New article up on Overthinking It today, breaking down the ten best mashups on Girl Talk’s “All Day”. Or the first five in chronological order, anyway.
It was always easy to make fun of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He had the most comical name of any of the original Wu Tang Clan. He had the weirdest style out of any of them — impossible to pin down or to ape without being comical. He changed his handle frequently and for no reason, going by Dirt McGirt and Big Baby Jesus at various points. He played up the proletarian aspects of his image: picking up a welfare check in a limousine while MTV filmed him; interrupting Shawn Colvin during the ‘98s Grammies, etc. And he was a crack addict.
But as easy as it is to make fun of him, it’s just as easy to forget that ODB was a real human being. He probably did a lot of what he did because he wasn’t built to handle fame (so few people are). He rapped about the things that other artists rapped about: frustration with politicians, wanting to be a pimp, violence in the ghettos. While his impromptu speech at the Grammies was widely lampooned at the time, it clearly came from something that ODB was passionate about and didn’t know how else to express. Compare it to Kanye West’s interjections — ODB’s are far more vulnerable and sincere.