LOS ANGELES — Wu-Tang Clan’s unorthodox album release strategy of only selling one copy of its secretly recorded album just got even more unconventional.
After the 31-song double album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is auctioned off, the owner won’t be able to legally share it with anyone for 88 years because of a binding copyright.
Producer Cilvaringz explained the copyright on the project’s new website:
We initially wanted the buyer to do whatever they wanted with it. But when we realized how much commercial interest there was, we began to understand that allowing it to play out in that way would undermine its trajectory as an artwork, even if no amount of replication could touch the original. We felt that retail commercialization and mass replication would dilute the status of the album as a one-off work of art and compromise the integrity of our statement. … We thought long and hard about whether to defy art world conventions and transfer all rights to public release to the buyer. But we genuinely felt that a swift public release after such a radical concept would neutralize the statement we are making. So we decided that the right to release the album would be transferred only after 88 years have passed.
Group member RZA also detailed the significance of 88 years:
Anyone who knows the Wu-Tang Clan knows we often apply numerology, mathematics and symbolism to the things we do. There were 8 original members of the Clan when we made Protect Ya Neck and M.E.T.H.O.D Man. The individual numbers of this year also add up to the number 8. The broker of this work carries the number 8 in its name. The number 8 on its side is a symbol of infinity, as it was used on our album Wu-Tang Forever. You can call it mathematical coincidence, but it’s always had great symbolic significance for us. For us it also addresses the issue of music’s longevity in a time of mass production and short attention spans. Nothing about this record revolves around short-term gains, but rather around the legacy of the music and the statement we’re making.
RZA is “almost certain” Once Upon a Time in Shaolin will be the hip hop group’s final album, though he admitted “destiny bends” — so who knows what’s to come.
The album, which may reportedly fetch millions of dollars, will come in a hand-carved, nickel silver box with a leather-encased, 174-page manuscript containing lyrics, credits and production notes. The price of the album is available upon request on the website; Mashable has requested the price and will update this post accordingly.
The album took six years to make and will feature the lineup of RZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, GZA, Masta Killa, U-God and Inspectah Deck.
Although the audio is being kept quiet lyrics from the album did appear throughout the website. Here’s a roundup:
“Game of thrones, blood, get your name known, the ruthless ones, kill and display your bones, high on my horse, my swords seen many wars, fought off demons, dragons and minotaurs.” —Inspectah Deck
“Best of the league, we’ve been doing since ‘93, big sword raps, cutting through thick beats.” —Raekwon
“Halloween came, I had the chance to choose other joints, the Iron Man suit was live, the mask was on point. In sixth grade I was deep with science, mixing certain elements with water trying to make iron.” —Ghostface Killah
“Our folks, don’t understand what we’re doing, I’m saying peace to the God, let your knowledge be born.” —Method Man
“Elevate myself to a higher point of energy my supreme talent is to restore balance.” —Masta Killa
“Witty Unpredictable Terminating Assassins, Neverending Gore, torture from the blasting.” —GZA
“Hood down, Timberland shoe strings Doc, getting bombed like the Husseins.” —Redman
“This work isn’t just a treatment of music, but a capture of time — a capture of the energy of some of the best MCs doing what they do,” RZA wrote. “From one city to another city, one country to another country. All that energy encapsulated in these two discs, and put into this one box. That’s art.”