Despite hip-hop's focus on big money, the music itself has always been affordable for us common folk; hell, in the post-Napster world, it's practically free. Recently, though, we've seen a couple prominent acts take a page from the fine art world and slap astronomical price tags on their albums, planning to sell a single copy to one immensely wealthy buyer. After watching the Wu-Tang Clan auction off "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin" for five million (five f*cking million!) dollars, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony decided to get in on the action with a musical objet d'art of their own. For a mere $1,000,000, you can be the sole owner of the Ohio quintet's 10th studio album.
Now, would I pay a million bucks for a Bone Thugs album? Not in a million years—even if I had the cash. But that got me thinking: is any album worth that much? After due consideration, the answer is both yes and no. No, there isn't any existing album I'd put up that kind of cash for, but I can dream up a few scenarios in which I (as a hypothetical rich guy) might be tempted to part with a cool million...
Thug Life – "Thug Life (Volume 1) [Alternate Universe Edition]"
Despite repping warring coasts, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were close friends during the early '90s, and collaborated in the studio a number of times. According to scattered (and poorly sourced) references online, Pac had even hoped to include B.I.G in Thug Life, the crew he formed with Big Syke, Macadoshis, Mopreme and The Rated R. It was allegedly interference by label execs that kept it from happening.
I'm not a physicist, but if the Multiverse theory is true, there's at least one universe out there where he did end up in the group. In the unlikely event a dimensional wormhole opened up and dumped a Biggie-assisted version of their first and only album, "Thug Life (Volume 1)", into our world, I would gladly part with a million dollars to own the product of such a titanic collaboration.
Prince – A Boxed Set of Everything in His Vault
For those who haven't followed the Purple One's career in recent decades, Prince has gone a little bit crazy, and not in the cool, “Let's go crazy, let's go nuts.” type of way. Just, odd crazy. Besides the whole Jehovah's Witness thing, there's the fact that he spends a good portion of his time holed up in Paisley Park (his $10 million studio complex in the Minneapolis suburbs), churning out songs, albums and music videos that he has no intention of releasing—ever.
A Wikipedia page titled “Unreleased Prince Projects” lists almost 40 musical ventures that fell by the wayside... and that's just the sh*t we know about! If his unreleased works were ever collected into a monstrously huge, one-of-a-kind boxed set, I could see myself paying $1 million to get a raw and unfiltered window into Prince's eccentric genius.
[Editor's Note from Nathan: Kevin Smith has a fantastic story about the documentary he made for Prince that's currently sitting in the vault.]
Dr. Dre – "Detox"
“But Richard, 'Detox' is a real album!” Yeah, you keep on thinking that. (Wait'll your parents tell you about Santa Claus!) Nearly a decade and a half in the making, the West Coast legend's junior solo set is less an album than a cloud of rumors with a paltry handful of songs at its center. Remember “Kush” and “I Need a Doctor”? Yeah, me neither.
The good thing about the album being a complete question mark, though, is that it gives me license to project any fantasy I want onto my imaginary, million-dollar version of the LP. Is it better than "The Chronic" and "2001" combined? Fuck yeah! Does it come with my very own holographic 2pac? Absolutely! Does Eazy-E rise from the dead, quash his beef with Dre and perform as part of a fully-reunited N.W.A. on the closing track? Why the hell not?! And it goes without saying that the set will feature five or six of Kendrick Lamar's greatest verses of all time.
The only question that remains is whether I'm gonna keep all that dopeness to myself, or share it with the world—for a nominal fee, of course. I'm thinking $100 per listen. Hey, I've gotta make that million back somehow.
[Richard Spadine is a staff writer for DJBooth who lives in Brooklyn and goes by @rspadine when using ye olde Twitter.]