Over the past several years, the Wu-Tang Clan has been secretly recording a double album. Soon, the 31 songs will be put onto disc and then enclosed in an engraved silver-and-nickel box handcrafted by a British-Moroccan artist whose works sit in the homes of royal families and global business leaders. The box containing The Wu - Once Upon a Time in Shaolin will go on tour, hitting museums, art galleries, music festivals, and more; anyone who wants to hear it will need to pay as much as $50, go through intense security to ensure no recording devices are brought in, and listen to the 128-minute album on venue-provided headphones. After the tour, the album will be sold—just the one copy—for a price "in the millions," Forbes reports. Why? It's Wu-Tang's attempt to remind the world that music is art. "Contemporary art is worth millions by virtue of its exclusivity," reads a statement on the album's website. "This album is a piece of contemporary art."
"The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years," says Robert "RZA" Diggs. "And yet [it] doesn’t receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it’s been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free." The album's main producer, Tarik "Cilvaringz" Azzougarh, concurs: "After five years [working on the album], I’m sitting here and I’m like, 'Am I really going to release this record and see it die after a week?'" Hence the plan, inspired in part by interesting music moves like Samsung giving Jay Z's last album to customers. The buyer could hoard the album or perhaps release it for free (as Forbes puts it, such a move would "democratiz[e] a cultural artifact"), or maybe a major record label will buy the album and release it traditionally. But if you can't afford it, never fear: Wu-Tang is also releasing a traditional album, A Better Tomorrow, this summer.