But the story of the Wu-Tang Clan, who they were, how they came together and what they were trying to achieve was for many, a blurred myth.
Most assumed The Clan were family or at least friends, performers drawn to each other by a mutual love of music.
Many of the original members were far from close, the drama series and docuseries reveal – in reality many were rivals or outright enemies in a world of drugs and violence, who saw no future for themselves other than skirting the law to make as much money as they could before the authorities or an inevitable violent death caught up with them.
It was only through rapper, producer and The Clan’s founder The RZA (aka Robert Fitzgerald Diggs), who wanted a different life away from drugs, that they managed to find something more. It is this moment that becomes the epicentre of Wu-Tang: An American Saga, created by the man himself The RZA.
“I always thought they were friends and were like, ‘hey, let’s do a rap group together,’” Wu-Tang: An American Saga co-creator Alex Tsu said at a panel discussion a at the series announcement last year.
“It couldn’t have been anything further from the truth (and) that was really shocking to me.”
Told in a flashback to the early 1990s, Wu-Tang: An American Saga begins on New York’s Staten Island where The RZA is still known as Bobby D, a young man with dreams of making music who is recruited into “the family business”, collecting drug money for his brother Divine.
But when Divine is caught by the police and Bobby suddenly finds himself free to chase his dreams, what happens next is more than even he imagined.
Recruiting those around him – friend and foe – with a promise that he will take them to the top, the Wu-Tang Clan became a musical force that quickly took his neighbourhood, his country and eventually the world by storm.
“I think that when I ask somebody to join me, I’m very transparent on what I want to do,” RZA said when his series launched in the US in 2019.
“So, I asked for five years of their lives. That five years, I used the analogy, ‘I want you to get on the bus and I’m the driver and don’t ask me where I’m going. I promise you in five years, we’ll be number one.’ I delivered on the promise.”
What he also delivered was a platform for the Clan members to launch their own careers outside of the group, as well as the careers of emerging affiliated artists in the years to come, allowing them to continue to shape the face of music.
While An American Saga looks to the beginning, Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men shows what came next.
The docuseries looks at the Clan after that 1993 debut album, and how The RZA helped shaped some of the most important music acts of the past 30 years, writing soundtracks for multiple television series and films, and producing albums for artists as diverse as Cypress Hill, Bjork, Blink 182’s Travis Barker and Kanye West.
“Wu-Tang? Me and my friends talk about this all the time,” West said in 2014. “We think Wu-Tang had one of the biggest impacts as far as a movement.
“From slang to style of dress, skits, the samples. Similar to the [production] style I use, RZA has been doing that.”
Clan members Method Man, Ghostface Killah, GZA, Raekwon and Ol’ Dirty Bastard have also made appearances on dozens of artists’ recordings across the music spectrum, and Method Man is extending his influence into TV, starring in the upcoming Power spin-off series Power Book II: Ghost.
Through both productions, the genesis of their world-shaking musical revolution is tracked, but it’s a revolution still in progress as they continue to help craft the language and style of hip hop, and with their influence instilled in the artists who learned at their footsteps.
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Watch The Last Waltz here.
20 Feet From Stardom
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Watch 20 Feet From Stardom here.
Paul Kelly: Stories Of Me
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Watch Paul Kelly: Stories Of Me here.