On March 30, 1995, ODB took an MTV film crew with him — via limo — to pick up food stamps and a $375 welfare check. Two days prior, he had released his debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, which featured his identification card for food coupons.
The moment is engrained the minds of millions who were unsure how to process the fact that a "world famous" MC could still be perceived as destitute in the eyes of the New York City.
"Dirty ... was proud to be on welfare," wrote Buddha Monk, his childhood friend and hype man, in a biography co-written with Mickey Hess.
The MTV segment, aptly titled "Ol' Dirty Bastard Gets Paid," seemed to feed MTV narrative's that he was the "most outrageous" member of Wu-Tang, but also spoke to Dirty's awareness of what was happening sociopolitically in the country.
Consider what are two contrasting statements:
"Why wouldn't you want to get free money?"
"The people that want to cut off the welfare, man, I think that's terrible. You know how hard it is for people to live without nothin'? You owe me 40 acres and a mule anyway. For real. I'm in this rap game to get money .... I got babies. It's time to take care of my babies."
Dirty is speaking to a period of time when welfare was on the tip of many a politician's tongue. President Clinton made welfare reform a central part of his 1992 campaign — claiming that his proposal would “end welfare as we have come to know it.”
Although ODB had collected a $45,000 advance from Elektra for his debut album, Buddha Monk asserts that because ODB had never properly filed taxes, he was, in the eyes of NYC, still qualified for benefits.
"People in the hood understood what Dirty was doing," Buddha Monk wrote, "but to welfare's critics he'd just reinforced the stereotype of the welfare cheat that they were using as a platform to try to get rid of the system.
After the MTV segment aired, ODB's caseworker cut off his aid. In turn, ODB struck back at the system on the song "Diesel" from the Soul in the Hole soundtrack, rapping, "To the president, you say I'm a welfare fraud/You motherfucking right! Let's burn this dark house white!"