Recognize I'm a Fool
The Old Dirty Bastard as the Holy Fool

1) One who is deficient in judgement, sense, or understanding
2) One who acts unwisely on a given occasion
3) One who subverts convention or orthodoxy or varies from social conformity to reveal spiritual truth- holy fool

"Recognize I'm a fool and you're lovin' me"
Got Your Money

Big Baby Jesus, the Unique A-Son, Sirus, Dirt Dog, the ODB, you know him by many names. I'd like to add another to the list, Parsifal, the Holy Fool. No other contemporary artist embodies the archetype of the Holy Fool more completely than the Old Dirty Bastard. Even his name reflects the traditional Arthurian telling of the myth in which Parsifal is born father less.

But more interesting and important than any correlation with traditional Arthurian mythology is the way the ODB fulfills the psychological functions of the myth as outlined by psychologists such as Carl Jung. Making the unconscious conscious and thereby laying the groundwork for the unification and transcendence of what was once a divided self. The unconscious is the storehouse for all images, much of the material is considered dangerous, evil and subsequently repressed and feared. However, becoming aware of this "shadow" side of consciousness, the evil that lurks within, is the first necessary step in assimilating its contents.

"Who gets drunk from the night to the early morn, tap dancin' at the party like its going on?"

The ODB's two albums serve up plentiful amounts of raw material from the unconscious. Material that is uncomfortable, irrational and contradictory enough to outrage both sides of the racial divide, and all those in between. Is he exploiting white stereotypes of the "crazy negro"? Playing a minstrel style character for personal gain? Is he exploring and deconstructing stereotypes by making plain their absurdity? Inflating said stereotypes past breaking point, while also recognizing and using their power as signifiers, to invoke fear thereby creating for himself space to behave as he pleases without any regard to society's standards and preconceptions etc.. Is he empowering himself by the reappropriation of the very symbols used by the oppressor to oppress? Or is he doing something else completely? Does he even know what he's doing? To quote the digital underground, "the answer is D all of the above".

The ODB seems to embrace all contradictions within and without with a heroic and manic fearlessness. He allows the listener and viewer to project whatever lurks within their own unconsciousness onto him, again making conscious their own fears and repressed thoughts. Pointing the way to liberation of the mind through a mixture of absurdity, fearlessness, and playfulness. Lets take for example two songs on his new album.

"I'm rollin with you" begins with a blistering condemnation of white power en masse "you white motherfuckers will never take over, you shut the fuck up, and you shut the fuck up!". The next thing we hear is the ODB asking "can I get a beer?". This type of rapid movement between serious intent, anger, comedy and absurdity can induce in the listener a delirious state in which one feels as if all previous signposts of what is "real, true and accepted" have been shifted to such a degree as to no longer contain any relevance. This dementia is sonically enhanced by the use of multiple vocal overdubs in which the ODB adds to, emphasizes and comments on the main vocal line at times almost to the point of obscuring it. You can hear the different aspects of his mind arguing with themselves and attempting to reach some sort of peace.

"My words can't be held against me, I'm not caught up in your laws"
Nigga Please

The ODB builds contradiction upon contradiction upon contradiction until rational thought itself seems to break down and one feels a transcendence of its implications and limitations. It occurs to me as well that the A-Son's continual switching of personas, voices, characters, and message serve as a strong defense against the pigeonholing and awful self-consciousness induced by our all-pervasive media, a self-consciousness which is surely the bane of our 21st century existence.

On the last song on his most recent album, "All in together now", the. ODB briefly switches gears from the inflammatory sentiments of "Rolling with you". And gets on some up with people hippie type shit stating "Its a white and black thing!" as well as chanting "blackie's getting hot in here, whitey's getting hot in here, blue people getting hot in here, aliens getting hot in here". The effect is both hilarious and strangely liberating, emphasizing and celebrating the absurdity of classifications, and perhaps all systems that attempt to impose order on what is by nature chaotic and shifting. Sirus appears to have an intuitive grasp of the idea that all systems of order are created strictly for convenience sake, containing no absolute truth and are therefore open to manipulation, deconstruction and destruction.

"I'm immune to all viruses, I get the cocaine it cleans out my sinuses"
Nigga Please

I do feel that the ODB knows what he is doing, although I doubt he's aware of the myth of Parsifal. Often in his lyrics Dirt Dog addresses the superhuman and mythic qualities of his own personae. These qualities are only enhanced overtime as he survives multiple attempts on his life, escapes from court mandated rehab, and is charged with multiple felonies, while at the same time rescuing babies trapped under cars and avoiding the swift plummet into mediocrity the rest of the clan has taken.

"Nominate me for presidential M. C."

We certainly can and have done much worse.

© William Crain 2002