How True Is ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’?
Wu-Tang: An American Saga is greatly inspired by the real-life experiences of the group. But not everything is true in the dramatized series.
Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga has become a go-to show for rap fanatics since its debut in September 2019. The main reason for this is that the Wu-Tang Clan have one of the most fascinating stories in hip-hop. The legendary Staten Island collective built a mythos for itself through the members’ love of kung fu and mafia flicks, and donning different rap monikers and personas to tell their stories.
But even before the rap stardom, many of the members had already lived a life full of moments bordering on the unbelievable, only adding to the intrigue surrounding the Wu’s story. So, it’s understandable why the group would be perfect fodder for a biographical drama series that mixes fact and fiction to tell the story of one of hip-hop’s most beloved band of MCs.
With its third and final season dropping February 15, An American Saga has highlighted the real-life experiences of the group and its individual members in subtle and overt ways. When Ol’ Dirty Bastard briefly talks about battling Q-Tip in school in the first season’s third episode, “All In Together Now,” that’s a reference to the fact that the pair did actually battle once. When RZA almost ends up behind bars for a shootout in Ohio, that’s a reference to the fact that he actually faced eight years in jail for a shootout that occurred in Ohio in 1992. But it’s important to remember that this is a dramatization, meaning that even though these are true stories most of them will be exaggerated in some way. This is also the case with the more fictional aspects of the series, too.
So, with An American Saga coming to an end, here’s a breakdown of some of the questions viewers have had on what’s fact and fiction across the series’ two seasons (with third season moments to come once it releases).
Did Ghostface Killah and Raekwon have beef?
Verdict: True and False
A crucial plot point of the first season (and the first chunk of season two) is centered around a feud between Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, who’s first introduced as Dennis/D-Lover and Corey/Sha Raider, respectively. The feud is incited thanks to a drive-by Sha does on Dennis’ house, with his brothers and mother almost hit by the attack. As a result, Dennis hopes to get revenge on Sha, with RZA (Bobby) hoping to be the neutral middleman that gets them to squash their beef and join the rap group he’s trying to make.
Both Ghost and Rae have addressed this, with the latter recently saying on the Outside with Gorilla Nems podcast: “Me and Rae never had beef. Me and Rae never had no problems. It was just the way them characters got switched around.”
But there is the reality that the two did come from rival neighborhoods, something that Rae addressed in a 2013 interview with VladTV.
“If you go to the hood and you go 10 blocks away, niggas don’t know you, niggas don’t fuck with you, niggas will gun you if they feel like you in the way, so we always stayed on our side,” he said.
“So when RZA formed this alliance, it was definitely spoken on like, ‘Yo, I don’t really fuck with Ghost, he’s a crook.’ But when RZA was the middle guy, it was almost like he did a [John] Gotti move. He brought all the families to the table, and made niggas make amends, due to the fact of how we gon’ move forward and get this money.”
Also, according to Rae, it was actually Ghost that incited a shootout, with the rapper sharing in another VladTV interview that Ghost shot up his friend Jamie’s home, which led to Jamie retaliating and shooting up Ghost’s home.
“It was an eye for an eye situation,” Rae said. “He was like, ‘Yo, you shot at my crib, so…’ That’s what it was. That’s how it played out. I wasn’t around that day to see what was going on. Like I said, we knew that Ghost knew RZA and [RZA’s older brother] Divine, but we didn’t really know that he knew ’em the way that he knew ’em.”
With this in mind, this is possibly what Ghost meant when he said the characters “got switched around.”
Did Ghostface Killah date RZA’s sister?
Another integral part of Dennis’ story is his relationship with RZA’s sister, Shurrie. As the show goes on, we see the pair’s once hidden relationship become known to the Diggs family, as well as Shurrie revealing to Dennis that she’s pregnant with his child.
Shurrie (played by Zolee Griggs) is a fusion of all of RZA’s sisters, but the main one Griggs was able to speak with for inspiration for the role was Sophia, who did have a real-life relationship with Ghost. Although Ghost hasn’t spoken much publicly about Sophia, he did acknowledge her while speaking about RZA in a 2013 interview with XXL, saying: “RZA’s my brotha for life. That’s my brother-in-law. I got babies by his fucking sister.”
Did Haze really die?
In season one’s sixth episode “Impossible,” we witness the tragic death of Haze at the hands of Officer Marcus. It’s a moment that sticks with everyone in the Park Hill Projects, particularly Sha, Rebel, and Shotgun, as they helplessly watch Haze fight for his life.
Haze’s death is likely based on the tragic death of Ernest Sayon, a 23-year-old who was killed by police during an arrest outside outside the Park Hill apartment buildings in 1994. Although there were three officers directly involved in the incident, it was Officer Donald Brown who was singled out, primarily because he was from the same neighborhood as Sayon was, and had already had a divisive relationship with the Park Hill community prior to the incident.
Method Man spoke on Sayon’s passing during an interview with HuffPost in 2015, comparing the incident to what happened to Eric Garner and saying: “I felt the pain, because we had spoke out about a cop that had done that to one of my dear friends I grew up with, Ernest Sayon. He was killed by a cop. I’m going to say killed, because he was killed by this cop, Donald Brown, who strangled him—choked him to death.”
