Imagine growing up as one of Old Dirty Bastard’s thirteen children: hanging out with RZA, watching kung-fu movies with the Clan, playing chess, living the life. Sounds like a dream, right?
It’s more of a fantasy. To hear Young Dirty Bastard tell it, his father’s legacy has left the Jones family in a precarious position: living under the shadow of their genius father’s prestige, while defending themselves against a world without him. Managing his estate while trying to build a new life 20 years after Enter the 36 Chambers left its indelible mark on the world. There is no father to ODB’s style, after all; trying to break out and gain respect as an artist, as Young Dirty Bastard is making his bid to do, will require finding a style all his own, lest he resort to lifelong comparisons to the man.
In some ways, they are unavoidable, and at this weekend’s Rock the Bells hip-hop festival in San Bernadino, California, YDB was tapped to provide the body and voice for a hologram of ODB that performed with the remaining Clan on stage. YDB performed alongside his father, in a touching (and telling) moment in rap history. He is the man’s blood, and therefore the most obvious choice for the production, but coming into one’s own as a young artist is difficult when production companies are tapping you for 3D resurrections of your dad.
YDB has many thoughts on hip-hop today and a long road to achieving that respect. He worries about the direction hip hop is taking, and is consciously learning from his father’s life as he carves out his own. His, if any, will be an interesting career to watch. With hair braided to match his father’s and a red and gold hooded cape beside him, we sat down to discuss everything from his problem with 2 Chainz to his admiration for Miley Cyrus.
How long have you been rapping?
Forever. I caught the grip when my father passed. I brought him my notebook and he said, “Nigga, you can’t rap, didn’t even open the book.” That’s what motivates me. I rap to prove people wrong.
How’s life in Georgia?
The ATL is wonderful. I got babies out there. No slavemaster chasing me this time, but I did do it with his woman, snuck in his house, babies came out light skinned and shit.
What’s going on with the reality show you shot for VH1?
It’s sitting in these executive hands. That’s all I’m doing, continuing the legacy. As long as the money comes, Daddy, I will continue the legacy. Can’t keep working for free, motherfucker.
You’re ODB’s son, how could you not?
Some people don’t wanna milk cows like their father. They wanna smoke weed all day. I’d rather be sober and continue his legacy. I do the opposite of everything he did. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and I’m learning how to have less babies.
Before you found out about the hologram of your father, what were your thoughts on it?
It’s all about discipline, not letting this shit get to you. Wake up, look in the mirror, brush your teeth, go do work. You gotta learn how to come back home.
Did it bother you at all?
No. People always try to degrade a nigga, spit on you. You’re trying to be this, you’re not. I know how to flip it. I’m moving too quick and doing good things, sooner or later they’ll have to accept it.
Who are your favorite rappers right now?
Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac. But I did a hologram too, so I’m calling it Young Dirty Bastard.
I dunno. I see it as people feeding their families. But 2 Chainz brand, it ain’t good for me. People are out there buying chains before they pay their bills and getting killed over nothing. 2 Chainz can kiss my nuts. Plus, I wanted to make a song with this guy, and he sat there and ignored me.
To your face?
I had his manager’s number. I guess 2 Chainz was in the back and said, I don’t really wanna fuck with him. Hopefully he said that, I’m gonna fuck with him later and probably diss him on his own song. I’m trying to build with the guy, I don’t have to be talking to you, G. All you doing is about slavery chains anyway. I don’t have to walk with you, guy. I’m about the Jackie Robinson era, I don’t know what he’s doing. I don’t think he’s good for our people. He’s making all this money, but what are they listening to? And it’s not just the content. His name is 2 Chainz. Nigga, we don’t wear chains no more, motherfucker. This whole time you wanna escape from the chains, and now you got two chains wrapped around you. Double the trouble, motherfucker! I can picture the label with two chains holding him by his neck, holding him like a dog and shit. “I’ll do whatever you want! I’ll make another 2 Chainz song!”
On Shade 45, you mentioned you’re trying to get ODB’s masters from Dame Dash. Has he come through?
We’re still after him. That man has a lot problems. 99 problems but Dame Dash is one. He’s in SoHo, can’t find him. I’ve been there a few times, ain’t seen him with no dress on, and that’s good, he’s not selling himself, he must be eating. I used to like Damon Dash. I’ve partied and chilled with him. He had this girl, I think his sister? She looked like Miley Cyrus. I wanna put a baby in Miley Cyrus one day, by the way. For real, that’s the goal.
Did you see her at the VMAs?
Yeah, everybody’s hating on her. She having fun to me, so what? She should do whatever she wants. That’s the way she’s shaped, you think she’s gonna pull a Jennifer Lopez out? She got a small ass! Lindsay Lohan with it, baby! Do whatever makes you feel good. She became a bigger star off that.
What has been the best moment of your life so far?
Today. It took a lot for us to build from where we came from. Nobody knows the behind the scenes, it’s a movie and shit. They think we’re on stage with billions of dollars and everything’s beautiful. Nah, nigga, I’m rapping cause I’m hungry and my father’s not here and they don’t want me doing this. I’m only doing it because I wanna be on stage, and my mother wants me on stage, she’d kick my ass if I wasn’t. We need every nickel and dime. Shit, we might get kicked out of the house right now!
We always had food stamps, food stamps is what we need. Some people don’t need em. But if food stamps weren’t there, I couldn’t be rapping. I gotta provide for my family. Babies gotta eat, G. It’s real. That’s how I’m standing, my momma fed me. We need food stamps, Government! Fuck Republicans.
Tyler Trykowski is a journalist living in Los Angeles. He's on Twitter - @tylertry