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Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Widow Sues Over ‘At Least’ $1M in Unpaid Wu-Tang Clan Royalties

Icelene Jones claims the group has made just one payment of $130,000 in the past decade.

The widow of Ol’ Dirty Bastard is suing Wu-Tang Productions for breach of contract, alleging that the company has “willfully refused” to pay the late rapper’s estate at least $1 million in royalties.

The complaint, filed in New York Supreme Court on Tuesday (Feb. 8) by attorney Brian Caplan of Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt on behalf of ODB’s widow Icelene Jones, claims that the company – which is owned and operated by ODB’s cousin/Wu-Tang bandmate RZA (born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) – has made just one payment of $130,000 to the ODB estate over the last decade and has failed to provide detailed accounting statements during that time.

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The estate is seeking at least $1 million in damages plus interest, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.

“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 complaint reads.

The $130,000 payment arrived on July 6, 2021, without a detailed accounting statement, the suit adds. Several additional payments were made by the group’s co-publisher/administrator Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. in 2019 and 2020, but the complaint alleges the total amounts “represent only a small percentage” of what the estate is owed for royalties related to Wu-Tang Clan recordings, ODB’s solo recordings and compositions, merchandising rights and music videos. Warner-Tamerlane is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

As laid out in the complaint, the original recording agreement signed between the individual band members and Wu-Tang Productions entitled ODB to receive 50% of the net earnings from his compositions, the exploitation of his name and likeness and films and videos produced by the group within 45 days of the receipt of payment from distributors (publishing royalties were to be paid semi-annually). The agreement also gave ODB and his representatives the right to request an audit of the company’s books within two years of a royalty statement being provided, with the process to commence within three months of the request.

Wu-Tang Productions did not immediately respond to Billboard’s request for comment. A representative for the ODB estate declined to comment.

Formed in Staten Island in 1992, Wu-Tang Clan shot to stardom with their 1993 debut album Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which went three-times platinum in the U.S. They followed it up with six more albums, including 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever (four-times platinum), 2000’s The W (platinum) and 2001’s Iron Flag (gold). The group’s other members include GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna.

Born Russell Tyrone Jones, ODB released a total of three solo albums, including 1995’s platinum-selling Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. The rapper died of an accidental drug overdose in November 2004 at age 35. Icelene Jones was named the administrator of his estate in December 2005.