Cherry Jones: Return to the 36 Chambers (The Clean Version)

Though it’s been several years since his untimely passing, Hip-Hop has yet to find another Ol’ Dirty Bastard. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the odds of ever finding him again are slim-to-none. Name another rapper who bumrushed The Grammys, allegedly got held up by Diddy’s goons, then saved a little girl […]

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it’s been several years since his untimely passing, Hip-Hop has yet to

find another Ol’ Dirty Bastard. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to

say the odds of ever finding him again are slim-to-none. Name another

rapper who bumrushed The Grammys, allegedly got held up by Diddy’s

goons, then saved a little girl from being crushed to death—all in the

same week. There truly was no father to his style, in the booth or out

in the world—but there was a mother.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, caught up with Ms. Cherry

Jones to see how she’s coped with the loss of her son, and to explore

the murky details surrounding the late rapper’s estate. Though she’s

endured a public feud with his former wife, and has been burdened with

the debts he accumulated, she carries herself forward with dignity,

grace, and a sense of humor not unlike Dirty’s. Sitting down with her

in her Brooklyn Brownstone, one gets the sense that much of his talent

came directly from his mama. Whether it’s the way she laughs, or how

she bats her eyes when she smiles, you’re left with the impression that

a part of Ol’ Dirty is still alive and kicking in spirit. And while it

hasn’t been an easy coping with the loss, Ms. Jones is determined to

carry on and survive, sadly, without the support of her son’s fellow

members of the Wu-Tang Clan. I actually read an interview from The Village Voice and the writer paraphrased you saying that your son didn’t like having you backstage. Why?

Cherry Jones: He didn’t want me in the music industry, period. He knew

it was a cruel world, and he can’t be onstage and take care of me at

the same time. [He said] “Mama, I don’t want you involved in the

business,” but I told him the last time he came out [of jail] that I

was going to be in the business so he could have something. We he was

with Wu-Tang, he had nothing. [Laughs] Nothing. Everything he wanted for he had to go and beg. He had to fight them for a dollar bill. So, even off of [Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version], he had to fight for his fair share of the profits?

Cherry Jones: He had to fight for everything, you know, beg:

“I need a couple dollars here.” It takes time to make money in the

music industry. Rusty was never rich. He just made enough money to

survive and take care of his child support. He was never able to buy a

home. He was never able to buy his mother a home. He was rich inside;

whatever he had, he gave, but I never was able to sit down [and live

off of him]. I told him “I could buy him a house.” [Laughs] What did you do to support yourself?

Cherry Jones: I worked for NYPD—I was a corrections officer. I did

everything. I was driving the buses in Manhattan; I started that job

when I was 59. I’ll be 61 in July. I could never stop working. [Even]

now, I don’t have a penny. When he died, his wife never lived with him,

but she walked in and poof [took all available money for herself]. But I retire next year, so I ain’t gonna worry. He was quite prolific as an artist. What would you say

were some of the things you instilled in him as a little kid?

Cherry Jones: Never forget who you came from. A lot of these

entertainers get up there and think they’re too good to stop and even

speak to you. I told him not to forget where you came from, because the

same people you meet going up, you meet going down. Always take the

time to stop and say hello. He used to go downtown and feed the poor.

He never had a [driver’s license], so he’d be on the train and the bus

[Laughs]. I didn’t know that he had an expensive taste in clothes. Where’d he get that from?

Cherry Jones: He always had that because I didn’t put anything cheap on

them when they were children. I taught him that if you buy something of

good quality, it’ll go down the line; I had seven kids. If I bought

something good, I could pass that down to the next child, and the next

child…and that’s what I did. I told him to never put no cheap shoes on

your feet; you buy a good shoe. I instilled that in him, thank

goodness, because his wife used to tell me she’d go to Payless—and he

hated that. He hated it, so he’d go and do all the shopping. He’d buy her clothes, his clothes and all the kids’ clothes. What would you say your relationship is with her? I can sense a little tension.

Cherry Jones: I haven’t seen her since the funeral. I never did

anything to her. But she takes time to go on Wendy Williams and

threaten my life and stomp my brains out so, I left everything in the

hands of God. I didn’t understand [the falling out]. We were friends

until the day he died. So, what happened?

Cherry Jones: He was signed to a million-dollar deal [with Roc-A-Fella

Records]. She thought she was gonna get the million dollars. She’s too

ignorant to know that he didn’t get nowhere near that money anyway;

Damon Dash never paid him. If he had lived, he probably would have got

his money, you know, but he was never paid. She thought that all that

money was gonna go to her, but she ain’t know that all the money that was paid to him was going towards making the album. [Laughs] So she told the world that I robbed a million dollars from Dirty. But, obviously, you don’t have that.

Cherry Jones: Have what? [Laughs] I don’t have a penny. A lot of times

I walk to Downtown Brooklyn. I don’t even have [cab] fare. Dirty bought

an expensive car for $80,000 and I’m paying for it through the help of

my mom and my father-in-law. Dirty bought it for his friend and I’m not

gonna let his friend go down so, every month I’m looking to make a

payment. He bought it in October…he died in November. It’s a Chrysler

300 Hemi Special Edition with wood trim inside and everything. If I had

[that million dollars], wouldn’t it have been paid for? When I finish

paying for it, I’m gonna try and put it on eBay and sell it to pay off

some of his taxes and stuff. We he came out [of jail] I had

power-of-attorney. They put my name on everything he bought. Things

will work out, though. I ain’t got time to worry about it. You worry

about it, you get old-looking. You get bags under your eyes…I ain’t

even worried about it. [Laughs] You don’t even look 61, by the way. I’m not even saying that to butter you up.

Cherry Jones. Thank you.

[Laughs] If he was alive, I wouldn’t have to worry about anything

because he took care of his mother. But the wife [messed things up].

