Never one to do things the easy way, the Wu-Tang Clan is reportedly preparing to follow the July release of A Better Tomorrow—an album that will mark the 20th anniversary of the group, as well as the fourth or fifth anniversary of members of that group being pissed at RZA —with another, double album, titled Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. However, the latter will see an appropriately bizarre release, one befitting a collective with a history of complex mythology and making things difficult for themselves: Only one copy will ever be pressed, and next to no one will be able to hear it.
In a release strategy that makes Beck’s recent distribution of sheet music look like a personalized mix-tape, the sole copy of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will be encased inside an engraved silver-and-nickel box designed by British-Moroccan artist Yahya, then taken on a tour through museums, art galleries, and festivals. There—and only there—visitors will be able to listen to all 128 minutes of its 31 songs on headphones, and only after enduring a rigorous security check to eliminate the risk of any recording devices. Once the album has completed that tour, it will then be sold to a single buyer for a price estimated to be “in the millions.” Because Wu-Tang is for the children—the children on museum field trips, and the children of very rich people.
“We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before,” RZA tells Forbes (where he presumably stopped off to discuss diversifying bonds). “This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.” Still, both RZA and the project’s co-mastermind, producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, recognize maybe not everyone wants to own an Egyptian scepter, but would rather just, you know, be able to listen to the music. “It might totally flop, and we might be completely ridiculed,” Cilvaringz says. “But the essence and core of our ideas is to inspire creation and originality and debate, and save the music album from dying.” One way to save it is to stick it inside an insanely expensive sarcophagus, apparently, where its legend can outlive its mortal songs. Judging by the tepid reaction to new Wu material—even from other members of the group—that may not be such a crazy strategy.