The Wu-Tang Clan recently revealed their plan to make and sell only one copy of their new album, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. Similar to many other forms of fine art, the album will be one-of-one. It’s truly an unprecedented move in hip hop. Robert “RZA” Diggs hopes the collector’s item will restore music to a level of reverence reserved for visual art, and “re-enforce the weight that music once carried alongside a painting or a sculpture.” Masterminded by RZA and Wu-Tang extended family member Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, offers for the album have already hit $5 million.
In a recent piece by Robert Barry for The Quietus, Barry discusses how this move by the Wu will hopefully lead to a more “progressive future for music,” which would see “the album going public, borrowing from the art world not the privatised world of speculative collectors and commercial galleries, but the public sphere of funded institutions.” The 31-track album tackles the debate over proper compensation for creators head-on in the wake of the digital revolution, and the manifesto on the project’s website laments how “the intrinsic value of music has been reduced to zero…[and] contemporary art is worth millions by virtue of its exclusivity.”