Forbes Editor Zack O'Malley Greenburg Details Breaking "The Wu - Once Upon A Time In Shaolin" Album Story
Exclusive: "At first I really didn't believe it," O'Malley says. "I spent the next few months kind of checking it out and talking with Cilvaringz."
After breaking news about Wu-Tang Clan’s plans to release a single-copy of its The Wu - Once Upon A Time In Shaolin album, Forbes Editor Zack O’Malley Greenburg, author of a book about Jay Z titled Empire State Of Mind, unveiled a short snippet of the project via Forbes earlier this week. Coupled with a mini-documentary chronicling his trip to Marrakesh to interview the album’s producer, Cilvaringz, Greenburg offered fans a new glimpse at the album’s lavish packaging.
Speaking exclusively with HipHopDX, Greenburg explained how he initiated his first piece after receiving a hard-to-believe forwarded e-mail from Cilvaringz.
“I got an e-mail forwarded to me from a colleague from this guy claiming to be part of the Wu-Tang family with this crazy album that he had made out in Marrakesh," Greenburg says. "At first I really didn’t believe it. This was in December, I spent the next few months kind of checking it out and talking with Cilvaringz and verifying that it was in fact him, talking to RZA on the phone and verifying that he was involved and the rest of the Clan. [I talked with] couple other of the members, pretty much doing the due diligence to make sure this really outlandish thing was for real. Once I established that, I sort of dove in and started really reporting out that first story because I really wanted to make it pop when I broke the news. Cilvaringz and RZA, in particular, were very generous with their time and gave me a lot of good insight to the process and how everything kind of came about. I went from there.”
Detailing the snippet that Cilvaringz premiered via Forbes, Greenburg says that he was able to hear other parts of the album, too.
“That was the once that he offered up for Forbes," Greenburg says. "I was able to hear a few other parts of the album just for background, as well.”
In the Forbes snippet, a short clip which appears to be the voice of singer Cher can be heard. Yesterday (May 7), Rolling Stone confirmed Cher’s collaboration via a representative for the singer though details on the appearance are sparse. In the clip, Cher is heard singing, "Wu-Tang, baby. They rock the world."
Addressing the reaction of many Wu-Tang Clan fans to the concept release, Greenburg described his own interest in the debate that the release has sparked.
“I think the hardcore Wu-Tang fans, a lot of them, are kind of annoyed that they’re not going to probably get to hear this unless it does indeed go on tour in a city near them,” he says. “I think that’s definitely—it’s tough. Some of the other Wu-Tang fans will understand that Wu-Tang has put out a lot of music over the last 20 years. This is sort of bigger than Wu-Tang in a way. It’s sparking debate on the way that we look at and value music and I think some of the fans appreciate that and some don’t. I think more broadly, people who aren’t Wu-Tang Clan fans obviously aren’t as bitter that they don’t get to hear it. They’re just interested in debating is this a good idea or not and what does this say about the future of music.
"I think that debate was something that people are interested in in different walks of life," he continues. "I think that’s where the broader audience and the business community came in. Right now the idea that it’s pretty likely to be sold through an auction house, it puts it up there with all kinds of things like paintings and sculptures and dinosaur bones and other things that get sold in such a manner. I think it takes the album beyond just kind of being looked at as a piece of music, but something broader and larger. That’s not to say that another album couldn’t be looked at that way. I think the cool thing about the whole process is that it’s kind of spurring this debate about how should we look at music of all kinds.”