Wu-Tang: Enter An American Saga

Max Domel, Entertainment Editor

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Hulu has brought New York’s beloved and influential hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan from Staten Island to the world of television with the new miniseries “Wu-Tang: An American Saga.” Although the Wu released the less dramatic documentary “Of Mics and Men” several months before the Sept. 4 premiere of the miniseries, “An American Saga” brings to life a version of the story of the group’s formation with actors and a script.

The kung-fu and comic-book-loving group is made up of 10 members: The RZA, Ghostface Killah (GFK), The GZA, Raekwon, Method Man, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, U-God and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), who died tragically in 2004. The group has many close associates and honorary members throughout the rap game as well, such as Nas and Redman. The group’s founder, RZA, whose real name is Bobby Diggs, started making beats in his basement and brought everyone together to rap and record tracks. RZA also serves as a co-creator of the show and does writing and executive production with Method Man.

RZA is played by Ashton Sanders in the show, who starred as Chiron in the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.” Raekwon is played by Shameik Moore, who is best known for voicing the character of Miles Morales in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Siddiq Saunderson plays GFK, starring alongside TJ Atoms and Johnell Young as ODB and GZA, respectively. New York rappers Dave East and Joey Bada$$ play Method Man and Inspectah Deck, adding a layer of depth to the cast.

There are 10 episodes in total, with the finale set to come in late October. Each hour-long episode is named after a song from group projects and members’ solo albums, such as “Can It All Be So Simple” from their 1993 debut “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” Whether you already listen to rap music or are just curious to listen to classic ‘90s Wu-Tang Clan, I recommend you check out the album.

The series opens on a rainy night in Staten Island with Bobby (RZA) constructing the beat to “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” in the famous record-filled basement of his home. Meanwhile, Dennis (GFK) and Sha (Raekwon) find themselves involved in an intense, violent rivalry. Shurrie, Bobby’s sister, is in a secret relationship with Dennis. Bobby’s older brother Divine’s business is selling drugs in the streets, and his later incarceration leads to Bobby being forced to take over with Dennis. However, Bobby’s dreams are to make music and get out of a world filled with drugs, guns and frequent conflict.

He goes to a music shop and falls in love with an SP1200 beat-making-machine that never makes a time error and decides he must have it. Later on, he comes back and tries to steal it, but is caught by the store manager and puts it back. Eventually, he acquires enough money from his dealings to purchase it. However, he chooses to return it in a few days because of the angry comments he gets from his brother and Dennis, who tell him to quit living in an imaginary world and do work that can actually help them survive.

Another important part of episode one comes from flashbacks to Bobby’s childhood. These flashbacks depict Bobby being sent out to his uncle and aunt’s house in the country for getting into trouble in the city. He is beaten by them for sleeping with his lamp on due to his fear of the dark but is consoled by his uncle who tells him it’s only his imagination, something that can be turned into a strength.

Over the course of the next episodes, Method Man makes more appearances rapping, while Bobby cooks up more beats in the basement. They make a short mixtape together, but sadly the tape is lost when Bobby, Dennis, ODB and GZA have to escape a fire set by Sha. Although some of the members start to form relationships through music early on, conflicts and obligations in the street continue, making their music dreams difficult to pursue. Dennis and Bobby even fight over the music when Dennis makes a mixtape with another producer after telling an invested Bobby that he didn’t want to rap. Wu-Tang fans watching the series know they prevailed to be legends, but “American Saga” is about the hardships and distractions they faced on the way to becoming an established group.

Most reviews of the series have been mixed. For example, Rotten Tomatoes gave “An American Saga” a 73% and a CNN article said that while the pace is too slow, it effectively combines nostalgia and an interesting story. For Wu-Tang and hip-hop fans, it is still an inspiring look into the lives of the iconic and influential group, and the show is a win for hip-hop in popular culture.