The Making Of Ol Dirty Bastard’s “Harlem World” From His Classic Debut Album

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20 years ago today, Ol Dirty Bastard’s classic debut album Return Of The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version was released. It was the second solo album to come out of the Wu camp, after Method Man’s Tical in 1994, and the order of the solo albums was dictated by who the fans wanted to hear the most. At the time, ODB was one of the most unique, raucous, out-there personalities in hip-hop. Produced almost entirely by RZA with some help from True Master, 4th Disciple, and ODB himself, the LP had timeless tracks like “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” “Brooklyn Zoo,” and “Raw Hide.”

One of my personal favorites is “Harlem World,” the last bonus track. I was looking at the tracklist and marveling over the song when I realized, much to my surprise, that RZA hadn’t actually produced it it. As much as it sounded like his dark, drunken signature sound, he didn’t make the beat. It was credited to a guy named Big Dore. I’d never heard of him before.

When I tracked Dore down, he was living in a temporary crib because his permanent residence had just been damaged by a horrific fire. I was privileged enough to speak with Dore about how he met Dirty, what it was like recording the song with the Wu-Tang legend, and why he never even got paid for the beat.

WatchLOUD: Let’s start from the beginning.

Big Dore: I met Dirty in Harlem. At the time, “Brooklyn Zoo” was like the hottest record on the radio. They would play it to death. I used to work in this store – well it’s not there anymore, so I can say I used to work in the spot! [Laughs] Selling my trees and stuff, right? And it was right next door to the M & G’s restaurant. That was like a world famous soul food spot on 125th and um…I forget, but that’s where they shot Nas’s “Hate Me Now” video. So we did sell groceries and things like that, but if you knew us, you could get something, you know what I mean? But Dirty didn’t know that.

He stopped there to go to the restaurant and then came next door to get some beer. I was in there with my niece – yeah I’m crazy, but she was a little older – and I happen to be in the back room. She comes into the back and says, “Dore! You won’t believe who’s here! Get out here now!” I go out there and I’m like, “Oh shit! Ol’ Dirty!” I was a Wu-Tang fan from the get, from the first Wu-Tang record. When I heard their beats, I was doing beats like that as well. So I was like really a fan, like the way RZA put his shit together, that’s the kind of stuff I do too. Back when I was an artist, I used to be down with a group and we were signed to Select Records with Kid ‘n Play and Chubb Rock and all that shit, and the A&Rs used to tell me, “Oh, you’re ahead of your time with your music and your lyrics, but if the group follows you…” You know, that type of thing. It never happened like that.

So anyway, I come out of the back and Dirty’s standing there like, “Yo, where’s the beer?” And I’m like, “Yo I ain’t got no beer, but I got something for you. Don’t move.” So I run in the back, I break out my backpack with a bunch of cassettes, because back in the day there were no CDs. You just did your beats and recorded them on a cassette. So I’d record my beats and then listen to them to see what I could add or take away from the track.

So I had the “Harlem World” beat on tape for about 12 minutes straight. I put the tape in, I’m looking for the beat, and Dirt is mad patient the whole time. My niece just staring him down, she can’t believe he’s in the store. I finally find the beat and I start playing it for him, and I knew I had the system hook up in the store, like surround sound, it was crazy. So he’s bobbin’ his head to it and I let the beat play for the entire 12 minutes. And then he’s like, “Rewind that shit.” I rewind it, and the second time the beat starts playing, dude just starts going. He just starts rhyming and going crazy to it. The shit stops again and he’s like, “Yo, rewind that shit again.” [Laughs]

He’s like, “Yo, take my number. Take my manager’s number.” Like…we’re gonna do this! And you know, at the time I’m gettin’ by, hustling, doing what I gotta do. So I’m like, “He ain’t gonna call me.” That’s how I felt, like he was pullin’ my leg. The next day or two, I get a call from Buddha Monk, and he was like, “Yo. Dirty says you got this beat for him.” I’m like, “What!?” He’s like, “Meet me in Brooklyn.” I go to Brooklyn, meet up with Buddha Monk. Play the track for him and he’s like, “Oh shit!” He even said the same thing.

