Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version

by Ol' Dirty Bastard

Released March 28, 1995 via Elektra Records

Originally reviewed on March 19, 2020

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Shimmy Shimmy Ya (45%), Brooklyn Zoo (37%), Protect Ya Neck II The Zoo (13%)

Ol' Dirty Bastard could peel his scalp open and we still wouldn't be able to fully comprehend how his mind worked. With the musical equivalent to that examination, ODB spills everything he's got knocking around in his mind in front of you; yet you still aren't sure what he's thinking. Even though he hasn't returned to the 36 in over 15 years, ODB is still laying the groundwork for the underground's sharpest blades. This album, and the spirit behind it, remains the blueprint for those in music who live without one. – Ben (Synth) (9.5/10)

Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version is true to its name, nearly matching the quality of the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut and transforming the revolutionary Shaolin funk sound that shook up the game just years prior in a way that only Ol’ Dirty Bastard was capable of. The eccentricity, creativity, and skill of the Clan’s most unique member is on full display with an hour of hardcore, vulgar, and hilarious raps. With RZA’s fingerprints all over this, the production is so distinctly grimy, mystical, and eerie that it lifts the entire project to a whole new level. If we are to praise Wu-Tang Clan for their ability to challenge convention, we must surely recognize that Ol’ Dirty Bastard mastered and embodied that defiance better than anyone. – Dominick (9.3/10)

The words “raw,” and “uncut” only begin to describe the enigmatic projections of the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and his contributions to the greater lore of Wu-Tang are nearly as invaluable as the group’s other greatest members. Return to the 36 Chambers is ODB unleashed and left to his own devices, leaving something remarkably strange in its wake. This brand of bizarre hip-hop would get an intense double-down with ODB’s follow-up, N***a Please, and so Return to the 36 is the more commercially memorable record that keeps his legacy fresh behind tracks like “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo.” Despite the growing market for peculiar rap tunes, ODB’s formula for this album remains proprietary and very rarely duplicated. – DeVán (8/10)


Ben (Synth): 9.5/10 | Dominick: 9.3/10 | Enth: 9/10 | Hadley: 9/10

Cam: 8.8/10 | Daniel: 8.8/10 | DeVán: 8/10