With streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music changing the way listeners consume music, the art of creating an album has been lost. Nowadays, rap artists create long projects with extremely short tracks to dupe the algorithms.
Ever since the shift to streaming, artists and institutions alike have been concerned about the way streaming has skewed and distorted album sales. However, there are still artists who make physical projects and make a lot of money from limited editions. Furthermore, vinyl sales are on the rise.
However, some albums made are so pricey that it is impossible to purchase them, and those who own them can charge exorbitant prices for their sale. This is most common on the vinyl market, but there are also CDs that can go for well over $100 and some even over $500.
Music can gain value over time. Collectors respect the classics, and prices reflect what specific projects mean to the culture. Albums can become extremely expensive, especially when there is a limited amount of copies—the rarer, the pricier.
In 2014, Nipsey Hussle showed how to make big money from CDs by providing the ultimate incentive. The chance to attend an exclusive listening party at which he would be present. The one-disc album entitled Mailbox Money was priced at $1,000. YG an artist associated with Hussle, also tried a similar approach by pricing his Red Friday mixtape at $100 each with the incentive of a meet and greet in Oakland.
Before Kanye West was cancelled, he was selling autographed vinyl copies of The College Dropout and 808s & Heartbreak for $600 each. However, the majority of hip-hop projects have at least 50 copies made. But the rarer, the cheaper, and there is a rap album that was released to the world on its own. There is only one copy in existence.
In 2007, all living members of the Wu-Tang Clan reunited to record an album which they worked on for six years. The project, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, was pressed onto a single disc, put in an ornate Oriental-inspired ornamented box, and immediately stored in a vault at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech. It was then auctioned for $2,000,000 to Martin Shkreli.
However, in 2021, Shkreli was arrested on charges of fraud and had his assets seized, including the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin CD. The album was then put up for sale again but priced at $4million. It was eventually sold to the NFT company PleasrDAO. It was restricted from being directly sold to the public, and despite efforts and pleas from the public, nobody except the occasional elite has heard it. It is officially The most expensive rap album ever made.
You can hear RZA speaking about the project below.