January 6, 2009

Not Available In Stores! Ol' Dirty Bastard - A Son Unique (2004-2005)


After Russell Jones was finally released from prison (an experience which, from what I understand, truly fucked with his psyche), he was whisked away to a press conference alongside Damon Dash and, of all people, Mariah Carey, to announce his signing with Roc-A-Fella Records. If I remember correctly, none of Ol' Dirty's Wu-Tang brethren were involved with the festivities, but that can't be right: The Rza, at least, should have been there, being family, right? Maybe my mind is just messing with me.

Ol' Dirty Bastard's signing was just another in a long series of power moves that Dame Dash executed without getting approval from his partner, Jay-Z, who generally had the final word on any artist that was signed to his vanity label. (Dame also tried to promote Cam'Ron to vice president of operations, or some other useless title (not unlike "associate producer"), while Shawn Carter was away on vacation.) These internal power struggles took their toll, and, inevitably, Roc-A Fella crumbled. Jay-Z became president of Def Jam Records and took the Roc-A-Fella name with him (and proceeded to sign many artists to that subsidiary, although the only two that listeners even bothered with were Kanye West and Hova himself), while Dame Dash started up the Dame Dash Music Group (or DDMG), with the full intention of releasing Dirt McGirt's A Son Unique, Russell's comeback vehicle (which was fully recorded and mastered prior to the split) as its flagship title.

Which, of course, never happened.

The passing of Ol' Dirty Bastard (from a drug overdose) meant that his estate automatically became involved with the release of A Son Unique. For whatever reason, the Osirus mixtape (released under a different label) was authorized by the family, but the one album that could have actually served as a viable swan song for the troubled rapper remains in legal limbo. For his part, Dame Dash seems to have completely given up on the disc, almost guaranteeing that this shit will never see the light of day officially.

Which is a damn shame. A Son Unique contains all-new verses from Dirty, unlike the Osiris debacle, and its name-brand production (provided by the likes of The Rza, The Neptunes, and others), combined with its (admittedly way-too-numerous) guest stars makes this the true (and only) successor to N---a Please.

1. LIFT YA SKIRT (FEAT MISSY ELLIOTT)
The addition of Missy Elliott is questionable, as the original, Missy-less track had been available online for quite some time when this disc "dropped" on the Interweb. Producer Mark Ronson, who does a pretty fucking good imitation of early Rza work on here, swiped Dirty's now-unused second verse for use on his own Britney Spears cover "Toxic" from Version. Even with Missy on here, I still like this song, especially the breakdown before each chorus that is lifted wholesale from an older Gravediggaz track whose name I can't place right now
.

2. POP SHOTS (FEAT LIL' FAME OF M.O.P.)
The same song that appeared on that insipid and uninspired Osirus mixtape, except with the addition of Lil' Fame. I found it weird that, for two songs in a row, the special guests have made it a point to quote Dirty's lyrics from the Wu-Tang Clan track "Shame On A N---a". I also love how all of Russell's references to Roc-A-Fella were deleted by Dame Dash, although they are all present and accounted for on the Osirus mixtape.

3. OPERATOR (FEAT CLIPSE & PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
I liked this Neptunes beat when it was first released as a sort-of remix to James Brown's "Make It Funky" (and also when it was utilized in a Sprite commercial), and the good news is that it also seems to fit ODB like a sequined glove. This is the third song in a row that featured established guests added onto a song that previously existed as an ODB solo, but I guess that, at that point in time, the addition of the Clipse could have possibly moved some units. Dirty sounded just fine by himself, though.

4. BACK IN THE AIR (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
ODB actually sounds somewhat lyrical on here, and Ghost is as indecipherable as someone can be that chooses to speak in his own personal code. The Rza's (supposed) production work sounds kind of bland on here, but otherwise, this song isn't bad.

5. WORK FOR ME (FEAT YOUNG CHRIS)
This song is pretty fucking stupid. ODB has never been one to shy away from more commercial-sounding instrumentals, but I'm almost positive that this beat (and the Dame Dash-approved guest, Young Chris from the Young Gunz, a rap duo I'm almost certain most readers have never heard of despite their moderate commercial success) was forced upon him as a condition of his contract.

6. ODB DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART (FEAT MACY GRAY)
There is truly no way to critique this song. There are no words. I'm sure Elton John would be amused by this, though. I hear he has a healthy sense of humour. (See how I added the "u" for emphasis? Classy, right?)

