15 Sep Wu-Tang Saga (2010) Film Review
I have nothing against Cappadonna. I respect his skills as an emcee and consider him a real part of the Wu-Tang Clan. Even though Wikipedia calls him a quasi-member. Even though he was in prison when they signed. Even though he doesn’t really contribute anything unique to the crew. He’s a good guy and I wish him well. His lines on Cuban Linx I and II are hot; I would miss them if they were cut. Cappadonna can rap, and he should rap, and he should be a part of Wu-Tang. All this is clear to me.
But seriously, packaging a Cappadonna documentary as the Wu-Tang Saga and saying it stars all the main members of the clan is downright dishonest. This 2010 documentary by Jeremy Mack touts itself as the “real story” behind the most infamous group of MC’s in hip-hop history, but ends up being 131 minutes of Cappa telling us how things really are. And that means we get to look through Cappa’s old photo books (“Here’s me and Slick Rick. Here’s me and GZA smokin’ weed. Here’s me in France.” Etc.), see him host rap battles, see him tour on his own, see him molest groupies, get his picture taken, and so on and so on. Coming out of watching this documentary, I now know more than I ever wanted to know about the Staten Island emcee.
What I don’t know after watching this documentary is anything about RZA or GZA or ODB or Masta Killa or even say U-God. None of them talk to the camera in this film. Except for Raekwon for like 3 minutes. I think he asked “What’s this camera for” or something. But no one says anything important about the clan, RZA’s five year plan, how they were inspired by kung-fu pulp lore, how infighting almost tore them apart, or any of the stuff that real Wu-Tang fans would want to hear. Instead we get to hear about how Islam is really important to Cappadonna. Great.
I was really excited about half an hour in when True Master started to talk. I really like the work he’s done for the various solo projects of the clan, particularly his work on GZA’s Pro Tools. Of course, he talked mostly about Cappadonna’s The Pillage. But at least it wasn’t Cappadonna talking about the album. Anything but that. Of course, he eventually goes away and then it’s back to 24/7 Cappadonna. Getting his picture taken. Being on stage with the rest of the Clan. Going overboard on a couple of verses. Busting out a very capable freestyle. Talking about how freestyle is different from rapping, because “you don’t got time to think.” And so on.
Again, all respect to Cappa, but is he anyone’s favorite member? Isn’t that like picking Marlon Jackson from the Jackson Five (or even worse, Randy Jackson)? Or saying that the Neutrinos were your favorite Ninja Turtle? Even Papa Wu thinks he’s the black sheep of the crew. That’s a quote of his, straight from the footage. If the film itself thinks that the main star of the film is the Black Sheep of Wu-Tang, then the film probably isn’t about the Wu-Tang Clan. A film about the Wu-Tang clan needs to be about RZA, GZA, ODB, Ghostface, Method, Raekwon, U-God, etc. None of them are featured, nothing is said about their lives, and even the live footage shorts them on appearances. Every shot is cut and framed so that Cappa is the center of attention. The songs are cut so that Cappa has verses or participates in the call and response. It’s the ultimate bait-and-switch.
But I think the worst thing about this documentary is that it really has no path, no narrative. Nor does it attempt to have one. I would’ve been simply irritated had the film been a feature length documentary about Cappadonna’s struggle. I mean, he purportedly gave away his possessions and roamed the streets before writing an album! Why doesn’t that get any sort of focus? But rather than attempt to be a substantial document on an accomplished and perfectly able MC with ties to the greatest hip-hop group still around, the film is simply a oddball collection of Cappa’s personal video diaries interspersed with words from the man himself which grow increasingly banal as the documentary trudges on. “Rappin’… is like… yappin. Heh.” Really? Thanks Cappa.
Anyways, if you want to watch Cappa get high and talk about stuff you can watch this movie. If you wanted anything, ANYTHING. else, well, better luck next time.