreck appeal. As a modern-day folk hero, ODB has earned a permanent place in the annals of pop-culture history, but Russell Jones seems unlikely to serve as more than a footnote to his increasingly sad tale.