However, it’s unknown if Meth, Inspectah Deck, or Rae were actually present when Sayon’s death occurred.
Did RZA almost go to prison?
An American Saga‘s season two premiere episode, “Little Ghetto Boys,” finds RZA possibly facing jail time for shooting a girlfriend’s ex in self-defense while out in Ohio. Prior to the shooting, he already seemed to become disillusioned with making music, and the possibility of being locked up doesn’t help matters. Fortunately, RZA is found not guilty, the verdict rejuvenating his desire to return to NYC and create the Wu-Tang Clan.
In the Wu-Tang docuseries Of Mics and Men, RZA recounted how he was hit with a felony charge in Steubenville, Ohio, after he allegedly shot a man in the leg. Despite claiming he fired in self-defense, RZA faced eight years in jail for the charge. He was acquitted on April 23, 1992.
“My mother came out and she saw me. She looked me in my eyes and said, ‘This is my second chance, don’t look back, walk straight. Walk that straight path.’ I did that. I zigged back.” he recalled.
Did RZA sign ODB to Elektra?
A point of contention for RZA and ODB that begins at the end of the second season (and will likely be in the third season) is the former signing the latter to Elektra without his consent. Signing to Def Jam was a childhood dream for Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and even though RZA thought he was getting his cousin the better deal (not only was Elektra offering the same price as Def Jam, but they were also willing to give him his music back after 20 years), ODB was clearly hurt that his cousin hadn’t spoken with him first. This is what leads to their fight on the subway, as well as their brief falling out in the season finale episode, “As High as Wu-Tang Gets.”
In reality, although ODB wanted to go to Def Jam, it doesn’t seem like he was particularly mad about being on Elektra. According to then-Elektra A&R Dante Ross, who signed ODB to the label, there wasn’t any real pushback from the late MC at all.
“He liked me. I don’t know what it was but we hit it off right away,” Ross recounted on Open Mike Eagle’s What Had Happened Was podcast, sharing how ODB appreciated the way Ross listened to him about what he wanted to do with his music.
Did Wu-Tang rush the stage at Jack The Ripper?
In “As High as Wu-Tang Gets,” the Wu is supposed to open for Run-DMC at Atlanta’s Jack The Rapper convention, but they end up getting cut from the lineup when the show runs over. Undeterred, the group decides to bum rush the stage, accosting the DJ and giving a bold performance that only helps amplify their growing popularity.
As U-God shared with Tidal in 2018, the Wu actually did bum rush the stage at Jack The Rapper, after Luke (of 2 Live Crew fame) postponed letting them onstage.
“One of the times we were down there, maybe our first time, Luke from 2 Live Crew would not give up the mic; he wouldn’t let us on,” U-God recalled. “2 Live Crew was mad deep down there, and supposedly had been getting rowdy during the whole convention. Maybe Luke was trying to protect his market because we were down South. Whatever his reasoning, we were up next and he was keeping us from going onstage. We tried to be patient for a few moments, but you know how that goes when you’re hungry for recognition. So after a few moments, the Clan had to rush the stage to ensure we did what we came to do.”
Although it doesn’t seem like the group also bum rushed the stage at The Fever (unlike what’s shown in season two’s eighth episode “Saturday Nite,” there’s this video that shows the Wu performing at the popular Bronx hip-hop club in 1993, sans bum rush), there is a video of them apparently bum rushing the stage at The Palladium in 1994, showing that the group wasn’t afraid to utilize the strategy when necessary.
Did RZA’s basement flood?
At first it seems as if the second season is going to end on a relatively good note. The group’s bold move at Jack The Rapper worked, Method Man has signed to Def Jam, and RZA has already made some headway on some of the members’ solo albums. Then, disaster strikes — a pipe bursts in RZA’s basement, seemingly destroying the work he’s done on those solo albums in the process.
What may seem like an unreal plot twist to drive the story forward is actually very real. During a live interview that was part of Georgia’s A3C Festival in 2018, RZA explained how floods (yes, plural) had destroyed his studio on more than one occasion, with the first one that’s referenced in An American Saga happening after the Wu returned home after some shows in Cleveland.
“As soon as we had finished [Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers], I already had Inspectah Deck’s [Uncontrolled Substance] album, Method Man’s [Tical] album prepared. Because back in those days we had floppy disks and I would make all the beats – Method Man’s session, Deck’s session, [Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…] session, and I was ready to go,” he recalled. “Here comes the flood that wiped away about 160 floppy disks. Because I didn’t think there’d be a flood. I had [the disks] on the floor, under the keyboard. You don’t think. Wu-Tang [Clan was] out doing some shows in Cleveland, whatever. [We came] back–water’s up this high, washed that all away. [We went] back to the drawing board. Cool.”
The famed producer went on to speak of the other instances of flooding damaging his studios, with the second one occurring more than a year later after the first one, and the third one taking place at the “Wu house” in New Jersey.