I recently started watching Wu-Tang: An American Saga series on HULU.
I love behind the scenes in general whether with film or music.
Ray and Walk The Line, the story of Johnny Cash, won Oscars even the fictionalized group The Five Heartbeats has sustained a cultural impact spanning over two decades.
This episode is directed by Chris Robinson who also serves as a co-producer.
His first feature was TI’s ATL and it’s great seeing his transition from music videos to long form storytelling.
RZA who is seen as the architect of the group is at the helm of this project as well.
He is co-creator and provides music throughout.
Episode 1 does a really good of showing not telling.
As a viewer it’s delightful that they made a choice to not have character introductions where there’s a still frame explaining who each person is an their association to the members of the Wu.
Instead it’s immersive similar to F. Gary Gray’s opening of Straight of Compton.
There’s action immediately with warring factions between exploding in a drive by shooting at Park Hill by Stapleton foes.
Shamiek Moore (Dope, Into The Spiderverse) plays Sha who is most know as Raekwon The Chef. He rides with Power who are rivals of Dennis who becomes Ghostface Killah.
Sha proceeds to shoot-up the house where it’s revealed Dennis’ family are also there.
What’s crazy about this incident is in the future these two are one of the greatest duos in hip hop history and now we see their beginnings.
I never knew about this incident I was shook when I connected who the players were in this story.
The series is mainly centered around Bobby, a young teen who’s more concerned with making music than what goes on in the streets.
Bobby is played by Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders. This show is a great example of the range Sanders has as an actor.
I didn’t even recognize who he was and embodies RZA’s voice and the way he speaks so much.
Bobby meets up with his older brother Divine who is a dope boy complete with the fresh sneakers, jewels and swagger of the time. They are joined by Ason (aka ODB, played by TJ Atoms) who even in this short scene makes his presence known.
The casting director deserves a raise because everyone in this series is on point.
Divine is concerned with striking back and focusing on getting enough money to move up in the game.
Also Dennis is apart of Divine’s crew so they’re looking for payback.
This is awkward for Bobby because he is friends with both Divine and Sha, who stashes the weapon used in his studio.
Later on we’re introduced to Shotgun, played by Dave East. I was surprised he was chosen for Method Man but he again exceeded expectations.
He was shown to have a good head on his shoulder as the assistant manager.
He wasn’t concerned with the street elements but he’s shown to not take any mess.
Coming into this I hadn’t seen a lot of interviews of Wu-Tang discussing their past but I definitely felt their impact from ODB’s antics, the Chappelle skits, C.R.E.A.M being the greatest acronym in hip hop, and Method Man becoming a crossover star.
So it is nice seeing how these men came together and learning about the history of where they came from.
For example I had no idea at one point Sha was homeless sleeping on the roof of a building.
Or the fact that Bobby was from an abusive household.
I throughly enjoyed this show.
The music and surroundings felt authentic.
I loved seeing Bobby walking into Sam Ash and marveling over the SP1200 which was a game changing in hip hop with its sampling capabilities in a pre-MPC world.
I’m definitely invested in these characters including the ones I never knew about like Divine and continuing the see how their influences (comic books, kung-fu) inform their lives.