Why Wu-Tang Will Release Just One Copy Of Its Secret Album

wu tangYou have to admit, the latest idea from RZA and the Wu Tang Clan is going to start a debate that’s well worth having: should an album of recorded music be prized as a unique work of art in the same way as a painting? From Forbes:

Somewhere on the outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco, inside a vault housed beneath the shadow of the Atlas Mountains, there sits an engraved silver-and-nickel box with the potential to spawn a shift in the way music is consumed and monetized.

The lustrous container was handcrafted over the course of three months by British-Moroccan artist Yahya, whose works have been commissioned by royal families and business leaders around the world. Soon, it will contain a different sort of art piece: the Wu-Tang Clan’s double-album The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, recorded in secret over the past few years.

Like the work of a master Impressionist, it will truly be one-of-a-kind—in lieu of a traditional major label or independent launch, the iconic hip-hop collective will make and sell just one copy of the album. And similar to a Monet or a Degas, the price tag will be a multimillion-dollar figure.

“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 Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, 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.”

Wu-Tang’s aim is to use the album as a springboard for the reconsideration of music as art, hoping the approach will help restore it to a place alongside great visual works–and create a shift in the music business, not to mention earn some cash, in the process. The one-of-a-kind launch will be a separate endeavor from the group’s 20th anniversary album, A Better Tomorrow, which is set for a standard commercial release this summer.

According to RZA and the album’s main producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, a Morocco-based part of Wu-Tang’s extended family, the plan is to first take Once Upon A Time In Shaolin on a “tour” through museums, galleries, festivals and the like. Just like a high-profile exhibit at a major institution, there will be a cost to attend, likely in the $30-$50 range…

[continues at Forbes]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

Latest posts by majestic (see all)

28 Comments on "Why Wu-Tang Will Release Just One Copy Of Its Secret Album"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Mar 31, 2014 at 9:05 pm |

    very slick marketing move Wu
    this marks the official end of the record biz
    and maybe a new way for old music to make a buck
    in spite of the the digital glut of recorded music

  2. ishmael2009 | Mar 31, 2014 at 9:13 pm |

    Music for the 0.0001%

  3. Thurlow Weed | Mar 31, 2014 at 9:22 pm |

    You can monetize a blog with a demo for testing purposes —- no credit card numbers will be hacked, but you can’t make a dime selling one copy of an album. Who thinks Wu Tang is even any good at this point? Right, some people do, but it’s a small number. Have i seriously underestimated the following of this flash in the pan band?

  4. Rhoid Rager | Mar 31, 2014 at 9:38 pm |

    It’s April Fool’s Day in Japan. This is a bit early for the Western hemisphere, isn’t it?

    • Anarchy Pony | Mar 31, 2014 at 10:18 pm |

      So this is just a 4/1 prank? Lame.

      • Echar Lailoken | Mar 31, 2014 at 10:43 pm |

        It could be, but they would have had to planned for it nearly a week back.

        • Number1Framer | Apr 1, 2014 at 1:09 am |

          The real April Fool’s Day joke will begin as soon as ‘leaked bootleg’ 3D printer files of this engraved box show up on bittorrent sites. That would be an impressive level of planning.

  5. Gjallarbru | Mar 31, 2014 at 9:39 pm |

    When lacking any real musical talent, one can always do some marketing – inlcuding the april fool’s crap.

  6. mannyfurious | Mar 31, 2014 at 9:49 pm |

    Wu Tang used to be for the children. Now it’s apparently for the one-percent….

    • OregonIan | Apr 1, 2014 at 1:16 am |

      “Shorty, you don’t even need to go to summer school. Just pick the new Wu Tang double CD and you’ll get all the education you need.”

      • mannyfurious | Apr 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm |

        In all seriousness, though, I can’t count the number of times I heard a lyric in a rap song, didn’t understand it and had to research what in meant. A lot of people think hip hop’s literally a stupid musical form–and it often is, like most music–but I wouldn’t be half as inquisitive as I am if I didn’t spend half of my childhood trying to understand what the fuck GZA and Inspectah Deck were talking about. School certainly wasn’t stimulating my curiosity.

    • …Or maybe it’s a rather calculated attempt to return music and art to the patronage system, where it once flourished and provided the benchmarks for “civilization” and “culture”.

