When the Wu-Tang Clan announced they would manufacture, and auction off, just one copy of a long-in-the-works secret album, the news was met with obvious intrigue.
Who would shell out the money for the rarity -- and how much would a given collector be willing to spend?
"Offers came in at $2 million, somebody offered $5 million yesterday," Wu-Tang’s de facto leader RZA told Billboard on Wednesday. “I've been getting a lot of emails: some from people I know, some from people I don't know, and they're also emailing other members of my organization.”
"So far, $5 million is the biggest number. I don't know how to measure it, but it gives us an idea that what we're doing is being understood by some,” RZA continued. “And there are some good peers of mine also, who are very high-ranking in the film business and the music business, sending me a lot of good will. It's been real positive."
Last month RZA broke the news to Forbes that he, along with Wu-Tang producer Tarik "Cilvaringz" Azzougarh, had spent the last six years recording a secret album called “The Wu -- Once Upon a Time in Shaolin...”.
The double album, which features the group's original members, shouldn’t be confused with their long-gestating 20th anniversary release (that album, “A Better Tomorrow,” is set for June).
RZA’s vision for “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is to create a true, one-of-a-kind music experience.
Instead of rolling the album out via a record label and endless promotion, RZA is treating the 31-track album like a fine painting or sculpture. The album is housed inside an engraved silver-and-nickle box crafted by British-Moroccan artist Yahya. Just like a Monet or a Picasso, the plan is to display the album at museums and galleries, and take the album on a “tour.”
According to Forbes, tickets for the exhibit would be sold (in the $30 to $50 range) and visitors would go through heavy security and listen to the 128-minute album on headphones provided by the venue.
RZA’s goal behind the unique approach in releasing “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is to spark a debate about how music is appreciated in the era of mass production and market saturation.
“By adopting a 400-year-old Renaissance-style approach to music, offering it as a commissioned commodity and allowing it to take a similar trajectory from creation to exhibition to sale, as any other contemporary art piece, we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music,” Cilvaringz and RZA wrote in a manifesto on the project’s website.
“We hope to steer those debates toward more radical solutions and provoke questions about the value and perception of music as a work of art in today’s world.”
“Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” also features appearances by Bonnie Jo Mason, Redman, FC Barcelona soccer players and “a unique tapestry of guest performers.”
The website for the album has yet to announce any exhibition dates.
“While we fully embrace the advancements in music technology, we feel it has contributed to the devaluation of music as an art form,” the statement continued. “By taking this step, we hope to re-enforce the weight that music once carried alongside a painting or a sculpture.”
A few weeks ago Wu-Tang issued the lead single from “A Better Tomorrow,” but the single -- a gritty '90s throwback production with a bouncy hook -- was just as notable for the absence of Raekwon, who continues to be MIA from the project. RZA said the album is still on track for a June release.
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