Elder statesmen of hip-hop Wu-Tang Clan recently released a new album, Once Upon a Time In Shaolin. The 31-track LP took the group over nine years to record. You probably haven’t heard anything off the album, and you very well may never. The rap super group decided, in a move that speaks more to their desire to desperately stay in the headlines than a desire to make music, to only release one copy of the album.
Yea. RZA, GZA, and the rest of the rogues gallery of rappers you didn’t know were still rapping have just sold the one copy of Shaolin after months of legal back and forth. A private American collector reportedly paid “millions” for this embodiment of artificial scarcity and, as per the terms of the sale, he or she won’t be allowed to release the tunes to the public for another 88 years. At that point, we’ll all be listening to whatever fresh new sounds are coming from the Mars colonies and boom bap rap might be a little passé.
A Kickstarter group made a valiant attempt to shore up enough funds to purchase the album and make it available through public domain. Their stated goal was to prevent “some billionaire's kid spending his dad's money to collect a trophy and then he'll keep the album to himself and fans the world over will suffer.” Funny how things worked out.
This coming hot on the trail of news about Adele breaking the single-week US album sales record, set over 15 years ago by *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached, should show that just because you made the most doesn’t mean you’ve “won.”
The sale of Shaolin sets a new record for the most expensive single album, a title previously held by an acetate recording of Elvis’ first song, bought by Jack White.
“The Wu-Tang Clan have always been driven by innovation, and this marks another moment in musical history,” cofounder RZA said in a press release about the album. What sort of moment this will be remains to be seen.