Cher has contributed vocals to two songs on Wu-Tang Clan's upcoming "secret album" The Wu - Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
A representative for Cher declined to make the singer available for comment, but confirmed the collaboration to Rolling Stone. "She recorded her parts separately, so I don't believe there was direct interaction," said the rep.
In a video posted by Forbes on Tuesday, writer Zack O'Malley Greenberg traveled to Marrakesh, Morocco to "become the first civilian" to hear the album, of which the group is only pressing one copy and selling to the highest bidder. Tarik "Cilvaringz" Azzougarh, the album's producer, played one song on-camera featuring Ghostface Killah rhyming over pounding drums, dusty organ and a repeated female wail. At the end of the track, Cher improbably sings, "Wu-Tang, baby. They rock the world."
Cher's appearance had been hiding in plain sight since at least March, when the album's website noted that it "includes special guest appearances by Bonnie Jo Mason." In 1964, Cher released "Ringo, I Love You," her first solo single without Sonny Bono and a tribute to Ringo Starr, under the pseudonym of the same name.
In the video, Azzougarh says production of the album, which was six years in the making, was done in Marrakesh "in a very unconventional way." After Azzougarh produced the tracks and sent them to RZA for review, the pair came up with song titles before it was decided which rappers would appear on which tracks. When it was time for each Wu member to record his part, the rappers rhymed over similar-sounding beats, but not the original, to avoid any leaks. According to Azzougarh, no one in the group, including RZA, was given final copies of the album.
The video also shows the album's container, which was handcrafted over three months by 10 artists led by British-Moroccan artist Yahya. Yahya shows off the case, an ornate container carved in nickel silver with the Wu-Tang W logo embossed in the middle of the case. "We treat it as an art piece, which it is," says Yahya. The album has allegedly been moved to a different secret location since the video was shot.
"We're about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before," RZA told Forbes in March. "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."
Before the album is sold to one wealthy fan — RZA claims he's been offered $5 million for the 31-track record — it will be toured across the world's museums, galleries and festivals, using headphones to protect the songs from piracy.
The release of the secret album has been overshadowed of late by group infighting over Wu's other upcoming album A Better Tomorrow. Last month, Raekwon told Rolling Stone that he was "on strike" from the group, accusing RZA of "mediocre shit" when it came to new music and alleging that contracts still needed to be negotiated for him to appear. After saying that Wu-Tang Clan "needs him" on the next album, RZA gave the rapper a 30-day ultimatum to agree to terms. While it's unclear if Raekwon will appear on A Better Tomorrow, the rapper told Rolling Stone the odds were two out of 10.