Return to the 36 Chambers
Beyond his outrageous antics, his erratic career decisions, and even his association with the mighty Wu-Tang Clan, the most crucial thing to remember about Ol’ Dirty Bastard is that he was a natural-born rapper. He didn’t need a concept; he didn’t even need a pad and paper. Rhymes flowed out of him like water from a spigot. As time goes on it becomes easier to recognize Return to the 36 Chambers for the masterpiece that it is. Simply put, there is no other album in hip-hop that sounds like this. It is full of hunchbacked rhythm and startling sonic turns. Equally important to ODB’s rhymes is his delivery — the grunts and groans and shrieks are what make his flow so singular, and so thrilling. Because ODB had the most extraordinary style of any Wu-Tang member, the RZA gave him beats that are equally extraordinary. Claustrophobic, disjointed, dizzy — nothing about “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” or “Baby C’mon” or “Raw Hide” adheres to a normative POV. Force yourself to read between the lines of Return to the 36 Chambers, and you will be rewarded with one of rap’s most imaginative and deeply personal statements.