NEW YORK CITY — It's gonna take a ton of dolla, dolla bills, y'all.
Two Wu-Tang Clan fans are trying to raise $5 million to buy the only existing copy of the hip-hop collective’s secret album so they can share its 31 songs online for free.
Russell Meyer, 29, a California native who lives in Astoria, and Calvin Okoth-Obbo, 26, who was raised in Uganda and lives in Park Slope, are soliciting funds on Kickstarter in hopes of placing the highest winning bid for Wu Tang's single copy of "Once Upon A Time In Shaolin," an album that’s been in the works for six years.
Last month, rapper Robert "RZA" Diggs announced the group will only make only one copy of the album, which it plans to sell to the highest bidder — after going on a world tour to museums where people will be able to pay $30 to $50 to sit and listen to the entire 128-minute album using headphones.
“We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before,” RZA said in an interview with Forbes. “We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music. We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”
Meyer and Okoth-Obbo, who had raised $51.50 from four supporters as of Wednesday evening, said they don’t have a problem with Wu-Tang getting paid for their hard work and insist they are not trying to undermine the Staten Island hip-hop group. They just want to be able to listen to the album without having to do it in one sitting at a museum.
“I can’t imagine RZA being upset if enough Wu-Tang fans get together and raise enough money to purchase [the album],” Meyer said.
“We don’t want some guy in Dubai who literally has money to burn to buy it as a collector item that only six people will get to listen to,” he added.
The pair, whose love of hip-hop and the Wu-Tang Clan made them close friends, admit that raising the $5 million is an “uphill battle” but believe the campaign will send a strong message to the music industry.
Artists have come up with new distribution methods — like Samsung paying Jay-Z to leak his own album — because they are frustrated with current sales tactics, Okoth-Obbo said.
“We're all for changing times,” Meyer said. “But when you make the content exclusive and only able to be accessed by a select few, the fans suffer and it's an elitist stance that doesn't really jive with hip-hop culture.”
On the off chance they end up buying the album, they plan to release digital copies of the music for free online and figure out who gets to keep the single album later.
“We could rock-paper-scissors to see who gets to hold it,” Okoth-Obbo said.
“Or we could do a vote or raffle of all backers to see who keeps it. It’s not about ownership, it’s about getting it out there. We’d rather just get the musical content and be able to share that with the people who want to be able to appreciate it.”