I actually sampled my little boy. You hear him in the background going, “One, two.” That’s my first born son, I sampled him doing that and put it in the track. Then I sampled Barrington Levy. Some people, if you know your samples, you know where I got stuff from. If you don’t…you don’t know. [Laughs] I remember playing the beat for DJ Spooky, and I was at his studio, and when he heard it he ran into the back room and pulled out every sample I used! I knew he’d know it was Barrington Levy, but I didn’t think he’d know exactly where I got the organs from.

So Buddha Monk took my information and told me the session would be at Chung King a few days later. Now, when I get to Chung King, I lay the track. Dirty is there, a bunch of his crew is there, and he’s waiting on Busta [Rhymes]. And I was like, “Oh shit!” That’s when I thought I was really about to blow up. Originally, “Harlem World” was supposed to be a remix to “Brooklyn Zoo.” A lot of people don’t know that, but that’s what he ended up telling me. And he was going back and forth on the phone with Busta, and he just wasn’t getting there, so Dirty just said, “I’ma just go up in there and do this.” And literally, that’s what he did. He went into the studio and I swear, he freestyled the whole song. I was like, “This shit is genius!”

And when I say there was a room full of 40s? Someone came back with like two shopping bags full of 40 ounces. Just 40 ounces all over the place. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I had one 40 and that was it. I ain’t even get it all the way down. I fell asleep, woke up and he was standing at the boards, still up, wide awake. Everybody in the studio was damn near knocked out. That was a session I can’t forget. It was fun. People say he was crazy and whatever, but nah. In the studio, that kid was genius. If you listen to the lyrics, it was over the top, but at the same time, he did that purposefully.

The girl that introduces the song, that was an artist I was working with. I brought her to the studio with me and he just threw her on the track for the intro. And from that point, we thought we were gonna be superstars. And Dirty offered me the opportunity to work with him more. But at the time, I was with my crew, and I had to be loyal to my people. That’s how I was brought up. So I felt like it was more loyal for me to stay with my clique than to leave and go with a member of the Wu family.

The sad part is I never got paid for the situation. I got on a platinum album, and that was it. I expected some publishing and stuff, and that never happened. I went through a couple lawyers and it still never happened. I had lawyers basically tell me there were so many people in line trying to get money. Like there were other producers who worked, they did the work and RZA got the credit, from what I heard. I never got a publishing check [for “Harlem World”] a day in my life.


It struck me as so odd when I found out you produced “Harlem World,” because it sounds like something RZA would have done.

Yeah, well, like I said, I’ve heard that there were a lot of other producers who would do tracks and wouldn’t get the credits for them. They’d get paid for the tracks…you know, I was kind of dumb to begin. I was in the business, but it’s very easy to get jerked in the music business. You can be in the music business and still get jerked. I didn’t take the time to learn publishing, learn how to deal with a contract and make sure I’m covered.

I spent 10 years as an exec, and there’s a lot of people I’ve met. There was this one dude I knew who produced about six songs on Jay Z’s first album. He was like, “Man, I just have my company on the side. I really want my publishing.” And every time I hear stuff like that, it makes me upset, because I know that Ol Dirty album [Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version] sold. And I know that “Harlem World” gets some plays, especially now that they got digital radio and you can play whatever songs you want. Somebody’s getting a publishing check for that song and it’s not me.

The sad thing was I ran into Ol Dirty again. This was when I was an exec, and I was doing a showcase with Ron Artest’s group, an R&B singer from Cali, and another rapper. So I see Dirty was out there, and I gave him a look and he gave me a look and I was like, “You don’t even know who I am.” And he’s like, “Nah, you Big Dore!” I thought he’d forgotten who I was, but he didn’t. He remembered exactly who I was. So he asked what I was doing and I told him I was starting a label, getting into distribution. And it was literally weeks before he died. And it was just sad, because it was like we had connected again. After I saw him, we spoke on the phone about some distribution, and I also spoke to him about the publishing situation, and he said he’d clear it up, but that never happened. I think it was a week after we spoke when he died. I had been excited because I was sending him beats, and to hear that news, it was just sad. I called him on my cell and it just kept going straight to voicemail.

One of the happier things I forgot to mention, to go back a little bit. We had recorded the song, and two or three days after we recorded it at Chung King, Wu-Tang was on Arsenio Hall. And when they came out for that, a lot of people don’t know, Ol Dirty was doing the intro for Wu-Tang, and if you listen closely, he’s singing the lyrics for “Harlem World” on Arsenio. I was so happy. I thought I was about to be, you know, one of those producers was was blowing up.

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