The Wu-Tang clan will be breaking their long drought between albums with the release of A Better Tomorrow this July.
The much-delayed reunion album is set to coincide with the influential rap collective’s 20th Anniversary, but forget that. What you really want to wrap your ears around is the Wu’s other brand new release, titled The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin.
A double-album that features the original Wu-Tang lineup over 31 tracks and 128 minutes, it’s a record that’s been recorded in secret for for nearly two decades. The catch? They’ll only be one copy of the album available “in the millions.”
“We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before,” Wu member Robert ‘RZA’ Diggs tells Forbes.“We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music.”
RZA, along with producer Tarik ‘Cilvaringz’ Azzougarh, say that the highly exclusive release is a modern statement to bring value back to music, re-establishing it with the same highly sought after status as classic art. “We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music.”
“The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years,” RZA explains. “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 be given away for free.”
The Wu-Tang double album also looks like a rare treasure, housed inside a lavishly engraved silver-and-nickel box, the result of three months’ handcrafted toil by British-Moroccan artisan Yahya. “We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king,” says RZA.
Before the inevitable bidding war for the most collectable of music artefacts however, RZA and Cilvaringz say the plan is to allow fans to hear their secret masterpiece first but not through cheap digital means like streaming or downloads. Instead – like art – to tour Once Upon A Time In Shaolin through the world’s museums, galleries, and arts festivals as an exhibit where patrons pay to listen to the album on a pair of headphones.
Of course, all visitors will have to undergo a thorough security check before experiencing the double-album. “One leak of this thing nullifies the entire concept,” adds Cilvaringz.
Only after the ‘tour’ is over will the Wu-Tang Clan put the album up for sale and for an elite price tag that likely only corporations, record labels, or millionaire fans will be able to afford.
As RZA explains to Forbes, the contents of the high-concept project date back to 1997, when Cilvaringz joined the Wu onstage before teaming up with RZA to begin work on recordings that eventually stretched into the late 2000s, without ever seeing the light of day. “It took a long time,” Cilvaringz notes. “After five years, I’m sitting here and I’m like, ‘Am I really going to release this record and see it die after a week?'”
No official release or exhibition dates have been locked in for The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, and even its producer admits “it sounds crazy,” Cilvaringz adding; “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.”
While you’re mulling over the philosophical nature of it all, you can take a listen to ‘Family Reunion’, the first taste of Wu-Tang’s more traditional new release, A Better Tomorrow, below.