Boogiemporium: Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Return to the 36 Chambers”

Who am I, as a parent, to not be fair and take the man for his word. So I picked up this record at the record store.  Today, Raising Elle/Boogiemporium will take a critical look at Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers. I’m fairly certain that, by the moniker this “rapper” chooses to take for himself that it might not be appropriate for younger ears, but I’m not one to judge a book by its cover. Speaking of, I can’t help but point out the glaring sticker that reads “PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS” which indicates to me that there’s probably some questionable content. Hopefully it’s isolated. Thanks, Tipper, for making shopping for my kiddo much easier!

Not sure why Ol’ Dirty Bastard is still on welfare. Thought these rapper guys were getting paid in full. Apparently not. Perhaps it’s a subliminal cautionary message against how all that glitter ain’t gold. The contract won’t make you rich. Only hard work will. Perhaps Bastard didn’t work hard enough. Perhaps the ghetto is holding him down. Onto the record.

The album jumps off with a song called “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” which I was initially believing to be some sort of belly dance or Yo Gabba Gabba silly activity song. It begins with a playful piano (production provided by a person called the “Rizza” or “RZA”). When Dirty arrives in the song, his half-sung/half-spoken delivery is playful and clown-like. In fact, it makes it a little difficult to understand what it is that he’s talking about. I think that his rap is one that’s quite boastful as he makes many references to what rappers call “skills.” Dirty mention how he gets “psycho killer Norman Bates.” Pretty interesting stuff.

“Baby C’mon” features more boasts of his skill much in the first way as “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” which was not about a dance. His obscene lyrics are becoming more pervasive with eight offenses in “Baby C’mon” alone. Probably a song worth skipping altogether.

Next, a song that I’ve been looking forward to since picking up the record entitled “Brooklyn Zoo” (which actually has a second volume on the record). Kids love going to the zoo and when my lovely wife and I were up in NYC, we didn’t have a chance to visit the Brooklyn Zoo. And Dirty, technically, I believe it’s called the “Prospect Park Zoo.” There’s no Brooklyn Zoo. Whatever, though. I know what he’s talking about. I’ll say that I’ve always found zoos to be important in childhood development. I remember going to the Denver Zoo as a child. Great stuff.

Now listening to “Brooklyn Zoo” and, uh, not sure this is actually about the zoo. In fact, after threatening the listener for about three minutes with frightening prose, he makes only one reference to an animal and that’s a “pig” which is not featured at the Prospect Park Zoo in any exhibit. I think the title of this song should not be “Brooklyn Zoo” but instead something like “I’m Going to Hurt You in This Way.”

As I painfully listen my way through this album, I find Dirty’s style to be increasingly aggravating. He makes no attempt to align himself with the claim that “Wu Tang is for the children.” This album is insanely violent and its perversion would make most adult listeners blush. There’s tidal waves of drug and alcohol references and their threats of violence and vengeance are more like a horror movie than a kids show. His crew Wu Tang “Clan” includes buddies named Raekwon (?), Ghostface Killa, Method Man (possible homage to the drug crystal meth!), Killah Priest (what is that?!), Masta Killa, 60-Second Assassin, Buddah Monk…real classy, guys. Would you want your kids hanging out with these guys? Yeah, me neither.

And, oh yeah, “Brooklyn Zoo II” doesn’t make any references to Prospect Park Zoo either. In fact, it’s a seven-minute torture session where Dirty’s style is in constant disintegration. It’s downright unlistenable and the contributions of this Ghostface Killer doesn’t make it any better. No animal references except for “geese” where Ghostface Killer claims he’s “Foamin out the mouthpiece, heads blown like geese, murderous police, I do shows and perform in Greece.” What does that even mean?

When all is said and done, Wu Tang ain’t for the children. It’s not even for humans. It’s for murderous and perverted monsters. Definitely not recommended for children to listen to. And adults, tread carefully.

I’m giving it a half a Dirty, oddly. I’d give it a quarter Dirty if I could, but I don’t have the image of a quarter dirty. Not sure what this world is coming to.


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