By March 1994, Wu-Tang Clan member U-God’s life underwent the kind of rapid changes that transformed him forever.
After he was convicted of criminal possession of a controlled substance in April 1992, U-God, real name Lamont Jody Hawkins, was locked up for the majority of the recording sessions that would result in the group’s seminal 1993 debut, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” limiting his contributions to a few famous verses that were recorded after he was released the following year.
Still, due to the popularity of the group’s debut single, “Protect Ya Neck,” which was released ahead of the album, life outside the pen was already looking a lot different than when he was locked up.
“I came in out of the f--kin’ can! So I’m trying to adjust to all of [this],” U-God says in the second episode of Showtime’s new docu-series, “Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men.”
But another major life event would take place the following year on March 13, 1994, when U-God’s 2-year-old son, Dontae Hawkins, was shot.
According to U-God’s memoir, “Raw: My Journey Into the Wu-Tang,” he was on tour in San Francisco at the time of the incident. His son’s mother, Tanya, who was still in Staten Island, New York, had given Dontae to a friend named CeCe for the day.
“It just so happened that one day CeCe was in Stapleton (a housing project in Staten Island), and some dudes started shooting, as they do in the hood,” U-God wrote. “During the shootout, [the target of the shooting] picked my son up and used him as a f--king human shield. Dontae got shot in the hand and the kidney.”
Police arrested four people after the shooting, and they were all charged with attempted murder, according to a report by The Associated Press at the time. However, only one man, Guy Williams, eventually saw any prison time, Staten Island Live reports.
The incident mentally scarred U-God in a serious way.
“When I first saw Dontae in that ER, they had my baby boy cut wide open, operating on him. I was just f--ked up mentally,” he wrote in his memoir, adding that he self-medicated with drugs and alcohol to help cope with the trauma.
Additionally, the incident strained his relationships with some of his fellow Clan members, who, in his telling, barely offered any kind moral support in the aftermath of such a horrific and taxing moment in his life.
“They rubbed their fame and their wealth in my face even more,” he wrote in his book. “They made my life even f---in’ rougher, much worse mentally.”
However, as he has maintained since music played role in helping him heal in place of therapy and professional care. As a March 2018 article in the New Yorker pointed out, U-God mentioned his son’s shooting in the Wu-Tang track “A Better Tomorrow,” one of the group’s most poignant and reflective cuts off “Wu-Tang Forever,” the group’s 1997 double album: “The strong must feed, someone die, someone bleed/One flew astray, and it caught my little seed.”
“Music to me is a reflection of what you go through. We’re in the hood — we don’t go to therapy!” he says in the docu-series. “We just take it for what it was. If somebody get their head blown off in front of us, or we duck shots, and we f--k around and get into scuffs and fight, and get cut or get shot or grazed — we just wipe it off and keep going.”
Shortly after the shooting, in June 1994, Dontae Hawkins was presented with the “Littlest Hero” award in Staten Island, according to the docu-series.
Hawkins was interviewed in 2011 about the incident. Although he said that he doesn’t think about the fact that he was shot very often, he figures his life was spared for a reason.
“I could have been angry, and hold a grudge, and try to want to get revenge and all that, but I figured God saved me, so I should take this second chance and use it for something positive,” he told SI Live at the time.
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