No stranger to long delays between albums, Wu-Tang Clan is set to release Once Upon A Time In Shaolin to the public in just 88 years—a wait that is, this time, not how long it will take Raekwon to agree to come into the studio. Instead it’s just the latest conceptual wrinkle to the otherwise flat prospect of a latter-day Wu-Tang album, which the group previously announced as an extremely limited-edition, single-copy album, housed in a specially crafted jewel box, and auctioned off to the highest bidder. As Forbes reports, 88 years is when the copyright finally transfers to the album’s eventual owner, allowing them to decide whether to release it commercially, or remain a long-dead bag of bones on a desiccated planet, their vulture-picked phalanges still wrapped around it.
That actually represents a reversal of policy from the group, which previously suggested that it would first tour the album in museums, then allow its buyer to do whatever they wanted with it—including copying and selling it themselves. “When you buy a painting or a sculpture, you’re buying that piece rather than the right to replicate it,” RZA now says, comparing the album—which features Wu-Tang alongside guest vocalists like Game Of Thrones’ Carise van Houten and Cher (“She took Dirty’s place,” RZA says)—to a “Picasso,” both in that it’s a “unique original,” and that some people will find it a confusing mess.
But unless Shaolin’s owner decides to put it out for free—something RZA thinks is unlikely, given that he still expects to get $5 million or more when it’s auctioned off through Paddle8—those people will now have to wait 88 years to judge for themselves. As RZA explains, the number 8 is significant to Wu-Tang Clan in many ways: It’s the original number of members in the group, the sum of the digits in 2015, and it looks like the infinity symbol when laid on its side. And of course, on a standard keyboard, the number 8 is also the * sign, which represents the asshole who paid $5 million for a new Wu-Tang album.
While most of us will be long gone by the time Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is available commercially, it’s hoped that our planet’s extraterrestrial colonists will enjoy it, as they are likely to be the only ones who might be into a Wu-Tang duet with Cher.