It’s a story unrivaled across the music community: famed and legendary hip-hop band Wu-Tang Clan made waves throughout their fan base and across the modern music landscape when they announced that they were producing only a single copy of their album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin and selling it to one and only one listener for an undisclosed price. The album is still on the run, having yielded plenty of buzz and lots of response, but not a winning bid. If you don’t have millions of dollars to spend, but you’re still dying to hear a little bit of the group’s newest masterpiece, look no further. A 51-second snippet of the grand album was debuted in a Forbes article this week.
Album producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh calls the much-talked-about decision to only release one copy of the album “a genuine concept with a genuine core and a genuine goal.” Read: it wasn’t just a publicity stunt for the band. Coming from a collective of rappers whose original words surpassed that of Shakespeare’s at equivalent points in their careers, the band wanted to take its newest work of art back in time, hearkening back to an era where art, music and literature were valued as priceless commodities. It’s a novel concept in the age of digital downloads and Spotify accounts, but Cilvaringz maintains that the idea deserves a degree of respect.
“Look at Beethoven, Bach, Mozart. You hold them in the same high esteem as a Rembrandt and van Gogh. These people, you don’t really differentiate between them, you just say they’re great masters of the arts of that time. But today [musicians] don’t value their own work, they don’t value themselves first, and of course the market doesn’t value their work,” Cilvaringz says.
According to Cilvaringz, selling the album hasn’t been the easiest feat. Along with the expected (likely bogus) emails of numerous fans claiming they have millions of dollars to spend on Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, it’s become a question of finding an auction house or a broker that’s willing to sell such an unprecedented concept. Cilvaringz has admitted that the band and its producers have been in talks with galleries about a possible “touring” of the album, where fans could pay a much smaller amount (think $30-$50) to sit in a room and listen to the album in full, with headphones on. It’s a brand new line of thought for a musical project, meaning the internationally successful rappers are in somewhat uncharted territory.
But all of that is just the update to the story surrounding the music. Fans curious to know what all the buzz is about might be interested in the snippet of the project, spanning almost a minute and available for listening below. The song starts at :37. Stay tuned for updates to the saga, and eventual news of a buyer for the multimillion-dollar masterpiece in the future.