Inner city youth rise to rap stardom in ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’

‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’ – The RZA tells his story

Ashton Sanders stars in “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” premiering Wednesday on Hulu.

Wu-Tang Clan is considered among the most important rap groups of all time, responsible for four gold and platinum albums and launching the careers of a number of related artists and groups.

The story of how they rose from the drug- and crime-infested streets of Staten Island, N.Y., to music stardom is told in the Hulu drama series “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” dropping with the first three episodes Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Set in the early ’90s at the height of New York City’s crack cocaine epidemic, the series follows the Clan’s formation, a vision of Bobby Diggs, aka The RZA (Ashton Sanders, “Moonlight”), who endeavors to unite a dozen young black men caught between the pulls of crime and music who wind up becoming the unlikeliest of American success stories.

Shameik Moore stars in “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” premiering Wednesday on Hulu.

Created and executive produced by The RZA and Alex Tse (“Sucker Free City”), the 10-episode series also stars Dave East (“Beats”), Shameik Moore (“The Get Down”), Siddiq Saunderson (“Boomerang”), Marcus Callender (“Power”) and TJ Atoms (“You”).

“Wu-Tang has always entertained but also inspired,” The RZA explained to a recent gathering of journalists in Beverly Hills, Calif. “And this show is inspirational, when you go through the journey of these young men, there’s so many young people going through the same thing right now. … One of the reasons we called it ‘An American Saga’ (is because) this is an American story. This takes place first here in our world … but young people around the world I know will relate to it because everybody’s trying to grow out of the mud, shall we say.”

That’s best exemplified by the main character of Diggs, a talented teen with an ear for rhyme and rhythm who sees music as his escape from the drugs and violence around him. But in the opening episode, the lure of crime becomes apparent when he attempts to steal a $2,000 drum machine that he badly wants but can’t afford from a music store. Caught by an employee, he’s told to put it back and he won’t be banned.

The machine, which he sees as the key to unlocking his songwriting, eventually becomes his.

“As an artist, we use different tools to express our lives and our condition,” The RZA says. “Some use the paintbrush. I was fortunate to be able to use a beat machine, my voice, and now in today’s media, I’m able to get with great producers … and use the medium of a camera, great actors like Shameik and Dave and Ashton Sanders to portray that energy. So, as an artist, (on my passport), it says occupation, I put artist. And that can be how I see myself, as a pure artist.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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