The Ol’ Dirty signature is that tremble in his flow — a seizure vibrato that he deploys like a trumpeter and that sounds as if he’s about to explode into a million bugged-out MC fragments. You could hear it on Wu-Tang’s debut single, “Protect Ya Neck,” when he was “rollin’ with the night of the creeps.” And it’s all over The Definitive Ol’ Dirty Bastard Story, from the way he’s “throwin’ Moët bottles” in “Recognize” (where Pharrell Williams rhymes “Mr. Courageous ODB” with “P-I-M-P”) to a hyperventilated video segment of “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” Jim Croce’s 1973 soft rock hit about a brother who dies from pushing his luck. The vocal effect always comes off as scary and funny, but also — in the way it seems beyond his control — tragic. And that’s ODB’s appeal, an appeal that’s only grown since his death last year, as comedians like Ludacris and Lil Jon domesticate his rabid rhyme-animal style into something akin to a show poodle.
Definitive is basically 2001’s The Dirty Story: The Best of ODB (a shuffle mix of his first two solo records) with a few extras, but none of the scraps that surfaced on the recent bootleg-style Osirus: The Official Mixtape, nor any of the vocals he cut just before he died (which are being cobbled together as a “new” Def Jam album, A Son Unique). There is, however, a DVD with three hot video reels, plus a news-type interview/freestyle from the defunct video-request channel the Box. In the latter, ODB walks around Manhattan on a slushy night with his boys, bellowing, “Ol’ Dirty is back here to stay! And ain’t nobody takin’ me nowhereno more!” You don’t know exactly what he’s referring to, where he might’ve been. You only wish he was right.