What’s Real & What’s Not About The Wu-Tang TV Show

APRIL 9, 2023 UPDATE: Following Ambrosia For Heads‘ 2022 What’s The Headline podcast episode (embedded below in video and audio) and article surrounding the facts and fiction surrounding Wu-Tang: An American Saga, this article will update in this section with other elements. As a note to viewers, this may contain spoilers for series viewers.

Are Ghostface Killah’s brothers really physically disabled?

Yes. As Ghostface Killah rapped about this in his Ironman single “All That I Got Is You,”Things was deep, my whole youth was sharper than cleats Two brothers with muscular dystrophy, it killed me.

Did Ghostface Killah get into a shootout while with The Delfonics?

Yes. GFK spoke about the incident in 2022 while sitting with Drink Champs with Raekwon. “This some funny sh*t: I got The Delfonics in a shootout on Staten Island,” said the Wu legend. “I had them in a 15-passenger van, and these [my rivals are] playin’ games. He saw me through the rearview and he was smilin’ movin’ real slow. I’m blowin’ at him, it was crazy. By the time I got a chance to say I’m sorry, they were like, ‘Don’t worry about it, man, somethin’ told me to bring my knife.’ Remember these are old men, but they [are] Philly ni**as! After a while they turned off, I didn’t see them when we got to the studio.”

Did Ol’ Dirty really not want to make a record with Mariah Carey?

In 2016 and 2018, two reports chronicled the Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Mariah Carey collaboration, “Fantasy (Remix).” The stories paint a picture of a studio session as unpredictable as a roll of the dice in a casino zonder cruks, where the artist showed up late and demanded various luxuries. In the studio, his request for high-end champagne and cigarettes was not met, leading to a dramatic episode that included the smashing of a beer bottle. He even dozed off mid-session. Later, when asked for additional vocals, Ol’ Dirty Bastard viewed it as an opportunity to negotiate, much like a savvy player at a gaming table, eventually securing a substantial payout for his contributions to the track and the accompanying video. His approach might have been unorthodox, but as any iconic game or song proves, sometimes the unconventional methods lead to legendary outcomes.

Does Ghostface Killah have diabetes?

He did for sure. Speaking about his physical during the mid-1990s making of Ironman, Ghostface Killah spoke of diabetes in the past tense. “I was f*cked up. My head was f*cked up,” G.F.K. told Okay Player‘s Dimas Sanfiorenzo in 2021. “That’s when I was diabetic. My best friend [Grant Williams] left me, went to jail for like 23, 24 years. I didn’t know how to handle the diabetes, I’m losing weight here and there…it was a dark place for me. That’s why you get [songs like] ‘All That I Got Is You.’

Did Wu-Tang Clan really only listen to their own music?

The answer is not clear. In the Wu-Tang: An American Saga series, the point is made that the crew avoided outside distractions and maintain originality. The crew has named influences—including Slick Rick, Eric B. & Rakim, and Biz Markie but during their heyday. By Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…in 1995, Nas was an invited guest on Raekwon’s debut.

Did U-God’s son get shot?

Yes, on March 13, 1994. In 2018, while promoting his book, Raw: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang and Venom album, U-God spoke of the incident at The Breakfast Club. The rapper’s son, Dontae, was nearly killed in the Stapleton projects, under the care of a babysitter. At the time, U-God was in San Francisco, California with the group. Dontae was reportedly used as a human body shield during a shootout. U-God describes the effect of that incident (he son would survive after losing organs and being pronounced dead, twice). In 2018, U-God admitted that he suffers from P.T.S.D., and that aftermath of that incident changed his dynamic with his Wu brothers. He also alluded to retribution for the incident while speaking to The Breakfast Club.

Did Wu-Tang’s Power make a deal with a bootlegger to sell Wu-Wear?

Not as far as we know. Power did speak to Complex for a feature chronicling the history of Wu-Wear in 2011. He never mentioned it. In early 2022, RZA sued merchandise bootleggers for infringing on the Wu-Tang Clan logocreated by producer/DJ Allah Mathematics.

Did U-God and Method Man have beef?

