I watched SHOWTIME’s four-part limited docuseries WU-TANG CLAN: OF MICS & MEN and breezed through the entire series. I sliced through the story like a knife going through butter because though I wasn’t a fanatical WU fan back in the day, I always appreciated their originality and positive contribution to the culture. I appreciated WU for one of my favorite tracks of all-time, Killah Priest’s ‘B.I.B.L.E.’ on the GZA album.
Here are my takeaways from this masterpiece:
5% Nation and the Holy Trinity
It is poorly understood in America how much of the “holyness” in Hip-Hop can be sourced to Marcus Garvey, Noble Drew Ali, and Elijah Muhammad. You can only imagine where Hip-Hop and Black people would be in the hells of North America if these leaders didn’t show up to teach, inspire and organize the people. When you saw WU coming together with a master plan led by RZA, you saw God manifesting through them. You saw the “rocket booster” that could be put on the back of the people who come into a knowledge of self. This is the same rocket booster that propelled Malcolm Little and Cassius Clay into global greatness.
I would estimate 85% of the holiness within Hip-Hop comes from the Holy Trinity of Marcus Garvey, Noble Drew Ali, and Elijah Muhammad. Only strong teaching has a chance to combat the preaching of murder, drugs, criminality, rape, and recklessness we see in Hip-Hop. You can judge teachers and leaders not just by the works and fruit they produced while alive, but also by the seeds and ground they fertilized that manifests after death.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 54: Frederick Hutson, PT 2
They discuss how he raised capital, the importance of focus, and spending too much time perfecting the product before launch. They also discuss Jay-Z’s blueprint for parting ways with team members via his break-up with Damon Dash. Busted and jailed for four years on marijuana charges,
EGO, Ignorance, and Jealousy Destroys from Within
I saw similarities between the break-up of Roc-A-Fella and WU. When money and fame come to people – particularly people from the bottom, the streets – it can work like a drug as potent as crystal meth. Everyone thinks they are hot and deserves more than they are getting. They lose sight of the original formula and where their bread is buttered. In Roc-A-Fella’s case, Damon Dash forgot 85% of the machine was based on Jay-Z, who had already surpassed his business acumen. Yes, Jay was better than Damon Dash at business! Damon Dash should have been praying to HOVA and thanking him rather than getting smoked up on EGO meth and thinking the machine was more about him.
In WU’s case, as talented as the members were, the individual acts lost value when not operating in unity within the mothership. The artists looked at the misleading spreadsheet projections and thought they could be more successful as individuals, not realizing it all goes back to RZA and the mothership. I imagine there was massive inefficiency in dealing with a portfolio of WU artists with different managers, labels, etc. Acquiring a knowledge of self doesn’t kill all of our demons from the block; these demons and dysfunction can manifest later, and I think this was the case with WU. Even if RZA and Divine offered the WU members profit and equity interest in the parent company, I’m not sure that would have prevented the group from breaking up.
RZA and Divine Are Sharp Minds
We already knew RZA was gifted and a natural born leader before watching the docuseries, but a lot of viewers are introduced to RZA’s brother, DIVINE, for the first time. It’s hard to say whether Divine was the right CEO when the business expanded and became valued at over $50M but it’s clear that he and his brother laid the right foundation and business structure that allowed the enterprise to scale. Divine was probably my favorite character in the series partially because he was brought to the surface for the first time. It was tough to see Ol’ DIrty Bastard fighting with RZA and Divine with his giggling white business manager on his side. When the people think they can do better, sometimes they have to go out there and see. They often realize the game is not as easy as it seems. Damon Dash couldn’t do better without Jay-Z and the WU members didn’t do better without RZA and Divine.
Sometimes we just need to remember there’s strength in numbers and we’re stronger together.