Over the last few years, Wu Tang Clan's Ol' Dirty Bastard has been doing an amazing impersonation of a bicoastal train wreck, thanks to a series of highly publicized arrests on weapons, drug and misbehavior charges. As ODB and comedian Chris Rock acknowledge on "Recognize," the opening track of his new album, "N***a Please" (Elektra EEG), the rapper's been "raisin' a ruckus," and though he's taken on the added moniker of Big Baby Jesus, ODB's not showing much repentance on the new album. Like Busta Rhymes without the surreal mannerisms or ingratiating personality, ODB stopped making sense a long time ago. Or as a female chorus chants on one album track, "Dirty, you're crazy! You nutcase!"
"N***a Please" is the follow-up to ODB's 1995 solo debut, "Return to the 36 Chambers," but it's a much more fragmented affair. For one thing, Wu Tang's resident beatmeister, the RZA, held that album together but participates only in two tracks here; production duties are spread to, among others, Irv Gotti, Buddah Monk and the Neptunes. And while the beats are generally solid, ODB's often-breathless and maniacally urgent performance seems ever more messy and scattered, which further undermines the misogyny of tracks like "I Want [Expletive]" and "Got Your Money" and paranoid-aggressive rants like "You Don't Want to [Expletive] With Me" and "Rollin' Wit You."
There are some strange turns, particularly with the derivative Southern bounce of "I Can't Wait" and "Cold Blooded," the vintage Rick James funk ballad on which ODB delivers a painfully off-key and otherwise misbegotten vocal in the apparently imitable style of Biz Markie.
There is also one intriguing track, a cover of Billie Holiday's simmering "Good Morning Heartache," performed with a live band. As Lil' Mo handles the vocals--and she does so with mesmerizing power--ODB adds spoken commentary, a wasted lounge lizard possibly looking for redemption. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is a song that's dedicated to me," ODB says early on, and then he shows you why it should be.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8151.)
Method Man & Redman
Fellow Wu-Tang Clanner Method Man first teamed up with Redman on 1995's hit single "How High," and after guesting on each other's solo projects and touring together on Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life" tour, they collaborate on "Blackout!" (Island Def Jam). The duo has developed its own kinetic style and manic flow--if Cheech and Chong rapped, they would sound like this--and with Erick Sermon handling production on half the album's 16 tracks, "Blackout!" has a tightly focused sound. The RZA, John John, Rockwilder and the Funk Doc split the remaining tracks, which are generally spare and sharp in their choice of samples. Among the better ones: the RZA's "Serial Killer," "Cheka" an update and revamp of DAS EFX classic "Mike Checka") and "Numeral Four Seasons," a Def Jam posse cut featuring LL Kool J and hot newcomer Ja Rule.
Better yet are the soaring, propulsive "Tear It Off," built on a pair of George Clinton cornerstones, and "Maaad Crew," which uses a loping bass loop from the Dave Matthews Band's "Sandworms."
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8152.)
CAPTION: Wu Tang Clan's ODB, above, and Method Man--teamed with Redman--have new albums.