On a recent trip to Las Vegas, RZA met up with fellow Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon to discuss–among other things–the group’s upcoming album, A Better Tomorrow. There was one problem, though: neither artist had the audio files handy.
Fortunately for both, RZA happened to have a mysterious black-and-yellow contraption the size of a tape measure on hand. He pushed a button on the top of the device, and suddenly a burst of sound filled the room. It was one of the tracks from A Better Tomorrow; a handful of others from the album followed. Raekwon was impressed. ”That thing cranks hard!”
The tiny machine is the brainchild of Wu-Tang and a company called Boombotix. Dubbed the Boombot Rex 20th Anniversary Wu-Tang Edition, it contains eight tracks–the bulk of which will appear on the group’s new album–and is being sold in physical stores exclusively by Zumiez for $79.99. The full album is scheduled for launch on December 2nd.
“When I came across Boombotix, I was impressed by the sound of it, by the look of it,” said RZA in a recent telephone conversation. “And I saw chance to bring tangibility back to the music. … We put our peanut butter and jelly together and made a great sandwich.”
So far, consumers seem to be eating it up. When Boombotix made 1,000 units available for presale, the company sold out in a couple of days. Zumiez listed 100 of its 2,000 unit run online and sold them within a few hours.
Stamped with Wu-Tang’s iconic logo, the contraption comes with a full range stereo, bass woofer, built-in speakerphone and rechargeable battery; its Bluetooth capacity allows users to wirelessly play other digital files as well.
But the slice of A Better Tomorrow on the device is hard-wired and can’t be exported digitally–a anti-piracy move by Wu-Tang that isn’t quite foolproof.
“If someone went through the process of putting it through another microphone and recording that way and sending it out, more power to them,” said RZA. “It’ll be what it’ll be. But I like the idea that it stays in the box.”
RZA and Wu-Tang have been putting forth disruptive ideas for quite some time, but they seem to have stepped it up to a new level of late. Earlier this year, FORBES broke the story that the group was planning to release a new album–and to sell only one copy.
A separate work from A Better Tomorrow, the double-album was titled Once Upon A Time In Shaolin and recorded in secret over the past six years; it currently resides in a majestic silver box in Morocco. A few months ago, RZA claimed the group had received a $5 million dollar offer for the LP; a buyer has yet to be announced.
For now, the group seems focused on A Better Tomorrow and its unusual delivery method–which isn’t quite as outrageous as that of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, but revolutionary in its own way.
“RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan are always trying to push boundaries,” says Mustafa Shaikh, VP of marketing at Boombotix. “Together we pioneered a new way of releasing music.”