Not exactly a beef. In 2014, Vulture compiled a feature of all of Wu-Tang Clan’s internal battles since the 1990s. U-God has never been shy about his gripes with other Wu members, he and Meth’ appear to have a deep bond; the two men are actually related through marriage. Meth’s wife is U-God’s sister (just as Ghostface Killah has children with one of RZA’s sisters). In U-God’s 2018 autobiography, Raw: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang, he writes of the men working together at the Staten Island Ferry concession area, bonding over Hip-Hop, and more. U-God did write that he and Method Man secured an apartment together, but in 1993, after Meth’ signed a solo deal with Def Jam Records, he vacated the dodgy residence. On page 196, U-God admitted that it was a frustrating shift, given that the two men’s lives and careers were in very different places. While U-God was not on Tical, these artists resumed collaborations on each other’s projects by the late 1990s, and have maintained ever since.

FEBRUARY 18, 2023 UPDATE: As a note to viewers, this may contain spoilers for series viewers.

Did Wu-Tang Productions really take half of each solo album’s royalties?

This question popped up in 2022, when Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s widow, Icelene Jones, sued Wu-Tang Productions for $1 million. At the time, ODB’s spouse cited the production company’s failure to account for royalties and payments for some time. Rolling Stone, who reported on the lawsuit filing at the time, cited paperwork stating that Ol’ Dirty, along with fellow Clan members Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and GZA, signed an exclusive 1992 recording agreement with Wu-Tang Productions that promised the artists a 50% share of net royalties and advances related to their sound recordings. Along with seeking royalties related to Wu group works, the suit mentioned ODB’s solo hits, including “Got Ya Money.” It is unclear if other members, such as Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, were signed to a similar deal or not.

Was Puff Daddy (Diddy) really the first person to produce a member of Wu-Tang Clan outside of RZA?

No. GZA’s 1991 debut Words From The Genius includes production from Easy Mo Bee and Jesse West. Mo Bee, known for later work with Biggie Smalls and Tupac (and was referenced in Season 1), also worked on RZA’s Ooh I Love You Rakeem. RZA’s Gravediggaz band-mate Prince Paul produced the bulk of 6 Feet Deep, an album which began recording prior to Enter The Wu-Tang—despite releasing after. In 1993, Wu affiliate 4th Disciple joined RZA to supply N-Tyce’s “Root Beer Float” and “Hush Hush Tip,”—which features Method Man. The following year, the pair co-produced “Sub Crazy” on Tical. Puff Daddy’s hit remix of “I’ll Be There/You’re All I Need To Get By” was issued in 1995, after Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return To The 36 Chambers arrived, with songs ODB co-produced with True Master and Ethan Ryman.

Did ODB really jump out of a window?

Likely, yes. Jamie Lowe’s unauthorized biography of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Digging For Dirt: The Life & Death Of ODB includes mention of a 1994 incident in Queens, New York. That account reports that the late MC walked to get a late-night ice cream snack. On the walk, he believed a car was tailing him, so he run, jumped a fence only to land among several menacing guard dogs. After the owner of the dogs noticed the trespasser, ODB reportedly entered his home only to leave through a second story glass window. He was subsequently arrested and hospitalized in his hometown of Brooklyn, per the text. Lowe’s book says that shortly after leaving the hospital was when ODB was shot in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The New York Post has referenced that 1994 non-fatal shooting.

Did RZA really make 10 beats for ODB in one night?

Likely, yes. The incredible aggregating research by Gino Sorcinelli at his Medium site Micro Chop describes RZA’s beat-making with ODB in particular. The 2016 report RZA Started Making Beats with Ol’ Dirty Bastard at Age 11 retraces The Abbott’s steps, and mentions a period when RZA made 100 beats for his cousin on a primitive drum machine. The report is based on a 2007 interview between RZA and Kotori magazine. “Me and Ol’ Dirty used to make hundreds of tapes with that beat machine,” he said at the time. Based on the interview, it is believed that this prolific era was before RZA switched to the ASR-10—the machine he used during Wu-Tang Clan’s 1990s takeover. These beats would have likely been created on a Roland drum machine or something similar.

ORIGINAL 2022 ARTICLE: In late 2021, Wu-Tang: An American Saga was renewed for a third and final seasonAn American Saga has portrayed the formative years of the Wu-Tang Clan and some of the personal and collective obstacles that the men faced in becoming one of Hip-Hop’s most original, exciting, and talented crews. The Hulu original series, co-created by RZA and The Watchmen writer Alex Tse, is executive produced by Method Man.

The plotlines of the series are great for conflict and drama. However, many of them are true or strongly rooted in real-life events surrounding the members of the Wu. Back in 2019, RZA told Newsweek that the show was “historical fiction.” He explained, “You can’t take every moment and expound it. You condensed the moments. It’s like concentrated grape juice,” adding, “You’ll be able to balance what’s reality and what ain’t.” Alex Tse expounded, “There are things in it that actually happened; there are versions of events. Spiritually, it’s very truthful and accurate.”

