Back in the ’90s, when music video stations actually played music videos, the now defunct Dutch channel TMF (The Music Factory) featured a hip-hop called The Pitch show on Sunday nights. The network was mostly known for pretty women telling which video was coming up next while they bombed the camera with bedroom-eyes, often a far from unwelcome side-effect of smoking a spliff off camera to combat stage fright. Maybe not the most professional of channels, especially in the early years. It also had zero ideas in how to handle a hip-hop show, which meant that it was left (probably close to budgetless) as an island of a sort in the channel’s programming. With no interference, host Glaze (a nephew of Das EFX’s Skoob living in The Netherlands who had a hit-song himself with Flip Da Script in the early ’90s) could do how he saw fit, like tagging along with ODB when he was getting a tattoo at Henk Schiffmacher‘s Hanky Panky in Amsterdam.
Waxing nostalgic on the 8th anniversary of Ol’ Dirty’s passing, it was a pleasant surprise to come across these clips from the show I religiously watched every Sunday night as a teenager. Unlike many rappers visiting The Netherlands, Dirty doesn’t seem to be overly inebriated and is surprisingly coherent. In the first part he gets a tattoo featuring the names of his children and in the second he talks Five Percent philosophy on a canal boat, until he gets distracted by a nice booty on the shore. It’s an intimate and understated look at a day in the life of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, a view of him we didn’t see often enough.
You wouldn’t be able to tell by the way he’s deified now that he’s dead, but Dirty wasn’t always revered as a great rapper by everybody. Many TV shows focused on his antics and wished to follow that only, treating him as a mere clown and not the talent that he was. Sure, Dirty could be one of the funniest emcees in the world and his drugged-out vocals were off-kilter, but that wasn’t all there was to him. He was quite possibly the realest rapper ever, not concerned in the slightest with building or maintaining an image. His spur of the moment lyrics had no father to their style, but style they had aplenty, and sons too. Rappers from Lil Wayne to Noreaga to Curren$y to Danny Brown to Schoolboy Q and many others are indebted to him. Dirty was a pioneer of wildly unpredictable, charismatic and undeniably funky rap, and in a time when this was far from the norm for a rapper, could break out in song at the drop of a hat too. Not that he was a great singer, but the joy in his voice when he did was strangely infectious.
In the fury of drugs and booze that swirled around him, it was all too easy for people to stop seeing him as a person, or an artist. But he was a force of nature when it came to creating timeless tunes, his classic singles instances of bottled lightning. Dirty was a lot of things, but what he’ll forever be, is missed.