She actually told the courts that she wanted everything. Like Dirty

wasn’t going to take care of his mother! So, if he gave me any money

while he was living with me, she wanted that back. I think that’s sick. Where is she living now?

Cherry Jones: In Georgia. She just had a baby with this guy she’s been

with for a long time. She wanted all my [RIAA] plaques. I told her,

“Come here and try to take them.” You can’t take nothing from me.

Everything I have, he put in my hands. He said, “Mommy, this is for

you.” If he wanted you to have it, he would’ve said, “Here wifey, this

is for you.” The RZA and Dirty were cousins. He’s your nephew. Do you talk to him often?

Cherry Jones: I don’t. They don’t call you. The last time I saw RZA was

out in Cali at Rock The Bells. He didn’t pay for my ticket, he didn’t

invite me. Chang [The concert’s promoter] set me up to go out there. He

had nothing to do with it. Other people arrange for me to go places. The VH1 Hip-Hop [Honors]? My girlfriend told me about it. He didn’t tell me anything. Is anyone from the group staying in touch with you?

Cherry Jones: No. Not one of them. Now, could that just be a case of “Out of sight, Out of mind?”

Cherry Jones: They don’t contact me on anything. They might be busy, I

don’t know. But when it comes to family, pick up the phone. I don’t

have their number—

I had RZA’s number, but I guess with so many people calling him, he

changed it, you know. He gets me aggravated. Every time you call him,

he thinks you want something. I never asked him for nothing. Well, I

asked him one time to help me with Dirty’s car and he said he didn’t

have nothing so, I’ve been doing it on my own ever since Dirty died. I

ain’t gonna ask you but one time. It’s hard, but I’m hanging in there. He really was larger than life, in a lot of ways…

Cherry Jones: Oh, yes. Yes, he was. Even now, when Wu-Tang’s on stage,

people scream, “Dirty, Dirty, Dirty!” It makes you feel good. It really

does. Jay-Z too. I saw him in concert last summer and he had the crowd singing “Brooklyn Zoo.”

Cherry Jones: Oh, wow! I really like that. You know, they never really got along… Really? Why?

Cherry Jones: ‘Cause Dirty [was] like that. He wanted to be the

front-and-center. If you up there singing, he’d go up there and take

the show. He was always like that. I’d tell him, “That’s not nice.” He

didn’t care. [When he was on the lam], he’d put a hoodie on and go “I

gotta get outta here because they gonna lock me up.” I said, “Boy, you

stupid.” Then he goes in McDonald’s [In Philadelphia and gets

arrested]. They told him to stay in the car, but he comes out and says

“They locked me up.” You walked in and they locked you up? [Laughs] You know, I was watching the Grammy incident last nite. He was very calm and professional when he took the mic…

Cherry Jones: Rage Against The Machine said, “Wouldn’t nobody do it but

Dirty.” They said they loved it! I said, “All of y’all are stupid.” I

said it [to Dirty] “It wasn’t nice of you to do that, either. Don’t you

ever do that again in your life. I’ll tear your head up.” [Laughs] He was sober, you know… Really?

Cherry Jones: Really. On the way there, a limousine came and picked us

up. He stopped at almost every corner and bought little bottles of

water. He had nothing to drink that night. Nothing at all. So when he

went up there, I felt bad, but I said “At least the boy is sober.”

Puffy’s people had him hemmed up by the neck. His henchmen ain’t gonna

hem up my doggone son. I said, “It’s time for me to fight.” He said,

“Calm down mommy, everything is gonna be okay.” If Rusty don’t wanna

fight, you know

he’s sober! His bodyguards had him by the throat down there because of

the comment he made: “Puffy’s good, but Wu-Tang’s the best.” After

seeing him like that, I said, “Boy, he really need a drink!” [Laughs] Were there any moments you were proud of in particular?

Cherry Jones: When he got to The Garden, I went. He was with Mariah

Carey. He bought me a great big bouquet of flowers and, it was so nice.

I was so proud of him that night. He had no clothes; the clothes they

brought him were too small, so he stripped Poppa Wu [his cousin] right

out of his clothes. He really did. Then he went on stage and the kids

loved him. [Mariah] didn’t go on stage with him because he had just

came in off tour. He came straight from the plane into The Garden. He

didn’t have time to rehearse with her, so she didn’t sing with him. He

went on the stage and rocked the house without her. He said, “Screw

her!” [Laughs]. I said, “Boy, you stupid!” He was fantastic. I’m about to ask you a dumb question, but, how’d it feel when you first heard the news?

Cherry Jones: I lost my mind. What bothered me the most was, they had

called me, and they hadn’t even called the ambulance. They said, uh,

“Dirty’s on the floor and we’re not getting a response.” I started

screaming, “Why don’t y’all call the damn ambulance?” He’d probably

been dead a long time…that’s why they never called…I don’t know…I don’t

know. Dirty lived a life he wanted to live. He was about to go on tour

and he said to me, “Mom, this is the last time you’re gonna see me.” He

said he was going to Mexico. I told him that, “If you go, give your

mother a call and tell me that you’re okay.” He never got a chance to

call because he…died in the studio. The RZA sent a limo to pick him up.

He got off the plane on a Friday and died on a Saturday. He had cocaine

in his system, and when he was on tour, he fell off the stage and

[surgically] had pins placed in his foot which was very painful. So,

when he got to the studio, he asked for a painkiller like Tylenol and

they gave him something much stronger, like Tramadol. With the coke,

it’s a deadly mixture, that’s what the medical examiner told me…he had

a smile on his face, though…. I used to wash him and put him in his

clothes…that was my boy. When he told me, “This is the last time you’re

gonna see me,” maybe he felt something, you know? But…I enjoyed every

day of his life.