7. STOMP (FEAT THE RZA)
I liked everything about this track except for Rza's stupid-ass shouting on the hook, which comes off as if he were actively auditioning for System Of A Down. Didn't ODB already have a song called "Stomp" in his back catalog?

8. HOW YA FEELIN'
What the fuck is this shit? This sounds worse than all of Osirus.

9. INTOXICATED (FEAT RAEKWON, METHOD MAN, & MACY GRAY)
I believe this leaked online just prior to Dirty's passing: there's a twelve-inch single for it and everything. I don't know why Macy Gray needs to appear twice in A Son Unique, but she sounds good on the hook, and the "Rawhide" team of Rae, Dirt, and Meth (with The Rza behind the boards) bring the heat. (I don't think I've ever used the phrase "bring the heat" on this blog before. Huh.) Dirty does sound like he's rhyming to a completely different beat, though, perhaps one that originated in his head.

10. DIRTY & GRIMEY (FEAT NOREAGA)
This is another one of those Dame Dash-approved partnerships, as N.O.R.E. was a part of Roc-A-Fella at the time. Would ODB have worked with Noreaga otherwise? Probably, since both artists tend to favor the production work of The Neptunes, but it would have been nice if it was on his own terms, as the end result would have to have sounded a little bit better than this forced shit. Noreaga is especially annoying on the hook.

11. DANGER ZONE (FEAT JOE BUDDEN)
This is probably the strangest partnership on the whole of A Son Unique, as I'm not convinced that the artists were familiar with the other's work: hell, I'm not sure that Joe Budden even remembers he recorded this fucking song today. The hook couldn't have sounded good to anybody in the studio that day. Hey, Dame, did it ever occur to you that, instead of using your connections to create artificial duets, Dirty's fans may have wanted to hear a few more collaborations with the Wu? I'm sure Buddha Monk could have found room in his busy schedule to make an appearance.

12. SKRILLA (FEAT THE RZA)
The credits read "featuring The Rza", but I couldn't hear him anywhere on the track, and I listened to it three timed just to make sure. The hook to this is pretty stupid, but the song is enjoyable nonetheless. The Rza took his instrumental and tweaked it for Method Man's "The Glide", a Wu-Tang posse cut off of 4:21...The Day After. I'm not sure why he didn't bring over one of Dirty's verses with him: I'm sure the Wu heads in the world would have appreciated hearing Dirt McGirt alongside his Clan, even if the collaboration was manufactured in the studio.

13. DON'T HURT ME DIRTY
This is pretty awful. It isn't bad enough to negate the good that A Son Unique has done, though.

SHOULD YOU HUNT IT DOWN? I know that there was a lawsuit that held up the release of A Son Unique, but my understanding is that it was settled quite a while ago, and Dame Dash continues to sit on the masters of this disc, with no release date in sight. That's a fucking mistake. A Son Unique should have sounded awful (if Osiris was any indication), but it doesn't: in fact, save for a handful of songs, this sounds really really good. It's as entertaining as N---a Please (and, to some extent, Return To The 36 Chambers (The Dirty Version)), and some of the songs on here rank among Dirty's best. Hell, if A Son Unique ever got a proper release date, I would recommend that all two of my readers pick up a copy the day it drops, I think it's that good. It's a fucking shame. Oh, well. At least we have the Interweb to help us get our fix.

-Max

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3 comments:

  1. funky funatiJanuary 06, 2009

    somewhere on that album, there was supposed to be a song called "Coochie" feat. Ludacris.

    i'll just sum it up by saying that it's the 1st and last time i heard another rapper hold his own on a song with Luda.
    i'll add and say that's one of my favorite songs EVER.

    get it.

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  2. Damn, Max, with 'A Son Unique' and 'The Chronic' reviewed you left me with no requests about albums which need to be written about. As I said before, I consider 'Stomp' the MOST PLAIN production I've ever heard(though I really like the whole song), and I like 'How Ya Feelin' because of this hilarious hook. Thanks again for another ODB review.

    P.S. This Gravediggaz song from 'Lift Ya Skirt' is 'Constant Elevation'. I couldn't stop myself, sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So is Dame Dash still sitting on the masters, or has it been leaked onto the internet??

    ReplyDelete