And speaking of butterflies, with Mariah's recent abdication of the looks-bright-sounds-black chasm, and sounding a little like her, Keys seems poised to step into those glittery shoes. But unlike Carey, who only used hip-hop when it was convenient, Keys embraces it with thug passion—her blues as common as 20-year-old divas. —Angela Bronner

Who Wants to Kill Joe Bananas?

Arms and the Man: Juanes at Watcha
photo: Cary Conover
Arms and the Man: Juanes at Watcha

"I bust your motherfuckin' ass boy!/I ain't no motherfuckin' joke, you know who you talkin' to?/Ol' Dirty Bastard. I fuck you up right now."

Right now, Ol' Dirty Bastard (a/k/a Dirt McGirt, Osiris, Joe Bananas, Big Baby Jesus) isn't fucking anybody up. In fact, the imprisoned Wu-Tang Clan rapper has been beaten up, intimidated sexually, and is receiving numerous death threats, according to sources inside the 36 Chambers.

Dirty pleaded guilty this April to possession of 20 glassine envelopes of crack cocaine and one of marijuana; he was sentenced to two to four years in state prison. On the lam after escaping from an inpatient rehab program last October, Dirty was picked up in November in the parking lot of a Philadelphia McDonald's.

Calm during his recent hearing, Dirty has been known for his courtroom theatrics: spitting, falling asleep, bringing bottles of alcohol (a probation violation), and flirting with female prosecutors. In one L.A. appearance, court transcripts show that Dirty introduced himself to the prosecution team as "Sperm Donor."

The judge then said, "It will be helpful if you would just say nothing right now." Dirty replied, "Do I make you horny?" Though the transcript does not make clear what he was doing at this point, the judge instructed him to put his hands down. "Fool yourselves," he said. "Sperm donor here."

But the Wu-Tang Clan say ODB's present situation is no laughing matter. "He's scared," the RZA told the Voice, sipping from a flute of champagne at the recent promotion party for his new record, Digital Bullet, at the Riverton Lounge. After visiting his cousin in prison, the RZA wrote and posted an advisory titled "Dirty in Danger" on the Clan's Web site. "Ol' Dirty Bastard fears his life is in jeopardy and that a conspiracy is in effect to kill him. These concerns have been presented to the DA and prison officials have been alerted to the threat to his life. None of these state officials have given any regard to this matter. If something happens while ODB is in the custody of these officials, his family, his thirteen children, and Wu-Tang will seek full retribution in a civil resolution."

So RZA, who does Dirty think is out to kill him? "The government." Anyone more specific? "I don't think there's one person, one single name, but he said some cops told him, 'You better watch your back.' " In 1998, jewelry robbers actually did shoot him in the back; cops have shot at him, too. All the gun-slinging, the RZA says, has instilled paranoia and fear in Big Baby Jesus, who has been known to wear body armor.

"He has repeatedly expressed to me serious, sincere concerns about being killed while in custody," says ODB's East Coast lawyer, Peter Frankel, and has already fractured his leg in one of a few "incidents" with inmates.

Dirty, who has gained a considerable amount of weight since his imprisonment, has been moved to the prison's psych ward, according to the RZA's longtime personal assistant, Tam Layton. She reports that he's on a daily cocktail of four to five medications. "He's overly lethargic," she says. "Kind of like, 'Uhhhh . . . ' They have him in that state of mind, like those mental patients who stare at the wall." According to Layton, Wu-Tang want him moved to a private hospital, staffed by doctors not affiliated with the state.

The first threats against him, she says, were sexual, and Dirt McGirt refused to bathe. "He's crazy, but he's like, 'Look, I got this big-ass man telling me what to do with my body—I think I'm gonna stay dirty.' "

Frankel adds that it's been difficult for corrections officers to handle the threats. "This is what happens: A number of inmates will say, 'You're fuckin' dead, man,' 'The word is out,' 'You're gonna be had,' whatever it is they say. Then Dirty goes to a corrections officer and says, 'Look, these motherfuckers are threatening my life.' The officer's gonna say, 'Well, who said it?'

"It's a catch-22. If Dirty says who said it, he's gonna have a different kind of problem. If he doesn't say who said it, nobody's going to pay attention and they're not going to file a report and take it seriously. It happens every fucking day." —Geoffrey Gray

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