The Wu-Tang Clan was instrumental in the evolution of hip-hop music as we know it today. 25 years after their fantastic debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the clan gets together for a 4-part documentary explaining how it all went down.
Of Mics and Men follows the group from the very beginning up to where they are now. The nine living members of the clan narrate the series, each providing their own take at what has happened. Wu-Tang’s music touched millions of people worldwide, but the doc keeps it focused on the Clan’s perspective. It’s about looking at the audience from the stage, never the other way around. Ex-producers, family members and managers also briefly appear, sharing their points of view. Despite the multiple main players, RZA is the one moving the story. After all, he’s the one who came up with it.
Usually, documentaries about musicians try to cater to the largest possible audience, which means going only surface-level deep. Newcomers to the subject are intrigued while fans just get a recap of what they already know. Of Mics and Men thankfully avoids this. It provides enough information that even some of the most hardcore Wu-Tang fans will find themselves surprised.
The first episode covers the childhood of each member in detail. Narration from the actual people helps greatly with the believability of these (sometimes hard to believe) stories. Furthermore, it’s also easier for the audience to emotionally connect to their story. As the Clan starts gaining traction with their first single, Protect Ya Neck, the episode ends. They talk about their first jobs and provide reasons as to why they needed to make it out. It is an honest, introspective look into living legends of hip-hop.
The making of 36 Chambers is the main focus of the second episode. It shows that the album was made without a lot of money nor a proper studio to record in. All of it had a very DIY approach. They had to use what they had, which wasn’t much. Near the end, the show introduces a polarising, but nonetheless an important figure in the Clan’s history. RZA’s brother and the CEO of Wu-Tang, Mitchell “Divine” Diggs.
In his first ever interview on camera, Divine provides surprising information about the Clan and what lead to their eventual fallout. Due to his attitude and different approach, he’s the exciting stand-out of the show.
Third episode is the emotional centre of this series. It covers a lot of events that happened when Wu-Tang was at the height of their fame. The individual members went solo after the Clan’s debut. Therefore, we witness the history behind Liquid Swords, Ironman and Return to the 36 Chambers. The focus of this episode, and what makes it emotional, is Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The show introduces him in the first episode, but it’s obvious why ODB deserves his own. Through old interviews and testimonies of the remaining members, the doc shows his life. All the trials and tribulations he had to go through, while others were at the top. Episode ends on a somber note, which may tear up some of the fans.
The final hour of Of Mics and Men follows their life in the new millennium. Finale focuses mainly on the notorious album Once Upon A Time in Shaolin. If the name doesn’t ring any bells, you may remember the controversy surrounding its buyer, Martin Shkreli. It brings everything together and ties all the loose ends, making for a coherent and satisfying ending. Only if the finale could offer an emotional high similar to the one before.
Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men is an absorbing documentary for the newcomers and fans alike. Sacha Jenkins adds a beautiful visual layer to the story, making it that much more interesting watching it. It’s a joy seeing Wu-Tang talk about their music that influenced so many people in the past 25 years. Of Mics and Men is everything a documentary about an influential group like this should be and way more. It pulls everything off in a cool, relatable way, fitting for the one & only Wu-Tang Clan.
R.I.P. to Ol’ Dirty Bastard.