RZA Explains How His Attempted Murder Case Transformed Him

As viewers and fans of Wu-Tang: An American Saga, the What’s The Headline podcast decided to examine some events portrayed in the series and review their accuracy to real-life. There are spoilers through season 2 in this episode—so check back later if still watching. However, these pieces draw from interviews and reports spanning almost 30 years. The Ambrosia For Heads team breaks down some facts and fiction surrounding this depiction of some Hip-Hop legends. Below, underneath the video and audio of episode #75, Heads can see the time codes and sources.

The time codes for episode #75 of the What’s The Headline podcast:

(8:35) Did Ghostface Killah and Raekwon really originally hate each other?

In November 2012, RZA told The Los Angeles Times: “When steel rubs against steel, it makes both blades sharper. Raekwon and Ghostface [Killah] started off as enemies in the neighborhood. They grew to be best friends after joining the Wu-Tang.” Raekwon provided more details in speaking with HotNewHipHop in 2013: “When you [are] dealin’ with a cat like RZA, who got family all over and relationships, RZA was over here, over there, so he pretty much knew everybody, but at the same time the people that he knew probably wasn’t fond of us [at the] same time neither ’cause they didn’t grow up with us. It’s the same typical sh*t. If you go to the hood and you go 10 blocks away, ni**as don’t know you, ni**as don’t f*ck with you, ni**as will gun you if they feel like you in the way, so we always stayed on our side.” The Chef expounded, “So when RZA formed this alliance, the names that was brought to the table, it was definitely spoken on, like, ‘Yo, I don’t really f*ck with Ghost, he’s a crook.’ We tell it how it is, you know what I mean, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t talented, and he wasn’t a man of respect. But when RZA was the middle guy, it was almost like he did a [John] Gotti move, he brought all the families to the table, and made ni**as make amends,due to the fact of how we gon’ move forward and get this money.”

(12:38) Did Raekwon and Power really shoot up Ghostface Killah’s apartment?

Raekwon told Vlad TV in late 2021, “[Ghostface Killah] got into a situation with my man (Jamie) over Divine. Divine and my man had a problem. [Ghostface] was more or less trying to help out his man—help out Divine in a way.” As Vlad mentioned alleged an alleged shooting of Ghostface’s family apartment, Raekwon nodded and responded, “Yeah. It was an eye for an eye situation. He was like, ‘Yo shot at my crib, so…’ that’s what it was. That’s how it played out. I wasn’t around that day to see what was going on. Like I said, we know that Ghost knew RZA and Divine. But we didn’t really know that he knew ‘em the way that he knew ‘em. Him and RZA would hang in [Park] Hill, [but RZA would also] be in Stapleton, he would be in New Brighton. He would be all over; so you don’t know everybody RZA know. But these dudes love RZA the way I love RZA, the way we love RZA…. RZA had to come in and dead the sh*t because he loved both sides.”

(16:05) Was there really a fight during the filming of the “Protect Ya Neck” video?

While there are no reports of an actual fight, the video shoot remains something of legend. Finnish student Osmo Walden was tasked with reigning in the final sequences of the now-iconic music video. He has told the story, now translated, that deals with heavy pressure from Wu-Tang and its affiliates to get the video made, a thrown brick, and one crucial take at the East River Amphitheater—a legendary Hip-Hop landmark. This account is corroborated in S.H. Fernando’s text, From The Streets of Shaolin.

(21:40) Did Method Man, Inspectah Deck, and others witness a man wrongfully killed by the police?

Portrayed as the killing of “Haze” on An American Saga, the events surrounding the death are true. On April 29, 1994, Ernest “Kase” Sayon was killed after a high-profile altercation with NYPD officer Donald Brown. He was allegedly beaten while in handcuffs after police were reportedly doing a drug sweep, during which a firecracker detonated. Method Man told The Huffington Post in 2015, “I felt the pain, because we had spoke out about a cop that had done that to one of my dear friends I grew up with, Ernest Sayon. He was killed by a cop. I’m going to say killed, because he was killed by this cop, Donald Brown, who strangled him—choked him to death. [It was] the same way Eric Garner [died], death by asphyxiation—over a firework that he never even threw.” It is unclear if Meth’ or Inspectah Deck were among the dozen and a half witnesses. Notably, without mentioning his music career, the 1994 New York Times report mentions U-God’s two-year-old son, who was victim in a drug-related shooting that March. Later, in 1994, Donald Brown was cleared of any wrongdoing in the death of Ernest Sayon.

