Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s widow filed a breach of contract lawsuit Tuesday accusing the Wu-Tang Clan’s production company of “willfully” refusing to pay royalties and publishing income to ODB’s estate over the last decade.
In her 10-page complaint obtained by Rolling Stone, Icelene Jones, administrator of her late husband’s estate, is asking for damages of at least $1 million, plus interest, as well as detailed accounting records.
“This is not an attack on Wu-Tang Productions, Inc., but a last legal resort we have had to pursue after being denied and ignored on this matter for over ten years,” a spokesperson for the estate said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
The statement said Wu-Tang Productions, owned by Wu-Tang member Robert “RZA” Diggs, “has willfully refused to compensate or provide accounting records to the estate of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, despite being contractually obligated.”
“The estate will randomly receive partial checks such as the one sent for $130,000 in July of 2021 from Wu-Tang Productions. But without financial records, we have no indication of the exact amount the estate is still owed,” the statement reads. “It is crucial to understand that ODB’s widow and administrator of the estate, Icelene Jones, has been requesting these financial records for years and has a legal obligation to do so.”
The complaint says the estate also received unspecified payments from Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. in 2019 and 2020, but the combined payments “represent only a small percentage of amounts payable to the estate under the recording agreement.”
The lawsuit describes ODB — real name Russell Tyrone Jones — as “a world-renowned rapper, producer, and songwriter” who co-founded the Wu-Tang Clan in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1992 and enjoyed a prolific, platinum-selling career before his untimely death in 2004 at the age of 35.
The paperwork says ODB, along with fellow Wu-Tang members Dennis “Ghost Face Killer” Coles, Corey “Raekwon” Woods, and Gary “GZA” Grice, signed an exclusive 1992 recording agreement with Wu-Tang Productions that promised the artists a 50 percent share of net royalties and advances related to their sound recordings.
According to the lawsuit, ODB also granted Wu-Tang Productions permission to exploit his co-publishing rights and “name, portraits, pictures, likeness and biographical material” for merchandise sales and videos in exchange for a 50 percent cut of earnings on his copyrights and image.
“Despite its repeated efforts and requests, the estate has been unable to obtain payments and accountings from defendant under the recording agreement for the sale of Wu-Tang Clan recordings and ODB recordings since at least 2011,” the new filing in Manhattan Supreme Court alleges.
A rep for Wu-Tang Clan did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment. Attempts to reach Diggs, who is also ODB’s cousin, were not immediately successful.
The complaint lists the highlights of ODB’s career, starting with The Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which featured ODB on all but two tracks and went triple-platinum, selling more than three million copies. During his later solo endeavors, ODB released the hit single “Got Your Money”, as well as a greatest hits album, The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones.
ODB spent several years in and out of jail before November 2004, when he died of a drug overdose at RZA’s recording studio in New York. He had missed several of the group’s performances over several months before his death.