Every member of the Wu-Tang clan has their quirk. GZA is the super literate leader, arguable the best straight-up lyricist in rap. Method Man is in the running for the greatest rapper of all time when he’s on, and his flow is smooth and thoughtful whether he’s doing prepared lines or freestyling. Ol Dirty Bastard…well, he did a lot of crack. Then he died.
Maybe that’s not an entirely fair assessment. Ol’ Dirty Bastard certainly had a unique style, which psychiatrists would refer to as “alcoholism and ADHD”, and a knack for dirty words, and on a few songs, he showed that he had a real talent for rapping. His turn in the Wu Tang classic “Shame on a N***a” is one of the most unexpectedly catchy flows in hip-hop, though he didn’t live up to it with his subsequent solo albums, which were repetitive and bizarre despite valiant attempts by producers such as the Neptunes and RZA to save each project. Frankly, the drugs did ODB in, and he wasn’t able to recapture the glow that made his early appearances on Wu Tang albums so infectious. Finally, the obese rapper died of heart conditions related to drug use, and as sad as it is to say, nobody can really claim to be surprised.
Hence the requisite posthumous release from a rapper that is destined to be overrated thanks to his early demise. But Osiris: The Official Mixtape, probably the final album from ODB (or Dirt McGirt, or Big Baby Jesus, or whichever one of his nicknames you prefer) is surprising in that it’s actually not that bad; ODB regains some of his early fire in songs like “Dirty Dirty” thanks to funky, horn driven beats that frame his unique voice and disgusting lyrics perfectly (at one point, Dirty proclaims that he’s “in p**** like a gynecologist”, leading me to believe that he may have never gone to finishing school).
Some of the beat’s aren’t as remarkable, such as “Don’t Stop Ma,” and when there’s no energy in the beat ODB sounds tired and beaten down. However, the disappointing songs are in short supply; there’s very little filler for a final album, and ODB isn’t joined by many other rappers as on Tupac or Notorious BIG’s posthumous releases. There are some Wu-Tang appearances which are enriched by Ol Dirty Bastard’s interactions with their rhymes, showing that little was inserted after the rapper’s death that ODB wouldn’t have approved of. Occasionally, it gets difficult to listen to Dirt McGirt’s singsong playground chants, but anyone who’s heard the rapper before knows what they’re in for.
The skits are kept to a minimum, thankfully, and Ol Dirty avoids the odd experimentation that made his “Ni**a Please” album practically unlistenable (the album featured ODB singing Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning, Heartache” in one of the worst musical ideas since Milli Vanilli decided to lip sync). It’s very raw, very spontaneous, but thought out enough that the fat is cut off. Fans will see the ODB that they fell in love with years ago; people who didn’t like ODB from the start won’t find anything to change their mind on this album.
There’s nothing deep at all or complex in The Osiris Mixtape, but Dirty has made a party album that people won’t have to keep wandering over to the stereo to switch tracks as they might have on his past albums. It’s not a particularly graceful swan song, but Ol Dirty Bastard would never be classified as graceful. It’s a fitting end to a bizarre rapper’s all too short journey.