The moment he stepped onto the historic stage, it was as if he was channeling his late father, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Not only do they look eerily similar — complete with the ODB braids and all — but his stage presence is also equally as magnetic.
YDB (real name Barsun Unique Jones) was only a teenager when his father died on November 13, 2004, exactly 15 years ago. Only a day later, the now 30-year-old MC realized his father’s legacy was in his hands and it was up to him to help take care of his family, which includes his mother Icelene Jones and two sisters Shaquita and Taniqua.
The once-shy son of a Hip Hop legend suddenly began to blossom. As Taniqua explained during a recent Rolling Stone mini-doc, “I swear to y’all, I feel like my father’s spirit left his body in the casket and went into my brother.”
But he doesn’t totally mirror his father. Unlike ODB, whose official cause of death was an accidental drug overdose, YDB doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs of any kind. The manner in which his father died admittedly had a lot to do with that decision.
While YDB has been on the road with Wu-Tang filling in for his famous father, he’s finally stepping out from his shadow to release some music of his own. On Friday (November 15) — what would have been ODB’s 50th birthday — the Growing Up Hip Hop: New York co-star plans to release a visual for his solo cut “BAR SUN.”
Then last week, Method Man’s son PXWR, Ghostface Killah’s son Sun God, U-God’s son iNTeLL and YDB dropped “7.O.D.,” their first collaborative single under the 2nd Generation WU moniker.
The track flips the classic Wu cut “C.R.E.A.M.” on its head with the hook, “God made everything around me/Forget about the money/None of it is real, y’all.”
In a new interview with HipHopDX, YDB discusses the biggest misconception about ODB, 2nd Generation WU and the moment he realized his father was a legendary Hip Hop pioneer.
HipHopDX: You kind of stole the show at Red Rocks.
YDB: Well, I don’t mean to.
HipHopDX: I don’t think you can help it [laughs]. How did you like your first sold-out Red Rocks experience?
YDB: Before I even got to Red Rocks, they gave us a trophy, so I was already amazed. I was like, “OK, now I’ve got to work for this trophy that they gave me.” So, that’s how you get all of that good energy.
HipHopDX: Smart ways to do things. When did you decide you wanted to rap?
YDB: Well, I wanted to rap around like age 14, 15. My father was locked up at the time. That’s when it all started. Eminem and 50 Cent was out at the time and they were like the biggest things out. They were going back-to-back on the same team. I was like, “OK, that’s how Hip Hop is.” It was actually not a race war at the time — you had white and blacks together. So, that’s when I started. I seen that as a good time to start. It was gangster rap but when Eminem brought it, he brought a different type of smoke to the table. He brought that lyricism and it was gangster rap with 50 Cent. I started to put those together.
HipHopDX: Do you remember the moment when you realized who your dad was?
YDB: Yeah, definitely. I lived somewhere in Brooklyn. I was young. I was like in 3rd or 1st grade, and I was being a bad ass. I got suspended every year in school, you know, regular boy life. So, I was getting in trouble. They called my parents and my dad happened to come to the front of the school and then immediately, the teacher in the classroom and the classmates forgot that I was in trouble.
HipHopDX: They were like, “Holy shit, ODB!”
YDB: He just walks in, but everybody starts laughing and clapping. “Oh shit! I’m not in trouble no more.” I think I even left with him like it was a sick day.
HipHopDX: It must have been quite the trip growing up with him.
YDB: There were some bad times, too. We needed security. My mom and I would have to drive around with our cousins with big guns and all of that because people were always shot. They shot at him two times. He did get shot and luckily, we didn’t. Nothing happened to us, the children. So he protected us.
HipHopDX: How old were you when he passed away?
YDB: I’m still trying to figure that out [laughs]. It was right around the time I actually started rapping, so like 16 or so.
HipHopDX: What is one of the biggest misconceptions about your father?
YDB: You already know — that he’s not crazy. They always call people crazy when they out of the norm. On MTV, he might have been crazy because he took a limo to get food stamps but at the time, everybody was on food stamps. It was just what he put on TV.
HipHopDX: You don’t drink smoke or anything like that, right? Seeing what your dad went through, did that play into your decision to maneuver life the way you do?
YDB: Yeah, that definitely played into it. It’s just that my mother, she was always heated. She hated cigarettes and she hated anybody was drinking because we grew up outside of living with my cousins and that since I was little, we didn’t have nothing. Of course, we had to move in with our cousins. But my father kept us away from all that negativity. We couldn’t even go to certain parties because all that stuff was going to be around — narcotics and the drinks. We was getting tired of that lifestyle. So, it was like a generational thing. Everybody’s drunk — the baby’s a drunk, the parents are drunk; it’s like a non-changeable thing. Somebody had to move away to start some type of small revolution within the family.
HipHopDX: I heard you, Ghostface Killah’s son, U-God’s son and Method Man’s son have started a group called 2nd Generation WU.
YDB: Ah shit.
HipHopDX: I heard the first single. You flipped “C.R.E.A.M.” and now you’re beefing with all of Wu-Tang [laughs]. Where did this concept come from?
