Troubled rapper O.D.B., in a casket surrounded by red and white flowers, was remembered by family and friends Wednesday at a Harlem church where the focus was on the positives in his life.
“I grew up in this man’s music,” said Jason Davis, 25, who traveled to New York from Camden, N.J., to bid farewell to the man born as Russell Jones.
The wake, which was open to the public, will be followed Thursday by another wake and a funeral.
Jones, who would have turned 36 Monday, complained of chest pains, collapsed and died Saturday inside a Manhattan recording studio.
The cause of death remained undetermined, but the co-founder of the seminal rap group Wu-Tang Clan had struggled with drug and alcohol addictions. And he recently had finished a prison sentence for drug possession and escaping from a rehabilitation clinic.
But the visitors who turned out Wednesday were more focused on Jones’ accomplishments.
Among the mourners outside St. James Presbyterian Church was 42-year-old Bernard Minniefield, who said O.D.B. had “never changed” after becoming famous, and was always available to help others trying to break into the music business.
“He opened doors for a lot of people,” Minniefield said.
The casket holding Jones’ body had a blanket of white flowers across its lower half. Three other floral arrangements flanked the casket in the front of the church, where mourners sporadically walked past the body.
O.D.B. was known for his unique rap styles, which ranged from the slurred to the hyper to the nonsensical. Even in the eight-man Clan, with featured such future stars as Method Man, RZA and Ghostface Killa, he stood out.
He recently had signed with Roc-a-Fella records.
“He was a true artist and he also dealt with a lot of pain in his life,” Roc-A-Fella founder Damon Dash said before entering the church. “I think that is a part of artistry as well. And he communicated it through his lyrics.”