With 2012’s martial arts actioner The Man With the Iron Fists, 2017’s hip-hop drama Love Beats Rhymes and this week’s heist thriller Cut Throat City, RZA is quickly establishing himself as one of the more versatile filmmaking forces in Hollywood.
But for the pioneering Wu-Tang Clan co-founder, rapper and producer, there’s something especially personal about his latest movie offering, which follows four financially struggling young men (Shameik Moore, Demetrius Shipp Jr., Denzel Whitaker and Keean Johnson) who go on a crime spree in post-Katrina New Orleans.
“It resonated with me because of the stories of these four young men with all these aspirations, and then they turn to desperations,” RZA tells Yahoo Entertainment in a recent video chat (watch above). “I felt like I lived that story.”
Born Robert Diggs in Brownsville, Brooklyn and raised between New York, North Carolina and Ohio, the future music star found himself on the other side of the law often as a teen. “Going through it myself, I grew up in the 80s when crack dealing and weed selling was the criminal activity,” he says. “I make a joke out of this: If you look at in one capacity, I was an early guy in the pharmaceutical business. But it’s not legal, so therefore becomes criminal.”
One of the central themes in Cut Throat City is how economic desperation leads to crime, particularly in low-income Black neighborhoods — a symptom of the disparities that result from longstanding systemic oppression in America.
“Everything is about option,” RZA says. “And I think the options for these young men was limited. I think in the Black community — or any poverty community, right, because poverty becomes the main factor of desperation. Even the stray dog, yo, is quicker to bite somebody, based on the desperation that it’s going through. So I think the desperation of our characters, and in most cases my community, the only option becomes a criminal act.
“These guys, in this story for me, these are not gangsters. One guy goes to Tulane… One is a musician, he thought he was gonna be the next Miles Davis. Maybe not. Because, opportunity.”
Or lack thereof.
Cut Throat City opens in select theaters Friday, Aug.
Watch our full chat with RZA here:
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak
Read more on Yahoo Entertainment: