Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Return to the 36 Chambers: Deluxe Edition (Get On Down)

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Based on packaging alone, Get On Down’s deluxe edition reissue of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s first solo album is a winner. Remove the plastic cover and you’ll find an embarrassment of Ol’ Dirty paraphernalia, including a laminated O.D.B. food-stamp card, an oversized wallet, a Return to the 36 Chambers sticker, a poster, and an expanded version of the original liner notes.

Now for the music. Released in 1995, back when The Wu-Tang Clan could do no wrong, Return to the 36 Chambers showcased the many sides of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, aka Dirt McGirt and about a million other nicknames. Whatever side of his personality he was showcasing, Ol’ Dirty did it to the extreme. When he plays the role of the street tough on tracks like “Brooklyn Zoo” and “Snakes”, he’s the scariest guy to ever terrorize the streets of the ghetto. When he’s rapping about how horny he is on “Don’t You Know” and “The Stomp”, there’s no beating around the bush – the man is looking to make some babies. Whether rhyming about killing, sex, or partying, his rhyme flow was always unique. Method Man claims that the man born Russell Tyrone Jones was given the name Ol’ Dirty Bastard because there was “no father to his style” and that’s a bold statement, but it’s completely true. His cadence slips and slides like a drunk trying to walk a straight line, and he skips back and forth between rapping on the beat, crooning, shouting, and just about every other form of grunt and groan you could imagine. If you’re not paying close attention you might be fooled into thinking he’s just some drunk and stoned clown haphazardly throwing out lyrics according to whatever impulses he happened to have while the tape was rolling. Listen closer, and you’ll hear a high level of art and talent in what he did, and the proof can be heard on the a capella version of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” found on Disc 2 which removes the beats (worth noting that Return to the 36 Chambers has perhaps the rawest and grimiest beats The RZA ever laid down), showing the method behind the madness in the raps.

My only complaint is that, for a package that paid such close attention to detail, they left the original version of “Give It To Ya Raw” from the “Brooklyn Zoo” single off for some reason, settling for the SD50 remix of the song. It’s a good remix, but why not include both? Forgetting about that minor oversight, this is an essential slice of classic New York rap. Buy it.