A part of the allure of Wu-Tang: An American Saga isn’t only seeing the legendary hip-hop collective’s story be mythologized for a drama TV series, but seeing what real life stories associated with the group make their way to the small screen. The first season made subtle and more overt references to actual moments that occurred in the members life — from Ol’ Dirty Bastard saying he used to battle rap A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip in high school to RZA and GZA’s solo careers as Prince Rakeem and The Genius, respectively, prior to the Wu’s formation.
With the second season coming out on September 8, there’s likely to be more real life moments referenced from the lives of the Wu-Tang Clan, especially since RZA teased that the season will focus on the recording of the group’s seminal debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
Knowing that, there’s definitely going to be some obvious moments referenced, but what about lesser known ones? In anticipation of the show’s return, we’ve highlighted seven real life Wu stories we hope get highlighted throughout the season.
It’s a moment that Bobbito Garcia has recounted a number of times, most recently in the Wu-Tang documentary series of Mics and Men, where members of the group showed up at the Stretch & Bobbito Show (which was hosted on 89.9 WKCR-FM and broadcasted from a Columbia University basement station) to get them to play “Protect Ya Neck.”
“Wu-Tang, the first time they came up, Stretch wasn’t there,” Bobbito recalled during a 2012 Red Bull Music Academy conversation, where he shared that five people — including RZA and Ghostface Killah — weren’t particularly cordial about trying to get him to the play the track.
“I know it was RZA because I recognized him. He had came up when he was Prince Rakeem. It was him — 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!'” he said.
Well, Bobbito played it and immediately he started getting calls about it.
“My man calls up right after it’s done — he’s like, ‘Yo, what the hell is that shit?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know,'” Bobbito recounted in Of Mics and Men. “There’s no video out, Steve Rifkin wasn’t in the picture — this is just straight out the trunk, selling shit.”
As one of the greatest beats RZA has ever crafted — and one of the best hip-hop beats of all time — it’s only right that the series should have a scene centered around the creation of “C.R.E.A.M.” RZA has previously talked about the song, sharing in a 2018 appearance on LL COOL J’s Rock the Bells radio station that the track was originally called “Lifestyle of the Mega Rich,” and it had eight minutes of lyrics. However, upon going into the studio to work on 36 Chambers, RZA had Inspectah Deck and Raekwon condense their verses, and then got Method Man to do the hook, which was built around a phrase him and his friend Raider Ruckus would use to talk about money — “Cream.”
In another interview, Raekwon had shared how the “C.R.E.A.M.” beat was actually an old instrumental, dating it to the late ’80s. In digging through his old beats to find more tracks for 36 Chambers, maybe Ashton Sanders (RZA) will stumble upon on the already-made “C.R.E.A.M.” beat, where we’ll then hit a flashback about he brought the instrumental to life.
U-God wasn’t able to be as present on 36 Chambers because he had to go to jail during recording for the album. However, he was still able to leave his mark on the seminal release courtesy of “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’,” which he did right before he turned himself in. As he recounted to HipHopDX in 2013:
“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 motherfucking lungs out; I didn’t know nothing about recording. He had me coming on all hard and shit.”
Upon being released, U-God heard the track and responded favorably while reflecting on the importance of those two verses to him, personally.
“Those two verses saved my life. RZA saved my life, and I could never go against that,” he said.
The album cover for 36 Chambers is one of the most iconic hip-hop covers of all time, but not all members of the Staten Island collective were actually present for the photoshoot. Danny Hastings, the photographer that handled the shoot, recounted to Ego Trip how he was expecting to shoot the entire Wu-Tang Clan, but only six of them showed up: RZA, ODB, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, GZA, and Raekwon.
Working with the members present, Hastings came up with the idea to have them wear stocking masks to hide their faces. The idea was inspired by Hastings when he saw the group perform in masks at the Jack the Rapper convention in Atlanta.
“They weren’t thinking, ‘Don’t show my face’ [on the album cover],” Hastings said. “Everybody [in the group] at that point wanted to show their faces.”
But the mystique and aesthetic of the photo fit the music so well, a minor setback transformed into a piece of hip-hop history. Also, rumor has it that two of the managers of the group also appeared in the cover photo to make up for U-God, Method Man, and Masta Killa’s absence.
Method Man is arguably the most recognizable figure out of Wu-Tang, having become both a popular rapper and actor. But Meth’s undeniable talent could’ve been cut short before the Wu even began. In a 2009 interview with CNN, RZA spoke on a passage in his memoir, The Tao of Wu, where Meth almost find himself in the middle of a shooting at 160 Park Hill Avenue in Staten Island. Meth was walking to buy weed when RZA called him over from across the street. Had RZA not seen Meth, the moment could’ve played out differently.
“…[Meth] always brings it up…that that day saved his life,” RZA said. “He actually said, if it was anybody else calling him, he wouldn’t have came.”
Cappadonna has been an official member of the Wu since 2007, but he could’ve had his membership much sooner when the group was still forming. During a 2017 appearance on Drink Champs, Method Man revealed that Cap preceded his affiliation with the crew, and also shared that Cap and Raekwon encouraged him to rap.
“Him and Rae are the reason why I even rhyme,” Meth said. “I was trying to get down with his crew called GBK, Get Busy Krew.” Meth ended up replacing Cap in the initial Wu lineup after the latter was sent to prison, and was serving out his sentence when Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was recorded and released.
“Cappa was down with me before Meth, but he went to jail,” RZA said in a 2012 interview with Funkmaster Flex. “So he came home and Meth was the man.”
Although Masta Killa denies it now, the Wu member once punched a former music journalist for how a story turned out about the group. In a deleted Of Mics and Men scene, Cheo Hodari Coker — who also co-wrote The Notorious B.I.G. bio film Notorious and created the Luke Cage series on Netflix — recounted how Killa punched him because of cartoon drawings made of Wu members that accompanied a story he did on the group for defunct rap magazine Rap Pages. If the Wu had shown up to a scheduled photoshoot for the piece, the illustrations never would’ve been done in the first place. But alas.
“Without art we would have to kill the story,” Coker said. “I didn’t think the illustrations reflected the seriousness of what I witnessed. Because, musically, Wu-Tang was off the charts. I thought it looked corny.”
He didn’t hear anything from the group but fast forward awhile later, and Cheo meets Killa.
“He says, ‘Yo, is you Cheo?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,'” Coker said before recalling how Killa immediately punched him in his eye in response. The Wu rapper also stole Coker’s tape recorder, which was made right by a $60 check Wu-Tang Productions wrote him that he still has.
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