RZA, a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, kicked off Hulu’s virtual NewFronts presentation Monday with a stark call to action for an audience mostly comprised of digital ad buyers, brand executives and talent.
Wearing sunglasses and standing behind a DJ mixing board, RZA (whose given name is Robert Fitzgerald Gibbs) delivered a short set that segued from David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” to Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s “The Message.” He then picked up the microphone. “I’m calling on you to take action,” he said to the camera. “Help us fight against this systemic racism. It’s in our country and around the world. You have a platform. Use it. Use that sh*t! Use that sh*t to make a change.”
RZA, who reprised his role as DJ from last year’s NewFront, which was held at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden, is co-creator of the Hulu original series Wu-Tang: An American Saga. The scripted account of the Staten Island rap collective has just been renewed for a second season by the Disney-owned streaming service.
Dozens of NewFronts pitches this week, following the TV upfronts, have gone virtual due to COVID-19. In place of a live event, brands have produced marketing pitches made available to buyers at an appointed time. Last week, the Interactive Advertising Bureau said 8,500 people had registered for the week’s series of some 30 NewFronts sessions. It wasn’t possible to get an immediate gauge of how many people viewed the presentation as soon as it went live at noon PT, or who specifically was tuned in to the password-protected video.
While some previous NewFronts and upfronts have nodded to COVID-19 and the nationwide protests that have followed the May 25 death of George Floyd, Hulu took a far more direct approach at the outset. Aside from RZA, notes of inclusiveness and specific Black programming initiatives were sprinkled throughout the 49-minute presentation.
“This world is going through a lot,” RZA said before turning more contemplative. “What is the duty of a civilized person? … Teaching civilization to others through knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Realizing and respecting that we all share the basic freedoms. That we should uphold justice, equality, provide food, clothing and shelter, and always promote peace and happiness. … That’s the duty of a civilized nation.”
After calling on those with power to fight against racism, RZA said, “Let’s continue to project positivity, and it starts with yourself. After that, with your family and your community, your country and, eventually, the whole world.”
The RZA opening was followed by short passages featuring Hulu and Disney executives as well as talent such as Nicole Kidman, Kate MacKinnon, Amy Schumer, Steve Martin and Martin Short.
Capping off the video, RZA reappeared and cued up a song that has never left heavy rotation but has gotten a lot of play in recent weeks: “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye.
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