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The Saga Behind the Sound

An Honest Dive Into Hulu’s ‘Wu-Tang Clan: An American Saga'

By Barbara PazurPublished 11 months ago 7 min read
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Are y'all watching Wu-Tang: An American Saga Hulu series? If not – you should!!! Even though the series already aired its last episode in April, you can still catch it. Otherwise, you'll miss out on a really good production series and an inspiring piece of history about making one of the greatest hip-hop bands of all time.

Even the theme song is pure gold. RZA nailed that beat. It's the only series intro I never skip. It just pumps me right up for the episode.

But let me rewind a bit here and explain why a 43-year-old white mom is raving about this show.

Gravediggaz

I first heard about RZA (played by massively talented Ashton Sanders in the series), not through Wu-Tang Clan, whom he founded with a group of his friends back in 1992, but through a band he started a bit later in 1994 called Gravediggaz. One of my favorite bands that I still listen to regularly.

Why is this important? Well, it's not as much about the importance but the likelihood of this ever happening.

Back in 1998, in a small country in Eastern Europe called Croatia, my then-boyfriend came to my apartment to hang out. We were both freshmen in college at the time. He came bearing gifts of weed and an audio tape with a first album by Gravediggaz called 6 Feet Deep.

I'd never heard about this band, but I was a big fan of hip-hop and rap. Music genre that was very rare and not popular at all during that time in my country. It's been a few years since our war for independence from communist Yugoslavia ended.

People who grew up in Western cultures will never realize what it was like growing up in a system like that. We only started importing Levi's jeans, and Nike shoes a few years after the war. The Internet didn't exist back then, and cell phones just started coming out and were uber-expensive. All our music news would come from a German pop magazine called Bravo. If you were lucky to get your hands on one. Or if someone, who was really wealthy, had a satellite dish and could watch MTV.

Meaning the chances of a band like Gravediggaz or Wu-Tang Clan ever reaching a country like Croatia were VERY slim. Especially since it's almost a 100% white nation with a completely different culture and taste in music. It was all about 90s rock or more eastern melos called folk (but not the American fol). Even today, hip-hop is less popular than in the West. Major clubs, sadly, don't play that kind of music.

One could argue it was the weed that mesmerized me into immediately loving this type of music, but hey, even after 25 years, this middle-aged white mom is still very much into it. I'm just saying if you saw me on a playground with my little girl, you would never in a million years think I love Wu-Tang. Lol

No wonder when I saw this series Wu-Tang Clan — The American Saga, I HAD to watch it! And it didn't disappoint.

The inspiration

Before you jump on the judgment wagon — who am I to talk about something so clearly, specifically related to black American culture — please remember that inspiration comes from many different sources. Just like I was inspired and in love with their music and culture, the same way RZA and his Shaolin brothers found inspiration in the Chinese culture of Kung-fu movies. After all, their name originated from it, the names of their albums, their lyrics…

Though I didn't grow up in a mixed society and could never in a million years even pretend to understand the struggles of, for example, black people in The USA, it doesn't mean I can't be aware of the injustice or racism, or any other issue some people experience that leads to disadvantage.

After all, even this series showed us that on a few occasions. But what I really liked the most about it is that it wasn't JUST about that. Though this issue is definitely an underlayer, it wasn't the main focus. And it shouldn't be!!! Let me explain what I mean.

For me, watching this show, the main point of it was how one man's vision (that man being Rza), determination, persistence, devotion, dedication, self-belief, and faith helped at least a dozen men change their lives completely. He was pulling double duty to make his vision come to fruition. Hustling on one side and creating beats during "downtime."

Though so many young men to this day share their background and starting point (and that bar is sadly and unjustifiably very low), Rza and his Staten Island crew managed to rise above it. Or maybe a better word would be to work their way out of it by using their talents.

They could all have easily ended their lives in those same projects they came out from. Spend their lives selling drugs, hustling, dodging, and/or catching bullets en route to jail and back out, only to repeat the cycle.

And though some men like them make it, most don't. But let's focus on the positive and the Shaolin crew because THEIRS is the story of success. Theirs is the story of not surrendering your life to the circumstances you grew up in and letting yourself be the endless victim of them. Theirs is the true story of the American Dream.

The Clan brothers refused to become another statistic from the projects, and you gotta hand it to them. They didn't give up. Instead, they used their realities and transcended them into verses that ultimately gave them freedom from that reality.

And that's why you gotta love their success story. As even the show's focus was on that. On the way itself. On their rise to fame and what it took to get there.

Wu-Tang comin' at ya

Wu-Tang Clan is more than just music or a music band. It's a movement. One of a kind, I might add. Nothing like that existed before when they showed up at the music scene. And not just in how they ran their business (all of them had the freedom to sign individually with different labels, they had their own production, etc.) but also in the hip-hop style they performed.

They were the pioneers in so many ways for other hip-hop artists to later follow and be inspired by. Their music and performance style is unique because it's a blend of kung-fu and martial arts-inspired themes, the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths, the streets, and comic books, respectively.

Their verses were raw, dark, real, underground, and uncut. They didn't spit like everyone else. It was much more hardcore. Their lives and experiences they drew inspiration from were hardcore.

On top of it all, they were all very different. Not just in their rapping style but character-wise as well, so navigating each other's personalities wasn't easy. And they've been doing it for 30 years now. And it was 9 of them!!!

· RZA (Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) – vocals, production (1992–present)

· GZA (Gary Grice) – vocals (1992–present)

· Ol' Dirty Bastard (Russell Tyrone Jones) – vocals (1992–2004, up until his death)

· Method Man (Clifford Smith) – vocals (1992–present)

· Raekwon (Corey Woods) – vocals (1992–present)

· Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles) – vocals (1992–present)

· Inspectah Deck (Jason Hunter) – vocals (1992–present)

· U-God (Lamont Jody Hawkins) – vocals (1992–present)

· Masta Killa (Elgin Turner) – vocals (1993–present)

Plus, Mook, Divine (RZA's brother), and Power handled managerial stuff. Wu-Tang Clan was joined by Cappadonna (Darryl Hill) in 2007.

You can check the full series cast here.

The Wu-Tang Clan series

So what about this series, then? Is it good? It is! Is it a bit unusual? It is! Does it have a bit of Wired vibes? It does. But it's still its own in many ways.

Not only that it follows their path to success pretty accurately, though it's still a fictional show based on real-life events and people, but it also has a few episodes that have fantasy elements in a way that makes them mimic kung-fu movies and comics they so totally love.

The true elements of the Clan's members' lives are intertwined with fictional ones. For example, RZA has 12 siblings, but in the series, it's only four of them. His only sister in the series, Shurrie (played by Zolee Griggs), is a character invented as a combination of all his sisters.

Ghostface Killah, aka Dennis D-Love, grew up with 12 family members cramped up in one apartment, and two of his brothers were disabled. Though in the series, only those two brothers were shown.

One of the best things about this series, though, is the casting. If you've ever watched any Wu-Tang Clan members' interviews, you'd know what I mean by that. The entire lineup of carefully chosen actors for this show is spot on. And it seems the crew had a lot of fun filming the series.

To wrap this little fangirling up, I'll just say this show is an absolute must if you like hip-hop.

Suuuuuuuuu

Fiction
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