Wu-Tang Clan’s resident oddball Ol’ Dirty Bastard was on welfare and wasn’t afraid to let the world know. Rejecting nouveau riche posturing, unlike his mainstream rap peers, the Brooklyn native wore public assistance as a badge of honor on the front cover of his seminal 1995 debut, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. In all his wild-eyed glory, hip-hop’s ghetto superstar became the antithesis of traditionalist rappers and blankly stared into America’s judgment of welfare. Pocketing a hefty $45,000 advance from his record label, ODB represented his rugged origins with a defiance that would last throughout his entire career.
ODB’s chaotic originality made him a pantheon amongst hip-hop greats, even to those who didn’t understand at first listen. In the beginning was the Return.