In their latest artistic endeavour legendary hip-hop crew, Wu-Tang Clan took inspiration from the renown works of Renaissance artists, crafting a one-of-a-kind piece of work with the aim to force a shift in the way music is conceived, consumed and valued. The group’s new LP The Wu-Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, will only be available in a single limited edition. And it will probably cost millions.
“We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before,” says Robert RZA Diggs, the first Wu-Tang member to speak on record about the concept, in an exclusive interview with Forbes. “We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music. We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”
According to the Forbes report, the group have been recording the album’s 31 tracks in secret throughout the last six years and the result is currently locked away in a custom-made nickel-and-silver box, somewhere on the outskirts of Marrakech in a Moroccan vault. RZA put the album together with the Morocco-based producer Cilvaringz.
“The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years,” says RZA. “And yet its 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.”
The concept is to take the songs from the single edition on tour, through museums and festivals, charging patrons somewhere between $30 to $50 just to hear the album on headphones provided by the venue. “One leak of this thing nullifies the entire concept,” says Cilvaringz.
The music will then be sold off to the highest bidder, who might include record labels and corporations or private citizens. What happens to the music from then is up to its new owner. “By adopting a 400 year old Renaissance-style approach to music, offering it as a commissioned commodity and allowing it to take a similar trajectory from creation to exhibition to sale, as any other contemporary art piece, we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music,” explains the website.
The album itself is said to include special guest appearances by Bonnie Jo Mason, Redman, FC Barcelona soccer players and a “unique tapestry” of other guest performers. “I know it sounds crazy,” says Cilvaringz. “It might totally flop, and we might be completely ridiculed. But the essence and core of our ideas is to inspire creation and originality and debate, and save the music album from dying.”