YDB: Right now, the time we’re in is a time where everybody’s waking up. We are dealing with governmental issues every day on TV, people talking about how this is where we need to be and this is what we need to do — no! This is where we need to be as a people and stand up, wake up, take our families and stop waiting for handouts. We could do that ourselves as a community. Give our own people food. You don’t have to wait for no president to come on TV and give us food. Oh, hey, my mom just walked in.
HipHopDX: Hey, mom.
Icelene Jones: Hey, how are you doing?
HipHopDX: I just saw him at Red Rocks. It was amazing.
Icelene Jones: Yeah, my son is something else. When people talk to him, they’re shocked. They’re like, “Wow, did you just say that?” He’s very interesting to talk to. He’s someone that you would like to get to know and, and you’re like, “Wow, I would like to know more about you,” so you started to get interested and want to know what else he’s going to say or do.
HipHopDX: I felt that the moment I met him.
Icelene Jones: He’s something else. He’s very unique like his daddy.
HipHopDX: That’s why his middle name is Unique, right?
Icelene Jones: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly.
HipHopDX: Well, thank you so much for sharing him with me.
Icelene Jones: I am going to share him with the world. That’s why my husband gave him to me — to share him.
HipHopDX: Let’s talk about 2nd Generation WU. I heard the first single. What do you want your own legacy to be?
YDB: We all feel that we’ve been held back a little bit.
HipHopDX: Because of who your fathers are?
YDB: I feel like I’ve been held back a little because I’ve been doing my music that exists to the Wu-Tang. I’ve been telling them, “This is it. Let me do this now.” Now, I have to find other outlets and send my material out. All praise is due to the most high and now it’s finally happening. Then, when you see me on a stage, I do that for Wu-Tang and I also do this for my father and my family. That’s for Hip Hop right there. Now finally, I have that opportunity to bring my music to the world. And I think that’s what every a generation wants — opportunity.
HipHopDX: Absolutely. You mentioned you do this for your father. Is that what drives you every day? Do you feel like you have a responsibility to carry on his legacy?
YDB: Well, yeah ’cause my name is Young Dirty Bastard. I’ve got six babies. I’ve got six children and they are all nut cases. When I say nut cases, they really came from the nut. They all got the own case worker [laughs].
HipHopDX: Wait, how old are you?
YDB: Actually this year, April 9, I turned 30 years old so I’m dirty 30 years now. So, I noticed it was up to me when we went to my grandma’s house when she lived in Park Slope. It was like the day after he died. It was the morning and it was raining. It was crazy. We went up there and then somebody interviewed us. I don’t know who it was, but it was me and my two sisters in the picture. We said a couple of things and I knew from now on everything was going to change. I knew it was up to me to be there for the family.
HipHopDX: It seems like you’re taking it seriously.
YDB: I barely smile.
HipHopDX: Your dad’s birthday and his death anniversary are coming up. How does it feel around this time?
YDB: A lot of stress and a lot of preparation. Every year, we’ve been making it bigger. And for my family, gathering all of the parts to make ends meet is not easy because we never really had the whole Wu-Tang down with us to do it. But now that my performances are getting greater, I think that’s what’s really changed in the whole piece of it — the dynamic.
HipHopDX: I was watching an old interview with you from 2015 was and it seems like there was some tension going on behind the scenes with you and Wu-Tang. But now you’re doing shows, so did you work it out?
YDB: It got very good. RZA is my mentor actually. I’ve got a few mentors in the Wu-Tang. Everybody has a a legendary way of thinking but right now it’s hard because we always going through things where we have to come through the back door and then try to get our royalty checks. There’s always something weird going on in politics, you know? I have businesses. It’s always bad.
HipHopDX: Plus, you’ve got so many people involved, even trying to get you on an interview call was like going through a gauntlet.
YDB: You’ve got to go to this guy. This is the right number right here.
HipHopDX: Did you head to the merch booth after your Red Rocks set?
YDB: I don’t make no money off the merchandise, so I was literally trying to sell pictures. I’m up there like, “$20 a picture. Come on.” It was for Hip Hop. Listen man, I got six babies to feed.
HipHopDX: I have a feeling things are about to change for you.
YDB: Yeah, another big thing I wanted to announce I think we might do a Season 2 of Growing Up Hip Hop: New York. We’re still going to have big meetings about it.
HipHopDX: Nice. What else do you have going on right now?
YDB: I’m actually coming out with my own single. It’s called “BAR SUN,” my name, you know. So, that’s a little big for me ’cause I’m going to announce it on my father’s tribute birthday.
HipHopDX: How did you handle the grief after your dad died?
YDB: I kind of ran away from New York. Right after my pops died, my mother moved us from New York City because we had other people chasing us — all of the family members wanted his royalties. It happened by accident. I had a blackout. I don’t remember special times with my father. I’m going to act like I do, but I don’t. My mom and my sisters always tell me, “Remember this time? Remember that?” I’ll be like, “No.” The best thing you can do is a meditation and always keep the memory alive by looking at pictures.
HipHopDX: Do you ever feel your dad’s spirit with you onstage?
YDB: No — actually, the truth is I don’t know what happens. I kind of feel that I know I’m in control but that I’m starting to feel myself move a little more. But I’d never tried to play it too much in the future. I’m thinking about Michael Jackson. I’m dead serious about going that far with it — dancing or something. I mean, I’ve got two left feet though, but it’s going to work.