Few would argue that Wu-Tang Clan's music isn't both classic and iconic, but is it comparable to highbrow fine art? The Staten Island group certainly thinks so.
"We're about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music before," RZA told Forbes about the group's upcoming Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. "We're making a single-sale collector's item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king."
And, what does that mean, exactly? Well, the plan is not to release the album through normal channels, but instead display it as an exhibit at museums, where fans would pay $30 to $50 to listen. But multiple museums won't be able to carry the exhibit at once: There's only going to be one hard copy of the album, and it will be encased in a container handcrafted by British-Moroccan artist Yahya.
Wu-Tang's aim seems twofold: They're looking to create a listening experience that's memorable and isn't replaced by whatever next week's new releases are, and by pressing a single disc only, they hope to undercut the inevitable leaking of today's music.
Is that even possible? In a current climate where music not only trickles online once it's officially released, but often before it's out, can the Wu set up enough security measures to ensure no breaches? They certainly hope so — but, as Tarik "Cilvaringz" Azzougarh, an associate of the group who helped come up with the idea, acknowledges, "One leak of this thing nullifies the entire concept."
It's about more than just avoiding a leak, though. "The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years," RZA said. "And yet it doesn't receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it's been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free."
That won't be the case with this release. Following its museum run, the project will be made available for the right deal — which the crew hopes will be in the millions — to anyone from a wealthy individual to a brand or a record label.
"This particular privatized album, I think — this idea we have — will be something that will go longer than all of us," RZA said.
According to the report, all of Wu's original members, as well as some special guests, will appear on Once Upon a Time in Shoalin. The album is set to have 31 tracks and clock in at longer than two hours, and it comes in addition to, not in lieu of, A Better Tomorrow, which is still due out later this year.