Returning to Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version

By Collin Murray

March 28 marked the 27th anniversary of Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB)’s release of his debut solo album: Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. This was the second solo album released by a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, following Method Man’s Tical, and easily became the most popular solo album that emerged from the Wu-Tang camp, let alone one of the most revolutionary hip hop albums of its time. 

A large portion of the album’s success is attributed not to ODB’s lyricism or flow, but to the Brooklyn native’s unique and outward character, hence one of his former pseudonyms: Ason Unique. Along with rapping, ODB was a great showman in every sense of the word. Method Man put it best in the interlude of Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” when he explained, “There ain’t no father to his style, that’s why [he’s] the Ol’ Dirty Bastard”. With his chaotic energy and larger-than-life personality, ODB was sure to dominate every track he graced and every stage he entered. 

From tracks like “Brooklyn Zoo”, where he relinquishes a structure altogether, rather opting to simply let fly bar after bar, to his most commercially successful hit “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”, to “Goin’ Down”, which opens with the rapper making weird throat sounds for nearly a minute, and later employing his own rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while his wife audibly berates him in the background—ODB was truly all over the board with this project. With virtually every other track on the album remaining just as bizarre and wacky as the aforementioned three, it’s no wonder the album was so revolutionary for its time.