'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Episode 7 Recap
The Diggs family moves on in different directions. Shotgun (Dave East) and Bobby (Ashton Sanders) pictured.
Photo by: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

'Wu-Tang: An American Sage' Episode 7 Recap: On Another Level of Plannin’

This episode of An America Saga is about growth and transition. Oh, and about Clifford Smith (rubs hands like Birdman). But before we get to Shot Gun, let’s talk about the Diggs.

Jerome was playing no games; the majority of the Diggs family is packing up and moving on up to the East Side Ohio. That includes young boo’d up Shurrie (Zolee Griggs), and she’s big mad. Long-distance relationships hit different back in the day before cell phones and the Internet. This story is set about 3 years before phone card scams got hot in the streets, so Dennis’ only option is to give his girl a half-hearted “Have fun in Ohio.” He can’t even hug her and kiss her goodbye in front of the family, but he did slip a secret note in her favorite book. (You know how hard it used to be to get a hood dude to write a note?! He’s in love foreal.)

We admit it, we had Jerome (Bokeem Woodbine) all wrong. He’s holding down the patriarch role, packing up the truck, giving Linda (Erika Alexander) some lovin’, and doling out advice. In the flash-forward scene at the end of the episode, he’s tossing the football with Randy on a lush green lawn. This is the promised land Florida and James Evans dreamed of (and that Florida worked every episode to ensure they would never reach).

After putting everybody in the house to work on the move, including poor crippled Shot Gun (typical Black mama steez), Ms. Linda gives the “men” she’s leaving behind — Divine (Julian Elijah Martinez), Bobby (Ashton Sanders), Dennis (Siddiq Saunderson) and Shot Gun (Dave East) — an assignment: to make something of themselves.

For Divine, that involves getting a job as a condition of his parole. With a record, his best options are limited to general labor. Jerome, having been through this himself, gives Divine some tips, and it was surprising to see Divine genuinely listening. His close call with the cops and witnessing Haze get killed seems to have tempered his notions of getting back in the hustle. Even though it hurts his pride to be looked at as “another statistic,” he’s accepting that he can’t be a boss. Not right now, anyway.

Divine lands a gig with a janitorial crew at the World Trade Center, and while he’s out of his comfort zone, he’s not shirking his duties. (Well, he can’t, since his supervisor was clearly headed to one of the grown-and-sexy nights at NYC’s Shadow Lounge or Bentleys Nightclub to get his groove on.) At one point in his shift, he collapses behind a desk chair, perhaps more exhausted by his current reality than the work itself. As he looks out of the corner office view at the New Jersey skyline, we can see the boss Divine will become again, as the business arm of the Wu empire.

As the Diggs are loading the moving truck, cousin Gary, who’s now finally started going by  “Genius,” is meeting with talent manager Andre D Andre (The Wire’s Jamie Hector), who also runs a furrier out of his office (that is some real old school NY entertainment ish, right there.) Dazzled at the site of Big Daddy Kane and Roxanne Shante, Genius is ready to hear whatever Andre has to say, and the manager tells him he’s impressed with what he heard on the demo, including Bobby. Gary gives Andre Bobby’s demo, which also features Shot Gun.

With his mom and younger siblings gone and Divine at the half-way house overnights, Bobby has the run of the house. When Andre reaches out and tells him he wants Bobby and Shot Gun to perform at a showcase for label executives, Bobby reverts back to the singular music focus he had at the beginning of the series. He ain’t even feeding the poor dog! Dennis is heated because, well, he’s Dennis and that’s basically his resting state. But also with Divine trying to keep his nose clean and Bobby’s attention elsewhere, that leaves Dennis holding down an operation that is technically Bobby’s family business. He’s also mad because “That chess playing nigga keep trying to get me to sit down” in the park. The old man might have given you some game about Shurrie, Dennis! Bobby promises his boy that when he gets on, he’ll bring Dennis with him.

Bobby and Shot Gun prepare for their big night by figuring out their official stage names. Bobby decides he’s going to go with Prince Rakeem, and Shot Gun is weighing a few options, including Johnny Blaze. They both kill their performances, and afterward, Andre introduces Bobby to Tommy Boy executive Monica Lynch (Jill Flint), and the president of Spring Records (home of Millie Jackson), Jules Rifkin (Mark Lotito), plus Jules’ young son, Steve. Yes, future founder of LOUD Records, the eventual home of the Wu-Tang Clan, Steve Rifkind (Jack Hoffman).

Later at the house, Divine expresses frustration with Bobby because he’s busting his ass to get back on his feet and he feels like Bobby isn’t taking real-world responsibilities seriously, leading Divine to question whether he coddled his younger brother too much. However, when Bobby updates him on the manager and the upcoming meeting at Tommy Boy, for the first time, Divine listens and bigs Bobby up instead of blowing his music off.

The night of the showcase was a come up for Bobby, but it may have been a set back for Shot Gun. While Bobby was meeting both of his future label executives, across the room Shot Gun was entertaining a slick label executive who asks him if his cane is a prop for a pimp persona, and tells him he could be as big as Father MC (who’s probably at home somewhere right now wondering why Rza pulled him into this narrative). When Shot Gun tells the suit he’s not down for “pretty boy rap,” the slickster retorts that it’s better than slingin’ on the corner. And Shot Gun - who hasn’t sold drugs, hasn’t done time and has seen too many opportunities taken from him, goes off.

Now, let’s talk about Shot Gun. Flashbacks throughout the episode show us young Shot Gun (Therell Spires) as a promising lacrosse player on Long Island goaded into fighting by his hatin’ ass cousin, thrown out by his aunt and sent back to his grandmother (who had already thrown him out at least once). We understand his grandmother’s reservations when his uncle - who we assume is in and out of both jail and sobriety - comes home. Black mamas can only take so much. Shot Gun watches his Uncle Anthony (Jason Kelly) work to get back on stable ground — not unlike Divine — only to have his pride hurt and return to using. A decision young Clifford ultimately pays a cost for, as he has to leave his championship lacrosse game to get his uncle off the field so he isn’t arrested. Uncle Anthony’s arrested anyway, and when cops threaten to call child services, his grandmother (Adriene Lenox) tells them Shot Gun lives with his mom in Staten Island. So Shot Gun grabs his lacrosse stick and his clothes and heads to Park Hill, where a young Haze defends him from getting clowned before he even makes it to his mom’s door.

Shot Gun recalls all of this as he mourns Haze’s death and the theft of “big opportunities.” Times that either fate or his self-defense has cost him something: shelter, a game, and possible scouting opportunity, and now, a deal. When Andre sees Shot Gun blow up at the executive, he decides he doesn’t want to represent him. And doesn’t want Bobby to bring him into his studio sessions — or, possibly, any of the other guys: “I’m not trying to have half of Staten Island in the sessions.” This is disheartening for Bobby, who’s already been thinking about a crew, asking the Tommy Boy team if they’ve ever put all of Mark the 45 King and Queen Latifah’s Flava Unit on one record. When Monica scoffs at trying to wrangle all that talent for one project, Bobby argues, “It’d be like the Avengers.” (Tommy Boy eventually did it.)

Andre pushes Bobby towards a commercially viable single to seal the deal with Tommy Boy. They dig through vinyl, with Andre suggesting James Brown samples and other typical early ‘90s fare. Bobby wants to go in a different direction and produce for himself, but Andre wants him to focus on being a rapper because “rappers don’t produce they own shit.” With an additional promise to Shot Gun that he’ll figure out a way to get him on, Bobby gets in the studio as Prince Rakeem and records his first Tommy Boy single; a little bop about how much the ladies love him. Later, Sha (why does he always look so menacing?) and Shot Gun are shocked to find the 12” vinyl with an illustrated, sambo-esque cover in the record store bin.

--

What This Episode Got Right:  Dave East as Shot Gun is just...perfection. We forgot at times that we weren’t actually watching young Meth. And “We Love You Rakeem” was indeed Rza’s debut single from Tommy Boy.

What This Episode Got Wrong: So… Kane and Roxanne were just in the fur vault chillin’ the whole time Gary was meeting with Andre?

What We Could Have Done Without: Mama Linda’s goodbye speech was a little too preachy, but we didn’t mind that much.

What We Have Questions About: Where is Ason? He’s Bobby’s cousin. He should have at least been around to tell Linda, Shurrie and Randy goodbye.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Getty Images/Dimitrios Kambouris

Zoe Kravitz Lands Catwoman Role In 'Batman'

Zoe Kravitz is the latest bombshell to become Catwoman. The 30-year-old will play Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman alongside Batman (Robert Pattinson), CNN reports.

This new role is a major milestone for Kravitz, who’s most known for her role as Bonnie Carlson on HBO’s Big Little Lies. The actress was congratulated on her new role by her step-father, Aquaman actor Jason Momoa on Instagram.

For Kravitz, it’s always been important to make her presence known in Hollywood outside her parents' influence on the business (her father is Lenny Kravitz and her mother is Lisa Bonet). To get these coveted roles, she admits to, ironically, having to work harder than her counterparts just to prove her success isn’t just a product of nepotism.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I’m so proud of u zozo bear. On and off screen OHANA. DC WB ohana Lola and Wolfies big sister is CAT WOMAN😍😍😍 Unbelievable so freaking stoked. Your going to have so much fun Aloha P bear

A post shared by Jason Momoa (@prideofgypsies) on Oct 14, 2019 at 6:21pm PDT

“If I don’t have [the next] job lined up, I get nervous,” she told Elle. “It’s irrational, maybe. But also good. When I was in high school, if a girl didn’t like me, the first thing she’d say was, 'You think you’re so cool because of your parents.' That carries into later life, like, 'Oh, you just got this part because your parents are this and that.'

It’s important to acknowledge that I got in the door easier because of them. Some kids work their whole lives and they can’t even get an agent to call them back. That part was handed to me,” she continued. “People are always going to think that maybe you are who you are because of your family. So it’s my responsibility to work harder.”

Continue Reading
Nickelodeon

How 'My Brother And Me' Resonated With A Generation Of Young Black Men

In terms of cultural impact and influence, the '90s ranks as one of the defining decades for black entertainment of the past century. This proves particularly true in the realm of television, with a number of landmark programs debuting that reflected the life and times of blacks in the urban community and beyond. While the '80s produced groundbreaking sitcoms like The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Matters, 227, Amen, and Frank's Place, all of which featured predominantly black casts, these shows were few and far in between.

However, the arrival of a new decade coincided with an influx of programs starring black leads, with shows like Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, Hangin with Mr. Cooper, Roc, Thea and South Central all making their debut. While these shows were hits across various age groups, they all starred and revolved around actors of age, in some form or fashion. One of the first programs to divert from this formula and place the focus squarely on adolescents was My Brother and Me, a sitcom that often gets overlooked when listing the pivotal shows of its era.

Making its debut on October 15, 1994, My Brother and Me was among the first live-action series to air on Nickelodeon and the first to feature a predominantly black cast. Created by Ilunga Adell and Calvin Brown Jr., and directed by Arlando Smith and Adam Weissman, the show centers around brothers Alfred "Alfie" Parker and Derek "Dee-Dee" Parker, the two youngest children of parents Jennifer (Karen E. Fraction) and Roger Parker (Jim R. Coleman) who experience the typical growing pains of pre-pubescent young men that are coming of age.

Additional core cast members include Alfie and Dee-Dee's older sister Melanie Parker (Aisling Sistrunk),, Alfie's best friend Milton "Goo" Berry (Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr.) who has an infatuation with Melanie, Melanie's best friend and Donnell's older sister Dionne Wilburn (Amanda Seales), Dee-Dee's best friend and Dionne’s younger brother Donnell Wilburn (Stefan J. Wernli),, Dee-Dee’s other best friend Harry White (Keith "Bubba" Naylor), and local comic book store owner Mrs. Pinckney (Kym Whitley).

Set in the suburbs of the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina, My Brother and Me was the Nickelodeon's answer to Sister, Sister, a sitcom on ABC starring identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry that had debuted earlier that year. With a beat writer for the local newspaper for a father and a school teacher for a mother, Alfie and Dee-Dee enjoyed a stable living environment in which they could thrive academically and socially while simply being kids. A middle-class family with access to all of the basic amenities, the Parkers' economic situation was in stark contrast to the usual scratching-and-surviving, rags-to-riches themes often associated with sitcoms geared towards people of color.

While removed from the harsh realities that often accompany life in the inner-city, the Parker boys were drawn in by the allure of street culture, with Alfie and Dee-Dee both being avid fans of hip hop music, fashion, and style. This love affair would be the driving force behind various episodes, most notably "Dee-Dee's Haircut," during which Dee-Dee allows Goo to butcher his hair after marveling at fellow student Kenny's "Cool Dr. Money"-inspired haircut. Going as far as handpicking designs out of a rap magazine Donell borrows from his sister Dionne, Dee-Dee goes to the extreme in an attempt to mirror Kenny and Cool Dr. Money, a testament to the influence hip hop holds over him. His affinity for the culture is also reflected in the "Donnell's Birthday Party" episode, during which the impressionable youngster mimicking dance moves from a rap video in hopes of tightening up his dance skills.

Alfie and Dee-Dee may have been the intended stars of the show, but to many viewers, the most memorable character from My Brother and Me was Goo, who stole scenes with his humorous wisecracks and mischievous hijinks, often at the expense of Dee-Dee and his friends. From showering Mrs. Parker with disarming compliments to masterminding various plots and schemes in an attempt to get himself and Alfie out of trouble, Goo proved to be the most entertaining member of the show, exuding swagger and confidence that are palpable to the viewer and as hip hop as it gets. On the other hand, Alfie, who is not as overtly demonstrative in his rap fandom as his younger brother or Goo, reps his allegiance to the culture more subtly, with his haircut, backward caps and boisterous mannerisms.

While race was never a prevalent topic on the show, if one was to look closer between the lines, My Brother and Me was unapologetically black and pridefully so. Take, for instance, the various nods to HBCU culture throughout the show, including Roger Parker's various North Carolina Central University sweatshirts and hats, Alfie's Morehouse fit, and insignias from various black fraternities. One other common thread of the show was its incorporation of sports, starting with the Parker household's fandom of Charlotte's local professional franchises on full display, as Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers memorabilia are all visible throughout the household. Cameos also included appearances from NBA stars Kendall Gill and Dennis Scott, the latter of whom teaches Alfie, the superior athlete of the Parker brothers, a lesson in selflessness and teamwork by cutting him from the school basketball team in "The Basketball Tryouts" episode.

Of all of the aspects of My Brother and Me that made the show a game-changer, the fact that it was one of the first times young black males saw themselves in characters on the TV is the most enduring. While plenty of shows and networks fixated on coming-of-age storylines centered around the privileged youth of white America, My Brother and Me provided the alternative, promoting the bond of brotherhood and family values with each episode aired. Preceding shows like Kenan & Kel and Cousin Skeeter, both of which implemented overt comedic or fictional elements, My Brother and Me was a realistic glimpse at the life of the average black boy in America without the overarching narratives of impoverishment, temptation, and despair. For many young black men born in the '80s, the show left an indelible impact on them and holds a place near to their heart a quarter-century later.

In spite of its critical acclaim and popularity, My Brother and Me only aired for one season, as it was canceled after airing its final episode on January 15, 1995. The network would air reruns into the early 2000s before returning briefly during The '90s Are All That block on TeenNick in December 2013, the last time the show would appear on television. In June 2014, Nickelodeon released My Brother & Me: The Complete Series as a two-disc DVD, giving a new generation of viewers and longtime fans of the show an opportunity to relive the magic that the show captured during its short, yet unforgettable run.

In the years following My Brother and Me's cancellation, many of the actors and actresses from the show would fail to find their footing in the entertainment industry, resulting in their acting careers fading into obscurity. Arthur Reggie III scored a few additional credits, appearing in the TV shows Sliders and C-Bear and Jamal, as well as the 1998 film Bulworth, but later transitioned into a rap career, performing under the name Show Bizness. My Brother and Me would mark Ralph Woolfolk's last appearance as an actor, as he decided to leave the industry behind and focus on his education, pursuing a degree in English at Morehouse College in Atlanta, while also attending law school. He is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and currently serves as a police officer for the city of Atlanta. Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr. scored bit roles in the TV shows Sweet Justice and Sister, Sister in the subsequent years after the show, while Aisling Sistrunk, Stefan J. Wernli and Keith "Bubba" Naylor would never act professionally again.

However, a few members of the cast were able to sustain viable acting careers well beyond My Brother and Me's cancellation, most notably Amanda Seales, Karen E. Fraction and Jim Coleman. Seales would rebrand herself as Amanda Diva and become a successful media personality before transitioning back into acting, last appearing as Tiffany DuBois on HBO's "Insecure." In 2019, Seales debuted an HBO Comedy Special I Be Knowin', and was chosen as the emcee for NBC's comedy competition, Bring the Funny. Jim Coleman has kept himself busy with various roles over the past two decades, last appearing in "The Council," and continues to receive steady work. Karen Fraction would add a few additional credits to her resume after "My Brother and Me," but passed away on October 30, 2007, after a five year battle with breast cancer. She is survived by her two children, Lauren Elizabeth Jean and Lawrence Wm. Morris, and her husband Lawrence Hamilton. And last, but not least, Kym Whitley would enjoy a fruitful career on television and on the big screen, appearing in dozens of shows and films throughout her lengthy career, with her latest role being Mrs. Malinky in the Netflix animated comedy Pinky Malinky.

In the time since the debut of My Brother and Me, a lot has changed in terms of the presence and representation of black youth on television and beyond. A number of black actors and actresses have had the opportunity to shine in a big way, including Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) Zendaya (Shake It Up), Kyle Massey (Corey in the House), Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP), Miles Brown (Black-Ish) and Alex R. Hibbert (The Chi) all among the more prominent child stars making major waves on TV over the past two decades. That said, 25 years later, the fact remains that My Brother and Me was ahead of the curve as one of the first instances of seeing ourselves in a positive and uplifting light on the small screen.

Continue Reading
Brad Barket

Ava DuVernay And 'Netflix' Sued For Portrayal Of Interrogation Technique In 'When They See Us'

Ava DuVernay and Netflix have been sued over their portrayal of the Reid interrogation technique of the Central Park Five in the Emmy-award winning series When They See Us, according to a new report by Hollywood Reporter.

According to the report, John E. Reid and Associates, a company that trains police on how to interrogate, claims that When They See Us sheds a negative light on the procedure, and implies that it involves coercion.

“Defendants intended to incite an audience reaction against Reid for what occurred in the Central Park jogger case and for the coercive interrogation tactics that continue to be used today,” the suit reads. “Defendants published the statements in 'When They See Us' in an effort to cause a condemnation of the Reid technique.”

The lawsuit also refers to a specific scene where the alleged Reid technique was badly dramatized.  In the final episode of When They See Us, a district attorney's office employee confronts a detective in the case, saying: "You squeezed statements out of them after 42 hours of questioning and coercing, without food, bathroom breaks, withholding parental supervision. The Reid Technique has been universally rejected. That's truth to you."

The detective responds:

“I don’t even know what the fucking Reid technique is, OK? I know what I was taught. I know what I was asked to do and I did it.”

Reid and Associates also claims the program has caused harm to the company's reputation, and the firm is seeking actual and punitive damages.

When They See Us, directed by DuVernay, tells the story of the Central Park Five, a group of young black men who were falsely charged with the rape and assault of a jogger in 1989.

Continue Reading

Top Stories