Sometimes you have to err on the side of caution. I say this because despite the announcement of a “secret” Wu-Tang double album being unveiled via Forbes today, the details of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin are very vague. What we do know from the article is there will only be one copy and there’s a plan to tour it as a museum exhibit of sorts. Some of have called this a brilliant move in the vein of Jay-Z’s “new rules” created with his Samsung deal. Others say it’s ridiculous and a real “fuck you” to diehard Wu-Tang fans.
Let me be upfront. I’m Wu-Tang Clan stan. I can rattle off random affiliates’ names and will probably argue till the day I die that GZA is the greatest emcee of all-time. Hell, I own all of U-God’s albums. When I saw this headline about a secret Wu-Tang album, I was legitimately excited. As I started reading, it was nice to see the Wu doing something new and innovative.
But my excitement came to a crashing halt when I read, “the album’s main producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh.” For those who don’t, Cilvaringz is a Wu-affiliate who was signed by RZA back in 1999.
Cilvaringz has always been a polarizing figure for Wu-Tang Clan fans since he is a fan himself who joined the family, so to speak. His biography [read] describes the ridiculous, borderline stalking nature of how he became a Wu-affiliate. And his status as a member of the family has been contentious. He’s beefed with Inspectah Deck and longtime affiliate Killah Priest (Priest spoke to HipHopGame about it last year).
As you sift through the Forbes article, you see this is really a RZA-endorsed album put together by Cilvaringz. It’s a long rumored pet project he’s been working on for years. As Cilvaringz says in the article:
“It took a long time,” says Cilvaringz. “After five years, I’m sitting here and I’m like, ‘Am I really going to release this record and see it die after a week?’
Despite his best intentions, this album is going to have the stigma of not truly being created by the Wu-Tang Clan. As someone joked on Twitter:
Cilvaringz is Wu-Tang fan-fiction.
— DiscoVietnam (@DiscoVietnam) March 26, 2014
It’s sort of true. Cilvaringz is not a bad producer, but he essentially tries (with varying degrees of success) to recreate the RZA formula. And that’s not what this album should be. That’s not to say Once Upon A Time In Shaolin can’t and won’t be good. But it’s not the project that should be delivered in such an elaborate manner. When you’re throwing around ideas of touring museums and charging people $30-50 just to listen to it, the product should be unadulterated Wu-Tang Clan.
As far as fans are concerned, A Better Tomorrow is the next Wu-Tang Clan album. And minus Raekwon’s lack of involvement up to this point, it apparently has been recorded in earnest. So for Hip Hop fans dying for new Wu-Tang material, you’re better off resting your hopes on that one. This secret album makes for a great headline, but it’s nothing tangible and doesn’t seem like it will be for a long time.