The biopic series Wu-Tang: An American Saga premiered in 2019 as a 10-year labor of love from Alex Tse and RZA based on the Wu-Tang Clan founder’s 2009 autobiographical book, The Tao of Wu. Initially slated for 10 episodes and created by a writing staff made up of 10 people, the show recounting the life and legacy of one of hip-hop’s greatest disruptors ultimately clocked 30 episodes across three seasons. The final season will premiere Feb. 15 on Hulu.
“This season deals with various elements of hip-hop culture through the eyes of the Wu-Tang Clan and its surrounding family,” RZA tells Rolling Stone via email. “We explore the music, the fashion, the entrepreneurial elements, and that pioneering spirit that the hip-hop art form generates. We also explore the imagination and inspiration that the music invoked into the youth. We do this all while navigating the complex relationships that success spawns.”
In the Season Three trailer, Wu-Tang Clan rides the high of their debut album release. With their five-year plan for Wu domination in full-effect, it soon becomes clear that success is a persistent uphill battle, even after you’ve made it.
With recording deadlines looming, label executives wondering where their money is going, and creative differences threatening to dismantle the Wu-Tang brotherhood — all while the 10 members set their sights on their own personal journeys — the group is tasked with stepping back to better understand what they truly want their legacy to represent in the end.
“Being a founder and abbot of the Wu I’m always optimistic about our legacy,” RZA adds. “We set out on A journey in 1993 with Enter the 36 Chambers and that journey continues 30 years later and we created 30 episodes of tv/cinema to expound upon our art, music, life joys and life struggles.”
Throughout Season Three, RZA and Tse linger on the individual extensions of Wu-Tang Clan, including the release of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s debut album Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah’s vision and inception of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and the reunion of the group that accompanied the arrival of GZA’s Liquid Swords.
“The primary influence was the album Liquid Swords by the GZA and produced by the RZA,” RZA says of the episode he both wrote and directed, set to premiere on March 22. “When we created that album we drew from the films and music vibes that were parallel to our hip-hop development. Chinese Kung Fu films, Japanese Samurai films, anime, American sci-fi, and Youth culture films all showed up in the episode, as those inspirations all have manifestations on the original album.”
The action-packed Kung Fu influence, the drama of the Nineties gangster crime scene, the prominence of Blaxploitation films in the Seventies — Wu-Tang Clan has championed pillars of Hollywood for decades while crafting their own thematic and stylistic image in hip-hop. As Wu-Tang: An American Saga unveils its final 10 episodes, RZA feels not only optimistic about the legacy and future of the group, but also carries a sense of pride for the platform they’ve built to celebrate more than three decades of eminent influence.
“I believe the Wu-Tang Clan are an important lamp post in the annals of hip-hop history and music culture as a whole,” RZA says. “Wu-Tang undauntedly fused bountiful elements into one. It’s of course a great honor and privilege to partner with Imagine Entertainment and my co-creator Alex Tse to create and produce this show. We’re extremely grateful that Disney/Hulu gave us the platform to share these stories in our own unique way.”
He adds: “The last five years have been as challenging and fulfilling as our first five years in the Industry. The first five years culminated with the success of the album Wu-Tang Forever. The last five years with the completion of the series and its inspirational content echoes those words.”