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.
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?