After a saga worthy of its own film, Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time In Shaolin may finally be made available for public consumption.
The album, the iconic hip-hop group’s seventh, was a one-off physical release, packaged in a silver box and sold at auction to an anonymous buyer in 2015 for the record-breaking price of $2.7 million (US$2 million).
As it turned out, that anonymous buyer was a rather questionable fellow by the name of Martin Shkreli — the “Pharma bro” who is currently serving a seven-year sentence for securities fraud. Shkreli was never a worthy owner of the sacred record, especially given the fact that he publicly boasted he had never even listened to it and threatened to destroy it in order to prevent anyone from ever hearing its refrains.
If you’re thinking “what a colossal douche” this guy is, you are 100% correct and not alone in your assessment.
Once Shkreli was arrested, however, many of his assets were seized by the feds, including Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
In July 2021, it was revealed in a press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York that the mysterious album has been sold, once more, to an undisclosed buyer for an undisclosed price. The sale’s contract reportedly “contains a confidentiality provision that protects information relating to the buyer and price.”
The sale was part of an auction of the former possessions of Shkreli that are being used to settle his $10 million debt with the US government. According to the document, the sale of the album fulfils the money owed.
And now, we finally know the identity of who has simultaneously rescued the hallowed album from the depths of a government vault and, unfortunately, enabled Shkreli to make restitution.
As it turns out, 74 people are behind the sale and they go by the collective name of PleasrDAO. Essentially, they are a group of crypto enthusiasts who have something of a reputation for acquiring digital art.
Speaking on behalf of the group to Rolling Stone, Jamis Johnson (who carries the title of “Chief Pleasing Officer”) said “This beautiful piece of art, this ultimate protest against middlemen and rent-seekers of musicians and artists, went south by going into the hands of Martin Shkreli, the ultimate internet villain.
“We want this to be us bringing this back to the people. We want fans to participate in this album at some level.”
It’s literally music to our ears.
However, you shouldn’t start planning your listening party just yet, as the terms of purchasing Once Upon a Time in Shaolin are fairly strict. In fact, one of the stipulations of the sale was that it can’t be released to the public until 2103.
There is some hope, however, in the fact that an NFT of the record has been made as part of the ownership deed for the physical album (according to one of the lawyers involved in the transaction) which could mean that PleasrDAO could expand ownership of the album to fans, pending approval from Wu-Tang member RZA and producer Cilvaringz.
“We believe that we can do something with this piece… to enable it to be shared and ideally owned in part by fans and anyone in the world,” Johnson said.
We’re still waiting to hear what RZA has to say about the whole thing but Cilvaringz (real name Tarik Azzougarh) has given us reason to feel optimistic by revealing in a statement that the NFT idea has his support.
Meanwhile, Johnson assures us that his priority is making sure that Once Upon a Time In Shaolin finally gets the audience it deserves.
“Our direction right now,” said Johnson, “is to get this open to the whole world.”