(25:00) Did RZA really shoot a man and faces charges for attempted murder?

In 2018, RZA spoke to journalist Rodney Carmichael at an A3C event about the 1991 shooting of Willie Waters in Steubenville, Ohio. In the What’s The Headline episode, audio is provided. RZA detailed the events: “We [were] going through what a lot of young Black men was going through from [the ages of 14 through 17]. Those years, even though I had Knowledge Of Self, I still was living as a member of my environment, of my community—therefore, participating in everything that we did: drink, smoke, teenage sex, and drug dealing…I stopped [doing] all the drugs. We had gold cables and all that. Slowly, my gold cables disappeared. Slowly, I pawned my rings, and kept myself going—hoping that I’d become a Rap star. [Hustling was] not working. Every time we get a package, you can make $10,000. But guess what? [Each time] somebody got arrested. Somebody got shot. I kept seeing a cycle of non-success. ‘Yo, so-and-so got shot,’ ‘Yo, they stabbed [Wisegod] ‘Yo, they shot [Ghostface Killah].’ It was never right. Then, all of a sudden, myself is in violence; I’m facing eight years in prison. All of this knowledge that I accumulated is worth toilet-paper right now because I’m not [properly] utilizing it.” RZA elaborated, “What happened, for me, is my mother looked at me with the eyes of disappointment. There’s no other pain [worse] than that for a young man. But my family rallied together; my sister actually took her life savings and bailed me out. And we stood together as a family. I started taking [my passion for] reading to the law library. I found some cases that matched up to what it should be for me, ’cause it was self-defense. It was four-on-one. But I still injured that young man, and I regret that. I’m a man of peace; I don’t want to injure nobody. But let me get to the point: we went to trial and I won. The jury said not-guilty. And when I walked out, my mother looked me in my eye and said, ‘This is your second chance. Don’t blow it.’ I’ll never forget this joy that overcame me. At the same time, I had a baby [on the way]. So I’m like yo, Rakeem is greater than this. I gotta be greater than that. I’m gonna put Rakeem to the side. I’m gonna [birth] something new. I’m gonna [birth] The RZA. When The RZA was born, I decided to walk the path of righteousness and not turn back.”

(32:52) Was U-God arrested the night Wu-Tang Clan auditioned and performed for Loud Records?

In a 2013 HipHopDX interview with AFH contributor Paul Meara, U-God detailed turning himself for a confrontation with a rival drug dealer following his work on Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. “I did [my ‘Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’] verse in 15 minutes ‘cause, to tell you the truth, I had to go walk into the jail. I knew I was going to jail, but before I went to jail RZA recorded me, and he said, ‘I want you to do that verse, and I want you to say it this way.’ So I did about 10 takes. He had me yelling my motherf*cking lungs out; I didn’t know nothing about recording. He had me coming on all hard and sh*t. I got incarcerated, I came out and heard it and was like, ‘Wow, okay, he [is] really doing this, that and the other, etc.’ When I came out, it became a cult classic. I was like, ‘Wow, for real?’ I was kind of shocked. ‘People like that sh*t? [Laughs]’. I just took it for what it was, man. It was cool. Those two verses saved my life. RZA saved my life, and I could never go against that.”

(35:48) Did Wu-Tang Clan really crash the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito show to get them to play “Protect Ya Neck?”

In a 2012 interview of Stretch & Bob by the Red Bull Music Academy (34:00), Bobbito Garcia said of that night: “Wu-Tang [Clan], the first time they came up, Stretch wasn’t there. I know it was RZA because I recognized him. He had came up when he was Prince Rakeem. It was him [and] I remember Ghostface [Killah], and three other dudes, and Ghostface was the one that was acting like crazy, like, ‘Yo Money, play our joint! Play our joint!” Bob signaled that the moment was quite intimidating. However, the breakthrough Wu-Tang record did get an immediate reaction from listeners.

(39:27) Did a flood really destroy unreleased Wu-Tang Clan albums in RZA’s basement?

In that 2018 A3C conversation, RZA detailed water damage plaguing him throughout his life. After describing a Brooklyn basement flood in childhood, he shares, “For me, that same f*cking flood keeps popping up in my life. It popped up twice in the course of Wu-Tang [Clan]. As soon as we had finished [Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers], I already had Inspectah Deck’s [debut] album, Method Man’s [Tical] album prepared. Because back in those days we had floppy disks and I would make all the beats – Method Man’s session, Deck’s session, [Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…] session, and I was ready to go. Here comes the flood that wiped away about 160 floppy disks. Because I didn’t think there’d be a flood. I had [the disks] on the floor, under the keyboard. You don’t think. Wu-Tang [Clan was] out doing some shows in Cleveland, whatever. [We came] back–water’s up this high, washed that all away. [We went] back to the drawing board. Cool.”

