Wu-Tang’s RZA talks physical, emotional and spiritual evolution


(CNN)On screen and off, the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA is opening up about how his career has unfolded and how he’s evolved as a man.

Quick recap of how the Wu-Tang Clan came to be: The group, which hails from Staten Island, includes original members RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa. Rza (Robert Diggs) founded the group in the early ’90s after deciding he wanted a life in music and not on the streets.

Their 1993 debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” is often listed as one of the top hip-hop albums of all time. RZA went on to expand his resume, becoming an actor, filmmaker and producer. Quentin Tarantino selected him to score “Kill Bill: Volume 1” and “Kill Bill: Volume 2.” He also helped produce both Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and West and Jay-Z’s “Watch the Throne.”

    His story is chronicled in “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” which just released Season 2 on Hulu. (The first season tracks RZA as he gathered the Wu-Tang members. The second season follows the making of “36 Chambers.”)

      RZA spoke with CNN about what it was like to produce the show, alongside Brian Grazer, and work with the writers on recreating his life for television.

        “Season two will cover the ’36 Chambers’ album and recording of it, which I’m so excited for the audience to see,” RZA said, “I mean, this is a dramatization of what happened. We have a great writers, right. As you make a TV show, you get a great writers we tell our history to and they make sense of it and make visual sense of it. But his is all rooted in a true story.”

        He said as the season unfolds, viewers will get to glimpse events that happened that were never before revealed to the public.

          “You may have gotten it from the music if you was really listening,” he said, “There’s one great moment. I never forget being that kid where I didn’t have the electricity to power my studio, because actually I didn’t pay the bill and it was tough, but we had to make this song. And so we had to plug up to somebody else in that building. [On the show] we plugged up into the spotlight, which was actually given a nod back to hip hop itself starting from a DJ laying out the equipment, plugging out to the streetlight and powering in the block parties. So I took what happened in my life and took a dose of what happened to hip hop. And so instead of plugging into the neighbor, we plugged into the streetlights, but that happened. And in doing that, if I wouldn’t have plugged into somebody else, I never would’ve made the song ‘Method Man.’

          RZA said he grew emotional after seeing a commercial for the show and realizing how far he’d come.

          “It’s a surreal thing that happens, right? Watching it, there’s a traumatizing thing. That’s fear. Every emotion is going to happen as I’m watching this and as I’m creating this, but there’s a beauty. And the biggest beauty is that I could look at that and see that I’ve evolved. During those days, I was aggressive. I was willing to, you know, do things that were not as helpful for society because I was not enlightened. To see that these guys figure out their problem to figure out a better direction.”

          RZA also credits his evolution with helping him get “healthy and happy” and changing his diet. He’s gone from eating goat curry back in the day to becoming fully vegan. Now he’s trying to help his community get healthier too. In partnership with Violife, he’s launched a program called Plant Grants, which helps Black-owned restaurants incorporate plant-based recipes into their menus. Five restaurants across the US were chosen to receive $20,000 each to rebuild with a healthier menu following shut downs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

          “We provided help to Black-owned restaurants who were really devastated by Covid and hanging on by a thread,” he said. “My evolution to veganism started first by letting go of that curry. And then I moved further and let go of the poultry. The final thing to go was the fish. Some people don’t think it’s possible. I say that even if you could just do it one day a week. It’s being more conscious about diet.”

          He adds that educating his community about diet will help everyone feel better, and also help the planet.

            “I feel super better. I mean, I feel great. I’m happy and healthy. My children are the same thing,” he said. “[That’s] the physical aspect of it. But then for the global aspect, we are actually causing more destruction of our planet, of our atmosphere, of all of our environment, because of our meat-based diet.”

            “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming now on Hulu.