It’s safe to say that for virtually every moment from the time that Wu-Tang Clan became prominent around 1993 until his sad death in 2004, Ol’ Dirty Bastard—“Russell Jones” to the law enforcement community—was in some kind of legal trouble. He was convicted of second degree assault in 1993 and was arrested for failure to pay child support in 1997. A year later, he pleaded guilty to attempted assault on his wife and was also arrested for shoplifting. It goes on from there. In 2000 he was assigned to a court-mandated drug treatment facility but escaped—as a fugitive he met up with RZA and spent some time in the studio. In Philadelphia he was eventually captured. (DM previously reported on his endlessly interesting FBI file, released in 2012.)
After spending the next two and a half years in prison in New York, he was released on parole on May 1, 2003. Sensing an opportunity, ODB’s manager, Jarred Weisfeld, arranged for VH1 to have a crew follow ODB around for his release and the first few weeks out of jail. The end result was “Inside Out,” which can be viewed below. Actually, it’s a little unclear what this video is—IMDb.com lists the running time as 60 minutes over two episodes. This video isn’t that long, however. What I think this is is episode 1 of “Inside Out”—not sure there was an episode 2—followed by a brief remembrance section that likely doesn’t have anything to do with VH1. In any case, it’s wildly entertaining.
The life of a mentally troubled rap star is as crazy as anything you’re likely to find. A stretch limo filled with family, friends, and business associates (of course these lines overlap) is there to meet him upon his release. He is immediately presented with a gift of 500 condoms. As the father of 13 children by multiple women, ODB sniffs out the subtext: “They don’t want me makin’ no more babies!” At his press conference the same day as his release, who shows up to take part? Of course, Mariah Carey.
Eventually ODB’s interest in the ladies alienates his sort-of ladyfriend Raquel, who promptly flees back to LA. Within days he’s photographing a silicone-enhanced Playboy model and hitting on women in the street. Meanwhile his new relationship with Roc-A-Fella records is proceeding with the usual complications. We see a few cordial encounters with RZA as well.
The special presents a glimpse of actual parole life that’s not often available on TV. We see ODB successfully pass a drug test and we’re told that, as messy as his life was, he was able to adhere to the 9pm curfew imposed on him. When he signs the paperwork before his release, he’s told that he’s agreeing that parole officers can visit his home more or less anytime, and sure enough, we get to see such a visit. All goes well, except for ODB’s lingering paranoia after the fact.
ODB never really got the psychological help he needed, but nobody could say that he lived an unfulfilled life. “Inside Out” is excellent evidence of both parts of that equation.