The Abbott faced more hardships in time: ‘[Later], my studio is built. Everything is [stored up high], off of the floor. I feel like life is good. I just created [two acclaimed albums] and another flood comes. Higher. [It] destroys the tape machine, the board we had, [and other equipment].’ In an effort to avoid such disasters, my cousin in Denver had a similar concern with water intrusion. Before setting up his own studio, he invested in Denver mold testing to ensure that the space was free from moisture issues that could spell disaster for his equipment. ‘Okay, cool. We move again [and] get the ‘Wu house,’ in New Jersey. ‘There’ll be no floods again.’ Another flood. The funny thing is, recently, I was home. Now, I’m not worried about the flood. A tsunami [could not affect me]…I’m sittin’ there, and water starts comin’ from [a skylight above].’

(46:04) Did RZA really color-code the disks he kept full of Wu-Tang Clan beats?

For the 25th anniversary of Ghostface Killah’s Ironman, the MC described the color-coding reflected in the series: “[RZA] had crazy boxes; the yellow box was the best box—he just had mad sh*t in there. You just gotta choose from whatever he got in that box, like, ‘Yo, gimme that; put that to the side, put that to the side, put that to the side.’ You make a tape of that, you bring that sh*t home, and you just start throwing your dart.” Ghost elaborated, “That sound came together on that album based on the Soul that I got inside me—from growing up as a baby, listening to your mother and them playin’ like the Chi-Lites, the Stylistics; it just carried with me. That Soul just came. So when it was time for me to do my album, I had like a slight vision of how I wanted to go with it, and I just picked out whatever I thought was phat at that time. But you gotta have that type of style to know how to swim through the beats and the loops.”

(49:20) Did Wu-Tang Clan really bum rush the stage at the Jack The Rapper convention?

U-God shared an account with TIDAL in 2018: “Jack The Rapper was this huge Rap festival during the early ’90s. Every year, rappers from all over would flock to Atlanta to ‘network’ with both established and aspiring artists and label executives. One of the times we were down there, maybe our first time, Luke from 2 Live Crew would not give up the mic; he wouldn’t let us on. 2 Live Crew was mad deep down there, and supposedly had been getting rowdy during the whole convention. Maybe Luke was trying to protect his market because we were down South. Whatever his reasoning, we were up next and he was keeping us from going onstage. We tried to be patient for a few moments, but you know how that goes when you’re hungry for recognition. So after a few moments, the Clan had to rush the stage to ensure we did what we came to do. In the fracas that ensued, Luke’s DJ got knocked out. We didn’t care, though. We had to get up there ’cause that’s what we were there for. Unfortunately, after rushing the stage and finally getting it rocking, we only had time to do two songs. Just as well. Rushing the stage did as much for us as performing would have in terms of recognition.”

(53:18) Did Just-Ice confront RZA backstage when they were on tour together?

In late 2020, “Da Original Hip-Hop Gangsta” refuted the account on Lord Jamar’s Yanadameen Godcast. “No, that never happened. I wasn’t even on that tour; that was a Juice Crew tour.” An American Saga suggests RZA, GZA, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the road with Just-Ice and Naughty By Nature. However, it was a Cold Chillin’ Records run. Just-Ice added, “Even when Fly Ty seen that sh*t, he was like, why is Justice there?”

(56:28) Did Ghostface Killah really have a child with RZA’s sister?

RZA has 11 brothers and sisters, in real life. RZA’s sister “Shurrie” on Wu-Tang: An American Saga is a composite character. In reality, RZA is believed to have three sisters. It was RZA’s sister, Sophia Diggs, who had a real-life relationship with Ghostface Killah. The pair are reported to be married and have three kids together. In 2013, during an interview with XXL magazine, Ghost said, while discussing RZA: “RZA’s my brotha for life. That’s my brother-in-law. I got babies by his f*cking sister.”

GZA Opens Up About Writing Some Of ODB’s Classic Verses

AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline. The podcast also has interviews with Joell Ortiz, AZ, Blu & Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse. All episodes of the show are available to view or for listening wherever you stream your pods.

#BonusBeat: An in-depth AFH interview with Method Man, where he discusses the first Meth Lab album in 2015: