'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Episode 9 Recap
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'Wu-Tang: An American Saga' Episode 9 Recap: Come On And Bring The Ruckus

Stark realizations and a new enemy push the guys one step closer to their legacy.

Who do we speak to about getting a security detail for these last episodes of the season? We feel unsafe with Atilla on the streets. Atilla (Robert Crayton) is a massive being from Stapleton who just got out of prison, and who also inspired us to get up and double-check the locks on our doors a few times during this episode. We don’t know the full backstory on Staten Island’s version of Deebo (if Deebo was also an actual killer), but we were clear that his presence wasn’t going to be a good thing for the crew — but maybe it will turn out to be. We’ll come back to that later. Anyway, the penultimate episode of this season opens with Atilla being released from New York’s Sing Sing and immediately wreaking havoc when he gets back to the hood. With no concerns about parole stipulations or nothing, he’s robbing folks, shooting folks, pistol-whipping folks. Mayhem.

In midtown, Bobby drops by the label to talk to Monica (Jill Flint) about being dropped for poor single sales. He’s understandably frustrated because nothing he did was his vision, it was Tommy Boy’s. He pushed back on almost every choice they made for his brand, and Bobby points out that he still conceded to everything they asked him to do, “...that poppy song. The cheesy video.” He also tells Monica that now he should be able to try things his way; he’s got songs she’s never heard. And even though she admits the label made missteps with marketing, Monica’s still not trying to hear his music. She tells Bobby that Tommy Boy is potentially about to be bought out by a larger company, so Tom Silverman is shifting focus from solo acts to groups. Groups, you say? Bam! Bobby whips out the Wu-Tang demo and says “I got a group.” Monica is skeptical about everything from the group name to Ason being one of the rappers: “Isn’t he a backup dancer?” But she completely shuts down when he mentions Gary/Genius. “Gary is signed to another label. That’s not how the system works.” (We love Rza foreshadowing all the ways he flipped the standard music business with the group and their solo deals.) Monica sits the demo on a stack of tapes on her desk and walks Bobby out. As she does, an intern comes and packs the tapes up.

Back in Stapleton, Dennis (Siddiq Saunderson) has his brothers watch Shaolin vs Wu Tang with him. Since he and Bobby fell out, movie nights in the Diggs’ basement is a wrap, so little brothers gotta learn the way of the Wu. Darius (Samuel Mckoy-Johnson) has jokes, especially with the relationship storyline between the kung fu master and his best friend’s sister. He tells Dennis with a smirk, “No wonder you like this movie so much.” Dennis is upset that his brothers can’t see the deeper meanings in the movie, but the boys just think the violence is entertaining.

After leaving Tommy Boy, Bobby stops by Genius’ flossy album packaging shoot to talk to Andre (Jamie Hector) about the next steps. Andre tells him he doesn’t think he’s a fit at any of the other majors, then says Bobby may need to accept the fact that he’s not going to make it as a recording artist. Finally, Dre drops any pretense of professionalism or concern and tells Bobby he’s not working with him anymore. When Bobby asks about the money he’s made so far, Andre hits him with the infamous you-didn’t-read-the-contract accounting we’ve heard about in every episode of VH1's Behind the Music and that TLC movie.

Dennis is still holding down Battery Park, and the Five Percenters are still grating on his nerves. Adding to his frustration, Divine (Julian Elijah Martinez) completely ignores him as he passes by on the way to work. In one of his more pressed and desperate moments, D Love impulsively sticks a client up for his gold watch and sunglasses. Welp, working at the park’s a wrap.

Meanwhile, a defeated Bobby is packing up his equipment at the house, considering finally letting the dream go. As he’s doing so, he comes across his copy of The Supreme 120 Lessons - the introductory book for those seeking knowledge of self.  He started learning on tour, but apparently still has some studying to do. He abandons his packing project for the time being and takes time to try to decipher the readings.

Since Dennis blew up the spot by jacking a client, he’s sitting around the house with Bobby’s Shaolin movies on repeat. In breaking different plot points down to his brothers, he’s starting to see parts of the movie in a new way. He plays around, spitting some bars inspired by the flick, and Darius encourages him to “put that kung fu sh*t in a song or something.” When Dennis said Bobby’s been trying it, Darius tells him that means it’s a good idea and then asks why they haven’t been making music together anymore.

Over in Ohio, the relocated Diggs clan is thriving. Ms. Linda's (Erika Alexander) got her a garden, Jerome's (Bokeem Woodbine) got a new job, and Shurrie (Zolee Griggs) is about to get a role in the school play...or not, according to her sudden nausea. (We knew it!)

Divine is still putting in late nights cleaning the floors in the World Trade Center. He’s staying the course, but the work only takes him a fraction of his 10-hour shift. And he can’t dip out early since his boss already goes somewhere that requires snazzy suits for most of the night. After overhearing a trader on the phone throwing around a $25M figure like it’s nothing, Divine realizes how much money these finance cats are playing with and decides to use his free time at work to read up on the business.

In Park Hill, Sha (Shameik Moore) is in the crib watching “We Love You Rakeem” on The Box and waiting to see himself. The idea of being a rapper is clearly becoming more and appealing to the dude who once called the artform something they picked up in project hallways. Power (Marcus Callender) scoops him to roll to Cressy’s to cop product. When they get there, they learn Cressy (Jason Louder) is getting into the music business. He’s building a studio in his house and has a cypher going of talent he’s grooming. He tells Sha to jump in and is impressed with what he hears. He gets him in the studio immediately. There’s weed and girls — one of whom seems interested in Sha. She asks him if he works with Cressy, “Yeah, we’re making music together.”  Sha’s already casting off his identity as a dealer and trying on “rapper” for size. “Oh, you’re a rapper,” shorty asks with skepticism. “I spit darts, baby.” Now that sounds like the rapper we know as Raekwon.

Dennis is smoking out and trying to explain the idea of merging kung fu and rap to his boy, whose question is, “How is this representing Staten Island?” Dennis emphasizes, “Shaolin is Staten Island!”  He fervently starts talking about Shaolin and Wu Tang coming together at the end of the movie and meshing styles because they’re more powerful together. His boy ain’t trying to hear all that, he’s just trying to take a hit of the blunt. Dennis is missing Bobby; he’d get it.

Ason runs up on a dejected Bobby on the street, asking him if they can get into the studio. Bobby doesn’t want to tell him he got dropped. As he’s talking to him, some kids come up and ask for an autograph, then ask how much he got paid. Street rules have always dictated that you don’t talk about money all wild and loose in the streets, but Ason throws around mention of a $100K advance. “Nah, yo,” Bobby corrects. “...I got $60 Gs.” We knew as soon as he said it that it was going to reach the wrong ears, and sho’nuff, the young ones go boppin’ off down the street repeating the number as they walk right past Atilla. Aw, damn.

Lucky for Bobby, Sheba was on her job at the crib, and Bobby saw Atilla trying to bust in with time to sneak out of the house. Atilla destroys the house. Flips over and tears apart anything in there. After flipping over Bobby’s bed like it was a feather, Atilla finds his music and rhyme books and seems a little too pleased for somebody who was looking for $60K in cash.

The movie marathon continues at Dennis’ house, and at this point he’s been watching so much, he hears his own dialogue and sees his own version of the film, complete with street slang, Nike Airs and gold three-finger rings (somebody should totally commission a Ghostface-inspired reissue of the Shaw Brothers movies). Mama Coles (Delissa Reynolds) comes home and wonders why they’re watching the same movie again. Darius raves about the fight scenes, but Dennis argues he’s watching for the lessons in loyalty and brotherhood. His mom points out that he’s currently beefing with all his friends. The whole family’s using the movies to shade Dennis.

At Cressy’s studio, Power comes to grab Sha to get some actual work done. Cressy’s trying to put Sha under contract immediately — like in the next few hours, but Power’s not for all the “entertainer” rah rah. Miraculously, just as they get to the car, a fleet of cops roll up on Cressy’s house. We were worried for a minute that Cressy was going to think Power and Sha set him up, but nope. It was the honey trying to push up on Sha— she was undercover! Now Sha’s feeling like he got played, and Power tells him to never take his eye off the ball.

Atilla is holding Bobby’s music and equipment hostage for the 60 thousand dollars Bobby never actually received (imagine thinking anybody got $60K for a single deal). Divine doesn’t see the point in getting worked up; it’s music, he can make more. Divine doesn't know that Bobby was leaning towards leaving music alone, but he wanted to at least have what he’d already created.

Dennis shows up to make peace, having been enlightened and shamed a little by the movies. He realizes he needs Bobby to balance out his energy. Bobby is his abbot — he’s the head of their group. Bobby updates Dennis on the turn things have taken for him lately. Dennis is relieved Tommy Boy dropped him, “F*ck all that tuxedo-wearing bullsh*t, that sh*t ain’t you.” And he wants to go get Bobby’s stuff back from Atilla. Lmao — has Dennis met Atilla? They better get some reinforcements; some actual kung fu masters and ninjas or something. But our guess is that this will be the fight that brings the entire clan together, finally, with Dennis and Sha joining forces like Shaolin and Wu Tang in the movie.

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What The Episode Got Right: Drug kingpins bankrolled a lot of early hip-hop artists and businesses. It was an easy way to wash money and go legit during the war on drugs campaign. And it became harder to move around freely in the streets. We mentioned this in Episode 8, but you really couldn’t bring any food around a young black man in the ‘90s without him asking or commenting about “swine,” but Ms. Coles was every black mama shrugging it off because “pigs were made to be eaten.”

What The Episode Got Wrong: Maybe this isn’t “wrong,” but how is somebody as violent as Atilla even out of jail? At minimum, we know he has to be on parole, and we’re also certain he hasn’t checked in with his PO at all. Can somebody please come get him? We don’t feel safe.

What We Have Questions About: So, Rza just really left U-God out of this whole thing? LOL. And how did Bobby get the doors on the house fixed so quickly?

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'The Old Guard' Celebrates Women On Both Sides Of The Lens, Says Director Gina Prince-Bythewood & Actress KiKi Layne

Gina Prince-Bythewood is not new to this. Her decades-long screenwriting credits go back as far as 1992 when she contributed to the Cosby Show spin-off, A Different World. Her directorial debut happened nearly 10 years later with her 2000 film, Love & Basketball which grossed over $27 million in the U.S. box office and went on to become a black cinematic classic. Since then, Bythewood directed more films like The Secret Life of Bees (2008) and Beyond the Lights (2014). Today, Bythewood is stepping away from the dramatic and romantic films of yesteryear and making her mark in the genre of action films with the new Netflix movie, The Old Guard.

Based on the comic book by Greg Rucka, The Old Guard stars lead actresses Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Hancock) and KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk, Native Son). Theron plays Andy, an immortal mercenary recruited for a mission to protect the mortal world. Layne plays Nile, a U.S. Marine recruited to join the badass task force. Before her "rebirth" into her new eternal life as a soldier, she learns about life as an Old Guard, what she'll stand to gain and lose as undying warrior and more.

Upon receiving the script, Bythewood was "incredibly excited" and happy to have an opportunity where she could not only take on a different type of cinema but also bring a young Black female hero to life and into the spotlight. "I knew the type of action film I wanted to do, an action drama," she says in an interview with VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle. "And I knew absolutely when I got the opportunity, that I wanted us [Black people] to be in it." And that we are. With actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) taking on a supporting role, Layne holds her own in the action-packed feature film as she tests her body's limits in scene after scene. The rising star would be sure to let you know how physicalities set her and her character apart.

"I mean I love the opportunity to be that physical," she says. "Nile still has so much heart and, being led by Gina, being encouraged to dig deeper into that and to not be afraid of her vulnerability, which was exciting. So I kind of play that, but then still play that physical strength and being a Marine and all of that. So I would say that would actually be the biggest difference between us."

The Prince-Bythewood and Layne sat with Belle to discuss the limitations around the term "Black cinema," being a part of a film that has Black women in front and behind the lens, and what they hope for The Old Guard's impact 20 years from now.

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On how music inspires her screenwriting:

Prince-Bythewood: Music is everything to my process. When I start to write, I create soundtracks for myself too. If it's just songs that either speak to what I'm writing or open me up emotionally to what I'm about to write. I have soundtracks for myself for directing, and then I create soundtracks as I'm editing. It's everything and I love doing songs for score. I love the traditional score, but I also love songs for scores. And those are songs that just help elevate the scene, add a little bit more emotion. It doesn't take over the scene, but it absolutely aides it and songs tell such a story...I love soundtracks, it goes back to Purple Rain. Where you could listen to that soundtrack and then watch the movie again in your head because the songs were that distinct, that's what I love to do with my films.

On the Black women she pulled influence from when preparing for her role:

Layne: Black women who I find to be strong and just maybe haven't seen it represented that way on film. Honestly, just thinking about my mom. Angela Bassett was the biggest example of strength. Who else was I thinking of? Those are like the first students to kind of pop in my head of just like, especially with Angela, the way that she just carries herself. There's such pride and dignity and integrity to her that I just, I mean love. Period. But it was definitely something that, when thinking of Nile, trying to bring some of that in there as well.

On the limiting term "Black cinema" as it relates to Hollywood:

The term "Black cinema" is not a negative to me, nor to us. My issue with it is with Hollywood. In terms of Hollywood using that to describe any film that has a black person in it. So suddenly they feel like, "Oh, we've done our one black film." As opposed to, "We should be in every single genre. Sci-fi, Western, love stories, period pieces." That's who we are, that's the breadth of our humanity, that's what I want to see. I just don't want to limit us, but I revel and celebrate black cinema and black film.

On how they would like The Old Guard to be remembered 20 years from now:

Layne: In 20 years from now, I would hope that it would be, you won't necessarily remember, but as a, I don't know, a piece of getting Hollywood to tell more of these types of stories with women at the lead in front of and behind the camera. I'm hoping that it will be an opportunity that leads to more doors like this being opened. Just showing that we're just as capable and it's just as interesting when we do it.

Prince-Bythewood: And then I'll just add in 20 years, if people are still watching this film that says it all, that this film had longevity, it spoke to them and it was a world and it's characters that they wanted to see again and live with again. And as artists, I think that's a pretty incredible thing.

Interview's music bed provided by Gus.

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Watch: Rodney Jerkins Talks Producing On ‘The High Note’ Soundtrack, Andre Harrell And How His Dad Sparked His Career In ‘Billboard’

When you think of your favorite R&B and pop hits by Brandy, Destiny's Child, Mary J. Blige, and Michael Jackson, you can't help but think about the musical genius behind the tracks: Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins. Since his start in the music industry at the young age of 14 (under the mentorship of legendary musician Teddy Riley and his father Pastor Fredrick Jerkins), the Grammy-winning producer has created songs across countries, genres, and mediums.  To date, Jerkins has contributed to over 115 movie and television series soundtracks with his first credit for Joe's "Don't Wanna Be a Player" (not be confused with Big Pun's hit) on the 1996 Booty Call soundtrack.

His latest accomplishment is serving as the executive music producer for the new video-on-demand film, The High Note, starring actress Tracee Ellis Ross, daughter of the legendary Diana Ross. In the Nisha Ganatra-directed  film, Ross plays Grace Davis, a diva and iconic singer who has to "choose between playing it safe or listening to her heart in a decision that could change her life forever." Weeks prior to The High Note's premiere, Focus Features and Republic Records released "Love Myself," the lead single from the movie's soundtrack, which features Ross singing on her very first musical recording. As the film's executive music producer, Jerkins worked with her on another track, "Stop For A Minute," and helped Ross become comfortable with laying down tracks in a music recording studio, an experience she'd only witnessed second-hand while her mother worked on music.

"When we first started, that was Tracy's first time in the booths," says Jerkins about working with Ross. "That can become somewhat intimidating. I said, 'Tracy just trust me. I've worked with every artist. I've worked with actresses who had to sing before.' I said, 'This is what I do. Just have trust that we'll get through it.' As we started to work, her confidence started to build and she started to understand what it took."

VIBE and Cory Taylor of R&B Spotlight had a chance to sit down with Jerkins to talk about his extensive career, working on the official soundtrack for The High Note, his advice for upcoming producers, and more.

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On when he got the call to be a part of the film's soundtrack:

I was in Florida at home and Mike Knobloch, the head of music at Universal, he called me one day. He was just like, "Man, I got a prize that I think you would be perfect for. Would you mind reading the script?" I said, "Yes, send me the script." And this was crazy. I was actually working with an artist at the time. I have this artist named Jac Ross and I was just listening to Lee Moses because Jack has this super soulful voice. In the script, the first scene had a Lee Moses song. I called Mike before reading the rest of the script. I was like, "Yo, this is mine." I said, "The first song. I just studied Lee Moses two days ago." So the fact that the first song in the scene was a Lee Moses song called "Bad Girl," I was like, this is mine.

On how his Dad sparked his start in the music business:

I got started with Teddy Riley working in Virginia Beach. I was kind of this apprentice down there. I was 14 when I first met Teddy. Every summer I'd go down there and just kind of sit and learn. I would go back home and work on stuff and work on ideas. It wasn't really until I was probably 16 or 17 when I really got my first songs heard by record companies, and people started paying attention saying, "Yo, there's this kid in New Jersey." I think what really sparked that and my father, who was mentoring me at the time, I think I said to him one day, "I got all this good music, but nobody knows who I am, because I'm from South Jersey, Pleasantville." There's no outlet down there. My dad invested money out of his own pocket, and he bought this ad in Billboard.

At first, people thought he was crazy because there were no ads in Billboard. Like if you looked through Billboard, it was just charts. For some reason my dad, he bought this ad and in this ad it said: "Super producer." I was young and wasn't a super-producer yet. He put this ad in and 50% of the people laughing at it were saying, "Yo, this is crazy. This dude is crazy." You had the other 50% of people calling and saying, "Yo, we want to meet."

 

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Dad, Thanks for instilling in me Christ at an early age. It’s because of you I choose to lead my family in that same direction. You’ve given me so many great moments as a child growing up. Believing in me when others didn’t. Pushing me to greatness. Being unconventional with your approach is exactly the way I do things to this day. Demanding respect from my counterparts. Not being taken advantage of, and being prayerful about everything. These are the life lessons and qualities you have given me. By watching you apply all of these things in your life I’ve learned to do the same. I appreciate you and love you dearly! HAPPY FATHERS DAY DAD!

A post shared by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins (@rodneyjerkins) on Jun 21, 2020 at 4:51pm PDT

On his fondest memory of the late Andre Harrell:

He would call me up when I wasn't working with him. I remember when I did "Deja Vu" for Beyonce and Jay-Z. I was in New York City, the song was out, and Andre called and said, "Yo, where you at?" I said, "I'm in this old studio." "I'm coming to see you right now. I'm coming to see you right now." I ain't know what he wanted. He came up to the studio. He was like, "Playboy, playboy. Do you know what you just did? Do you know what you just gave this girl?" And I was like, "Nah," because I'm just keeping it moving.

He's like, "Man, you gave her Michael Jackson, 2005, like you gave her the Michael Jackson 'Don't Stop Til You Get Enough' for a female like this." I was like, "What you mean?" He was like, "The way you put the horns with the live bass and the drums, and still knocking with the 808, people aren't doing that." He was so animated when he spoke to you. He made you believe there's something much greater in yourself. That was my guy, man. He did that constantly with me. He would be like that all the time. I'm talking about even like three months ago, like in February, we had a similar conversation.

Advice to up and coming producers looking to get their foot in the music business:

First, I would say study all the greats that came before you. I'm not talking in the last 10, 20 years. I'm talking about going back, going back to Barry Gordy days, and study them. Study sound. Every sound and every genre possible. Don't be a one-trick pony. Be able to produce any type of genre. I would also say be different. What I mean by that, a lot of technology has allowed it for producers to become easy, but it's also become easy in the same sonic, in the same sound. All the tools are the same. You have everybody using the same tools right now. It all starts to sound the same. I would tell producers to challenge themselves to be different. Be unique, be different.

On his future plans to produce music for films: 

I'm going to continue to do movies. I've made it my thing. I can't say it right now, but it looks like I got another movie coming my way right now. With the same company, by the way. I'm going to continue to do it because I love it. I think it brings out a whole different side of emotion for me. It allows me to create differently. Sometimes we get caught up in what's popping at radio, what's popping streaming...I would love to do more in the TV and film realm because I just think that's the natural progression for me and my career.

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Zendaya And John David Washington Quietly Filmed A Movie In Quarantine

Zendaya and John David Washington shot an entire movie while in quarantine. According to Deadline, Malcolm & Marie was filmed over the course of two weeks at the Caterpillar House, an environmentally friendly estate located in California's Monterey County.

The idea reportedly came about after production on the HBO series got shut down due to the global pandemic. Zendaya reached out to Euphoria creator, Sam Levison, who cranked out the script for Malcolm & Marie within a week. Zendaya, Washington, Sam Levison and his wife and business partner, Queen & Slim producer, Ashley Levison, helped bankroll the film’s pre-production and production costs.

In addition to starring in Malcolm & Marie, Zendaya and Washington executive produced the project, alongside Aaron L. Gilbert, Will Greenfield, and Kid Cudi, the latter of whom also invested money in the film.

Although the film plot remains under wraps, Malcolm & Marie is said to be similar to Netflix’s Marriage Story, about a couple getting a divorce.

To make sure that production followed proper safety guidelines, Ashley Levinson consulted with doctors, lawyers, the Writer’s Guild of America, the Director’s Guild of America, and the Screen Actors Guild. The film's cast and crew stayed at a quarantine location and were shuttled to set every day. The crew was not allowed to be near the actors, and no more than a dozen people from each department were allowed on set at one time.

Malcolm & Marie could change the way movies are shot in post-pandemic Hollywood. Filming reportedly went down between  June 17 and July 2.

The production also took on-set health precautions including wearing masks, twice-daily temperature checks, and physical distancing.

 

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