In 2010, Wu-Tang Clan producer and mastermind RZA was rummaging through old files on his computer when he came across “Bitches Better Obey Me,” an unreleased Ol’ Dirty Bastard track produced by RZA and Wu collaborator Buddha Monk in 1994. It was a raw track – as most of the unpredictable, manic rapper’s work was – but the combination of ODB’s hyper, off-kilter rhymes and a snakecharmer melody lifted from “The Streets of Cairo” (aka the “There’s a place in France” song) convinced RZA to polish it for public release.
“We were recording his first album [Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version] and he was in the studio having a good time and recorded the song,” RZA tells Rolling Stone of the track. “He was fuckin’ buggin’ out on this song that night. Dirty felt that anything he made was supposed to be released. I was more critical of what we released. And even though some people may listen to his first album and go, ‘Shit, this is crazy, this song fits right in.’ To me, there was a method to the madness of what we did. And with the stuff that didn’t make the album, there was a clear reason why in the narrative of what I was striving to create with his style.”
Now, the rapper-producer has revisited and cleaned up the track, retitled it “Obey Me” and partnered with portable speaker company Boombotix to put out the previously unreleased song, available to hear on the Boombot REX speaker.
For RZA, the song reminds him of Wu-Tang’s formative years, a time when “money and fame didn’t enter us” and the group hadn’t yet encountered the infighting and ego control that would plague the group after their massive success.
“After a while, you start creating with an intent,” RZA says. “This was just us creating with the freedom of making music and this song is definitely a glimpse into that mindset. I’m hearing Ason just be Ason and that’s something I miss from him. It reminds you of the unity and camaraderie of the Wu-Tang. We cross-pollinated ourselves so much because there was a brotherhood, a community of unity of hip-hop. And this song gives me a glimpse on what made us unique and great.”
In addition to the original song, RZA and Boombotix have commissioned producers High Klassified and Shash’U to produce remixes of the track, the latter of which is available below.
For RZA, who notes that there is more unreleased Wu stuff in the vaults, this may be the beginning of more musical archaeology. “I’ve been going through some of the old reels and finding shit,” RZA says. “The Wu-Tang catalog is so big, even I don’t know what’s been released or not.”