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ODB’s life and times to be chronicled in new documentary

The Wu-Tang legend's artistry and troubled personal life will be examined in-depth

By Joe Goggins

Ol' Dirty Bastard mural in Brooklyn, NY, 2012
A mural commemorating ODB in his native Brooklyn. (Photo: Mark Hogan/Wikimedia Commons)

A new documentary will chronicle the life and times of founding Wu-Tang Clan member ODB.

Currently going by the working title of ‘Biography: Ol’ Dirty Bastard’, the film will be co-directed by Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI, Citizen Ashe) and his son, Jason Pollard (‘Bitchin’: The Sound And Fury Of Rick James’). Co-produced by his widow, Icelene Jones, it will be the first official documentary on the maverick rapper.

ODB – real name Russell Jones – was the group’s most colourful member during their 90s heyday, and became as well-known for his chronic legal troubles and erratic behaviour as he did his truly singular and highly influential style of rap. He died of an accidental drug overdose in November 2004.

The film, which has no release date at present, will be “definitive”, according to A&E Network, who are producing it. They promise a “a never-before-seen personal archive shot by his wife, Icelene Jones, and access to his closest friends and family.”

“This culture-defining special humanises ODB as a man, a father, and a husband like never before,” the network added in a statement, “providing an intimate picture of ODB’s life and reflecting on his lasting impact on music and culture.” The documentary will focus on his solo work, including his 1995 classic ‘Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version’ and its under-appreciated 1999 follow-up ’N***a Please’, as well as his tumultuous personal life.

Intriguingly, the documentary is set to view ODB’s troubled final years in the wider context of the press and the industry. The statement continued: “a celebration of his artistry and legacy, the documentary is an unflinching look at the complexities of his life including addiction, adultery, fame, mental illness, sudden wealth, race and criminal justice, and will ask the question of just how complicit the media and music industry were in hastening his demise.”

The documentary is being made with the full co-operation of ODB’s estate. Jones said she “thrilled to tell the full story of my husband” in a film that would show audiences “the son, the husband, the father, and the artist”. There is no word on what involvement, if any, there will be from the eight members of Wu-Tang who survive ODB. In 2019, the four-part Showtime documentary ‘Wu-Tang: Of Mics and Men’ offered up a rare in-depth look at the Clan’s history. It aired on Sky in the UK.