If you’ve listened to the Wu-Tang Clan at all, you’re surely familiar with the late Russell Tyrone Jones, AKA Ol’ Dirty Bastard, AKA ODB, AKA Big Baby Jesus, AKA Dirt McGirt. He introduced himself to the world with the second track of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), “Shame On A Nigga”, and didn’t look back. But over time, his batshit antics (anybody remember “Wu-Tang is for the children”? He was hijacking the stage years before Taylor Swift got Kanye’d!!) and constant legal troubles (it seemed that he was either in jail, or supposed to be in jail and on the run) became just as notable as his actual music, if not a little more. The second of these issues - the legal problems - resulted in him becoming less and less prominent on Wu albums until he died of a drug overdose in ‘04. Right now I’ll be taking a look at his second (and final) solo album, 1999’s Nigga Please.
Since this is an Ol’ Dirty Bastard album, the fact that it’s weird as hell isn’t too surprising. But Nigga Please (Black Man Is God, White Man Is the Devil) is so weird, so high-as-a-kite-circling-the-International-Space-Station, so fucked up, and so irreverent that there’s really nothing like it. This isn’t an album a critic can just sum up neatly with a quick “If you liked [Insert Album Here], you’ll love Nigga Please!” I guess you could say it’s like ODB’s debut Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, but even then it’s a bit different.
What is Nigga Please like? Well… it’s like a cross between Return to the 36 Chambers and a Rick James album starring a homeless version of Rick James who got reeeeally drunk and stoned before going into the studio (he even covers Rick James on here!). Really, that’s the best way I can describe Nigga Please without using the overused phrase “This dude was completely fucking nuts”.
I don’t even hardly want to call this a rap album. Though RZA and the Neptunes produced some of the tracks, ODB was in a whole different zone at the time - meaning, really fucking high. That’s what gives it a great sort of 60’s soul, 70’s funk vibe. You know James Brown would have cussed like this if he could have got away with it, Curtis Mayfield woulda held it up as an example of the debilitating powers of drugs & the ‘blaxploitation’ lifestyle, and Sly Stone would just have nodded sadly. It’s all paranoia, delusions of grandeur and sudden, complete bursts of euphoria. The Dirt Dog growls, screams, laughs hysterically, mumbles and occasionally raps his way across these tracks. There’s some real insanity at work here. “I want you to suck my lizzzard, lizard!” “Y’all can’t use the word napkin” and his “Y’all better be happy that the ol’ Dirty Bastard is here… You shut the FUCK UP and you shut the FUCK UP, that’s what the FUCK YOU DO” spiel are the most obvious quotes, but trust me, there are hundreds.
'Recognise' is fucking hilarious. 'I Can't Wait' is fast as hell, insane rap with sparkly keyboard backing a la club rap-era Busta Rhymes. ODB has never been exactly coherent, but here he is totally crazed, one can only imagine what the recording sessions must have been like. It initially appears that the track will succumb to hip hop cliché as ODB offers shout outs to Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg as well as other rappers, but the fantastic climax actually has ODB offering shout outs to the army, air force, submarines and Eskimos and thanks them for, “playing my music in the submarines and the boats.” Any doubts as to whether or not ODB has lost the plot are answered on this track. 'Cold Blooded' reminds me of the 3rd Stooges album, where it sounded like Iggy Pop was going to have a heart attack the second he stepped out of the booth, just singing that hard. Plus, how cool is it that ODB covered Rick James? More rappers should cover their favourite songs, it’d be rad. ‘Got Your Money’ is a song I will always sing every word of because it was one of the first songs I loved. ‘Rollin Wit You’ is the bizarre, unhinged threats of a madman. ODB is a man wrought with conflicts, the chorus; “Jesus, I’m rolling wit you” is sandwiched between more profanities than nearly any track I’ve ever heard. It’s difficult to comprehend anyone thinking ODB was a sellout, listening to that song. ‘You Don’t Want To Fuck With Me’ is more insane threats and boasts. The title track probably has some of my favourite laugh-out-loud lines on here: ‘I’ll have it raining ice drops the size of automobiles’ ‘I kill all my enemies at birth/SHUT THE FUCK UP bitch and let me put my hands up your skirt’ ‘I’m the one who burned your home… watch your shit fall like Rome!’ Funny as hell. ‘Dirt Dog’ sounds like ODB has a pretty bad cold and/or has just had his nose froze, but the female backing vocalist at the end sounds pretty sexy. ‘I Want Pussy’ is a RZA-produced track, and has some good verses although he sounds soooo fucking hiiiiiigh. ‘Good Morning Heartache’ is definitely the weak spot, though it’s funny in concept. ‘All In Together Now’ is BRILLIANT even though ODB mainly is just rambling on and on over a great beat. ‘Cracka Jack’ is funny, and notable for having some of the most hilariously indefensible shit on here: ‘Bitch, you got herpes in your ass/Every time you fuck a nigga, he dies fast’ - it speaks for itself. The album closes with ODB offering some salient advise to the listener, “If you wanna die, you gotta drink my sperm / the other way to die, is eat a can of worms.” I guess the sensible thing to do is not to analyse what Jones is saying too closely.
If you liked ODB on the Wu albums (especially stuff like “Dog Shit”), you should like him here, and he does rap well… when he raps. It seems like this album is part rapping, part singing off-key, and part just ranting about random shit. In fact, the awesome “Got Your Money” with Kelis is about the only thing on here that feels like an honest-to-U God (sorry, couldn’t resist) song, and even then it’s pretty fucked up, and I’m sort of surprised that it actually became a pretty big hit. Also, in a bit of an unusual move for a Wu-affiliated album, there are no guest appearances from the other members. Chris Rock has a pretty amusing intro, Kelis does a good hook on “Got Your Money”, Lil’ Mo (who?) is on “Good Morning Heartache”, and some guys named 12 0’Clock, La The Darkman, and Shorty Shit Stain (best rap name ever, no debates or discussions), apparently from ODB’s subgroup “Brooklyn Zu”, show up on “Gettin’ High”. The guests are usually fairly good, but don’t overshadow ODB (which is pretty much impossible - that would be like Keanu Reeves overshadowing Nicholas Cage in full-on Wicker Man mode).
The production was done by the Neptunes, the RZA, Irv Gotti, Buddha Monk, True Master, DL, Flavahood Productions, and Mr. Fingers.They lend the album a fairly poppy sound that goes kind of weird with ODB, but I think it sorta works. Some have said that ODB and poppy beats go together like oil and water, but there you go.
Hell, Nigga Please is pretty divisive. Some think it’s one of the best to come out of the Wu canon, and some think it’s one of the absolute worst. I’m sort of in between - I enjoy the album a lot. It’s not a great album, but it’s not a terrible one either. Preview it before spending money on it, or you could end up with a case of buyer’s remorse. “What the fuck is this shit? Half of it isn’t even really rap!” But if nothing else, definitely spin “Got Your Money”.