Wu-Tang Clan have revealed the existence of a secret new album, only one copy of which will ever be produced. Recorded with producer Tarik ‘Cilvaringz’ Azzougarh, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will reportedly be toured in museums, galleries and music festivals before it is sold to a single, wealthy fan.
“We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music,” RZA told Forbes in a new interview. “We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”
Unlike the Wu-Tang Clan’s A Better Tomorrow album, which is due for wide release later this year, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is already finished.
The 128-minute, 31-song double-album is apparently sitting in a Moroccan vault, enclosed in a hand-carved nickel-silver box. It “encapsulates the Clan’s legendary dark funk and avant garde sound and is produced in the original Wu Tang style of the 90s,” they wrote on a new website. But the songs will never be sold on iTunes and even the most ardent fans may never have a chance to hear it.
“I know it sounds crazy,” Cilvaringz told Forbes. It’s certainly unconventional. Before selling the album for a price “in the millions”, they hope to tour the one-of-a-kind object, in its Yahya-designed box, to venues like the Tate Modern. Visitors will pay for admission and then be permitted to listen to Wu-Tang’s new songs on closely monitored headphones. “One leak of this thing nullifies the entire concept,” Cilvaringz said.
Though Cilvaringz first met RZA in 1997, jumping on stage during an Amsterdam Wu-Tang gig, this project began about five years ago. The entire Clan appears on the record, plus Redman, “FC Barcelona soccer players” and a singer called Bonnie Jo Mason - thought to be an alias for Cher. “It took a long time,” Cilvaringz admitted; when he was finally finished, he couldn’t abide the thought of releasing it and “see[ing] it die after a week”.
Instead, inspired by the success of Nipsey Hussle’s $100 mixtape, Cilvaringz and RZA landed on the idea of treating Once Upon A Time In Shaolin as a priceless art object. “The music industry is in crisis,” they explain on their website. “The intrinsic value of music has been reduced to zero. Contemporary art is worth millions by virtue of its exclusivity … 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 … we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music.”
They also hope to make a fortune. Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is presented as the first dispatch in a series of “private music” releases “for those able to commission musicians to create songs or albums for private collections”. None of the other participating artists have been revealed.