      • Echar Lailoken | Apr 3, 2014 at 6:37 pm |

        This is in reply to your comment to me (which is awaiting moderation). Hip hop/rap, much like heavy metal, is one of those genres that can be very constraining. I can do without the lyrics.

        With that said, thankfully the corporations are no longer needed. Perhaps this is a calculated attempt, but my instinct tells me it’s a grab for C.R.E.A.M. I tend to be cynical though.

        • In truth, I can do without lyrics, instruments, or any human-generated noise period. Unless we’re talking pre-Baroque period, the human voice has never been better utilized than perhaps in the Latin missal. I do have a soft spot for the Kecak, tho.

          And while corporations may be “no longer needed”, the reality of that statement successfully feeds no one, literally or metaphorically.

          Your comment made me think back to the Russell Brand interview a few months ago that had the interwebz interwebbing like crazy. Specifically, when he was poor, no one gave a damn what he thought. Now that he’s rich, people dismiss his opinion as out of touch.

          Shit, maybe it is a cash grab. But then, are you not familiar with the world of fine art and “high culture”??? This might as well be Duchamp’s Fountain or anything “street art” related. I guess it depends how much one chooses to regard the post-modern ontology of it all…

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 3, 2014 at 9:35 pm |

            I don’t pay attention to high art, or whatever people want to call it. I think people who spend millions on a painting ( or work of art) because it has some assholes name on it are themselves assholes. Yet, you likely figured this out a long time ago, I am not university trained.

            I beg to differ about your comment about the need for corporations. Artists can promote themselves differently, as well as do the music they want to. There’s so much access to art now that it’s bound to influence new art and artforms. Once again, I am just a poor avid fan.

            I agree about some choral compositions, chants (Kecak), etc. Take for example Allegri – Miserere mei, Deus.


            To be honest, rapping is commonly displeasing to my ear. It commonly distracts me from feeling, and forces me to analize the meaning. I prefer abstract.

          • University training aside, I required nothing to appreciate two aphorisms relating to music and sound…

            One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.

            The other one I will substitute with this:

            When I hear the word culture I reach for my wallet!

            The existence of a “new”, marginal-at-best musical middle-class thanks to ever-emerging god of technological progress is no substitute for the “real thing”. Once humans made music for the glory of Dyēus and sounds had no borders. I would trade every moment of “progress” post 14th century to the present for even the most fleeting of hints of such an existence. Fortunately, I have always had the first world privilege of a library card and imagination.

            I mean sure, I ❤ the interwebz too, but I now firmly doubt the EROEI on both a hyper-local and global level.

          • Echar Lailoken | Apr 3, 2014 at 10:53 pm |

            I was once moved to tears while watching Isis open for A perfect Circle in Minneapolis MInnesota, USA. It surprised me because I don’t typically cry, and never before because of music.

            It was this song


            I think with the proper talent, intention, and love… All works of art can be magickal. They were that good.

          • It is as you say.

            That which is eternal need only eyes to glimpse or ears to hear or other various senses to sensate.

            My perception of the elephant from whence I stand can perhaps be summed up to say that “all is one”. Thus my preference for the statement “no one is free until we are all free.”

            While I respect your perspective, it’s like World War I out here in the trenches. The talent/hard work/luck/etc. of a small minority is no rationale for the exploitation of the majority.

            At the end of the day tho, fuck art. I was starving long before I was an “artist”.

  7. Echar Lailoken | Mar 31, 2014 at 10:13 pm |

    I scoff at the bringing the art posturing. They saw the power of exclusives when Jay Z attempted to tell everyone how epic he is. Now Wu wants in on more C.R.E.A.M.

    How tawdry, but not a surprise. Hip Hop lost it’s soul long ago.

    I’d like to see RZA expand his music ever further than movie scores. Perhaps something post rock, ambient, etc. No rapping please.

  8. Jonas Planck | Mar 31, 2014 at 10:14 pm |

    Art should be shared, but the buiildup makes it better. Nothing enhances the reveal quite like anticipation. That being said, this particular trick is blunted double-edged sword. When it leaks, if it’s a masterpiece of sino-urban hip-hop and kung fu mysticism, people will say they were being asses for “trying to hide it,” but if it sucks, people will just nod and say, oh, I get it now. A win-win!

  9. jasonpaulhayes | Apr 1, 2014 at 7:32 pm |

    Hit them shits with a spiked bat!

Comments are closed.