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The Messiness of Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard Estate: No Will, Children Still Seeking Assets 20 Years Later, and Fight Over Royalties

After nearly 20 years since the untimely death of Wu-Tang Clan rap luminary Ol’ Dirty Bastard in 2004, his children are still fighting to receive money from his estate. 

The late rapper Russell Jones, better known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), passed away at 35 years old after an accidental drug overdose. Unfortunately, the former hip-hop artist didn’t leave behind a will. The absence of an estate plan has led to a number of contentious discussions between his heirs. And now a lawsuit seeking payments from Wu-Tang Productions was filed this year by ODB’s widow.

QUEENS, NEW YORK–April 21: Rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Russell Jones) is seen filming video for “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” in the Queens borough of New York City on April 21, 1995. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives).

According to the New York Post, ODB’s daughter Ashana Jones is seeking money on behalf of herself and her siblings. She told The Post that she and her siblings haven’t received any money since their father’s death. 

The current value of the estate is undetermined. In 2020, Ashana’s mother, Krishana Rucker, received a $500,000 settlement for outstanding child support that dates back prior to  ODB’s death. Without a will, New York State decided how the rapper’s assets would be divided. It was decided that Icelene Jones, ODB’s widow, would get half the money in his estate, and the remainder would be split between his apparently recognized seven children. 

Icelene Jones, who is also an administrator for his estate, told Fortune Magazine that she believes that the group’s recording and production company, Wu-Tang Productions, took advantage of the late rapper and has continued to fail to meet its responsibilities to his estate. Before her husband’s unexpected death, she recalls him being adamant about getting compensation for his royalties. 

“Get to the bottom of it, fight for my royalties, and don’t let them get away with it,” Jones recounts him telling her.

In February, Jones filed a complaint in the New York Supreme Court against the production company, alleging it had “shortchanged ODB’s estate on royalty payments from at least 2011 through July 2021.” The suit alleges that ODB, along with most Wu-Tang Clan members, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and GZA, signed a contract back in 1992 guaranteeing no less than 50 percent of net royalties from using his image or likeness, as well as music rights, would be paid by the production company, according to court documents.

Jones said the estate has received some payments. The latest one was issued in July of 2021 for $130,000. Meanwhile, the ODB’s children are still empty-handed. 

Wu-Tang Clan’s ten members have recorded 100 studio albums — 9 as a group and the rest as solo artists and sold nearly 40 million records worldwide. After Jones requested more details regarding the contract and did not receive information, Jones’s lawyer said she had no other choice but to file suit. She’s now suing for millions in damages for violation of the contract.

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