THE WORLD now seems to be on the path to “wokeness” – or at least awareness – of the unequal treatment of black people, ignited by unfortunate events across the Atlantic. Major corporate establishments have backtracked on certain policy stances (Starbucks, we see you), plus TV and streaming services are dedicating specific playlists to Black programmes.
One of these is the fascinating docuseries Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men available to watch now on Sky Documentary. It is a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the group’s debut multi-platinum album Enter the 36 Chambers – decades before streaming helped boost sales. Older, wiser and more together as a group, it gives a first-hand account of their very humble beginnings to meteoric rise and subsequent dip at the height of their fame.
Robert Diggs, aka Rza and leader of the group, takes us through the journey of the vision he had to form the group and the plans he had for each individual member to succeed.
It was this concept that I wanted to focus on in regards to the desire to support, promote and maintain black owned businesses. A lot can be learned from the Rza’s approach but also the numerous mistakes made at a key point of the group’s fame.
Having an idea or dream is great but the first lesson take from the Rza is to surround yourself with people who can help make that dream a reality. The rest of the members heard his vision and were on board to help themselves by helping him. He once asked his friends and future members to devote themselves to him for one year and if it didn’t work, they could go their separate ways.
That leads to the next point, which is to take risks and don’t be afraid of failure. The key point was the devotion they put into trying to make their dream venture work. There is always only so much you can do, but you should find comfort looking back and knowing you did all you could within your control.
Rza had a plan and his strength was his focus to execute that plan to tiniest of details. One example of this was insisting each member had their own individual record deal in addition to the overall group deal. This ground-breaking decision gave them more freedom as individuals and it interestingly forced the major labels who would usually compete to instead work together. He changed the game.
Therein lies another lesson: stick to your plan! In other words, don’t sell yourself short or sell yourself out. Stick to your principles and always remember why you wanted to start your venture in the first place.
What went wrong?
Rza was a good leader but not a great leader, according to his fellow friend and group member Corey Woods aka Raekwon.
The Wu-Tang didn’t seem prepared for the amount of success they achieved. They had number one albums across the globe and launched numerous ventures including a very lucrative clothing line named Wu-Wear. Yet, the group was guilty of not taking care of one of most important aspects of business, which is the admin or paperwork.
The contracts signed when the group started and had next to nothing didn’t apply to the same members who were in their own right Gold and Platinum selling artists. As a result, resentment, jealousy, ego, and discord set in amongst the brotherhood.
A lesson to learn from this mistake is to not ignore your admin. Documents and contracts are not designed to cause division or lack of trust, they are there to protect all parties and keep you on the right side of the law. It doesn’t matter if you run your venture from your kitchen at home or in a shop, in the words of Wu-Tang, you need to “protect ya neck”.
This series is both inspiring and heart-breaking. As you navigate the four episodes you realise that much like a marathon, you can start well but we must also finish well.
The Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men docuseries is available to stream and download on Sky Documentaries.