RZA Says The Wu Documentary & TV Series Have Strengthened The Clan’s Bond (Video)
Earlier this week, the first wave of episodes from Wu-Tang: An American Saga premiered on Hulu. The dramatic miniseries chronicles the formation of the Wu-Tang Clan. Executive produced by RZA and Method Man, the series follows The Abbott and his siblings on a street journey that eventually leads to one of Rap’s greatest collectives. Notably from the Rap community, Dave East portrays Meth’, while Joey Bada$$ plays the Inspectah Deck character. RZA and Joey sat down together with Angie Martinez to discuss their relationship and making Wu-Tang: An American Saga.
To open the discussion, Joey delves into his early connection to RZA and how it shaped his young career. Joey explains, “I’m super grateful to be here with this man. Even before I was actually a part of this series, this man has been a mentor to me personally. I could call him about anything. When I was first trying to set up my label with Pro Era and everything, this man definitely gave me his ear.” Joey says that onetime Wu manager Sophia Chang was who linked the two Brooklyn natives.
Meanwhile, RZA compares his relationship with Joey to mentoring he received from Quincy Jones and Isaac Hayes. “[Sophia] used to bring [Joey Bada$$] out to the Wu Mansion, out in the woods [of New Jersey], and he would come through and just chop it up. When I was trying to figure some things out, there was people like Isaac Hayes and Quincy Jones that would spend time with me and I would just pick their brains and watch out for the pitfalls. So when I became a guy that had success, I made myself available [to] Joey, who has such a unique spirit, such a real representation of Hip-Hop as well, in an era where I was like, ‘Whoa, what is going on here?’ At the end of the day, it’s like, that’s the only way wisdom multiplies when we share it with the next generation.” He adds that he tried to offer the same guidance to A$AP Rocky and others.
RZA opens up about what he learned from Ike back in the day. “[He showed] me the proper progressions. The ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ song, which is one of Wu-Tang’s biggest songs, is a sample from [a composition by] Isaac Hayes and David Porter. He showed me how that piano went. And by me knowing what I was doing, it advanced my skills. It probably led to me becoming a composer because I’m seeing the movement of music, not just in a Hip-Hop way of moving it and all that. Then he also helped me with the consciousness of health, veganism, and all these things.” He says that the onetime mogul within the Stax Records family also gave RZA some game on the record business.
Further in the interview (8:00), RZA discusses how Joey’s role as Inspectah Deck manifested. “Joey was striving to act, right? The crazy thing was I think at a Christmas party when Deck was there and [Joey] was there, and at the time, I knew the show was going to happen. And he [Joey] doesn’t know this though. I whispered over to Inspectah Deck and was like, ‘Yo. What you think, yo? What you think about this kid right here for you? He’s a real lyricist. He’s dope. He’s got some physical qualities of Deck, you know, tall and [dark skinned]. And Deck said, ‘That would be interesting. That would be cool.'” RZA says that his partners in the series ultimately agreed, along with Bada$$’ willingness to play The Rebel INS. Elsewhere in the conversation, he admits that despite striking physical resemblance, the team had to pass on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son for the role of his father. RZA adds that it was a hard conversation following the audition, but he hopes Young Dirty Bastard’s acting chops may be expanded for a long-discussed biopic.
Deeper in the interview (25:00), RZA discusses the January documentary, Wu-Tang: Of Mics And Men, and how it affected he and his Wu brothers. Sacha Jenkins’ revealing documentary looks the intricacies of the group, including some private controversies surrounding business and management. Specifically, the film looks at RZA’s brother, Mitchell “Divine” Diggs, who eventually stepped down as the group’s business manager.
The Abbott remembers the premiere, “That was great. That was brave. That was, for me personally, it was like a little therapy and gut-wrenching. It was painful too. We didn’t filter it, and nobody knew what nobody was saying. So some things I could totally disagree with, totally disagree, totally see the story differently than the person who’s saying it. It hurt me to hear that you felt you were fighting for something I thought I was giving you. But, what I learned from it is the true power of perception.” RZA uses people in the room during the interview to illustrate his point. “We gotta respect what they saw. It gave me a new respect for that. It was very hard to watch. I had the power to cut some stuff out, but I let it ride, and let the universe itself, as time evolves, maybe their point will become more relevant and understood by me, and my point will be more relevant and understood by them.”
RZA then discusses how the doc helped the group as a whole, and the premiere of the series at Tribeca Film Festival. He singles out U-God, whose 2018 memoir, Raw: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang, confronted some of the business dealings that were also unpacked in this year’s doc.
While RZA addressed his band-mate and artist amid a lawsuit, he says there have been new developments on the personal front. “I think it [the documentary] helped heal. The big premiere we had for that at Tribeca Film [Festival], the cool thing about it was that a lot of brothers didn’t see it until that night. It brought out emotions. You read about the press talking about U-God and RZA [being in a legal battle]. When we were at the film festival, we stepped in front of the audience. U-God stood there a little watery-eyed, and he was like, ‘Yo, I love this man.’ We go through what we go through, and I love that man too. I love him, and I love his children. Our mothers knew each other, man. This is a community that was probably neglected, and would not be known. These men came together and made this community known. No matter how we look at it, we all were able to give our children a better path than we had. And that’s the ultimate goal. And that’s, to me, the ultimate goal for Wu-Tang. If anybody listens to our music, watches our TV show, watches our documentary, please absorb it, and realize that we are just trying to show you that there is a better path. It’s like, you may not think that in your twenties, what it’s going to be [like] in your forties. You may commit that crime, or give up, or drop out of school, or spend that money, or abandon the kid, not knowing the beauty of what happens 20 years later. And we could be testaments to that.”