Taking the concept of limited edition to the next level, Wu Tang is releasing one single copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. In a movement to keep ahead of the curve in music trends, and the mission to re-assign value to music as a high art-form, such as the likes of Mozart (when music wasn’t recordable and thus, unholdable), this single-copy endeavor will be touring the world’s museums, events and festivals, where paying participants only will have a chance to relish in each of the 31 never-heard-before tracks, for the 128-minute duration of the album. Security will be strict, ensuring that there be no leaks of recording devices, lest any smuggling ninja be ready to take on the Shaolin. Attendants will listen by event-provided headphones only, assigning exclusivity and secrecy to those willing to pay for this hush-hush take on the concert ticket that is predicted to go for $30-50 a pop.
The disk won’t be just any other disk either, making this music visually museum-worthy as well, as it will tour the world while encased in a silver and nickel box crafted by British-Moroccan artist Yahya, whose work has been commissioned by big shots about the globe. Thereby redefining the term “jewel case” — if not also possibly redefining the way we perceive, and consume, music. At the end of its tour the gem will be auctioned, possibly costing in the big-time millions. It kind of makes you wonder if hip hop can truly hold the Holy Grail.
The music claims to be that of the O.G. Wu Style and features appearances by Bonnie Jo Mason, Redman, FC Barcelona soccer players and a slew of guest performers, with the production itself being six years in the making. So the implication is that it will certainly be worth a listen — if you’ve got the wrist stamp to do it.
If you’re not ready to listen publicly on the down low and prefer to continue ripping music along with computer viruses (or whatever less decorative accessories it comes with) from other less esteemed sources, there will be the additional regular release to the masses. The group’s 20th anniversary album, A Better Tomorrow, is still set to be released some time this summer… although rumors are rampant that Wu is nowhere close to finishing that one.
In the end, what will Once Upon a Time in Shaolin really mean for the music industry? Will it drastically alter the opinions, perceptions and methods of how we appreciate and consume music? Or is it just one last gasp from the Wu to seem relevant? We shall soon see. But perhaps we shall also soon see if the age-old Wu-ism still rings true: “Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.”