That Extremely Rare Wu-Tang Album Is Now in the Hands of an NFT Group


When you buy something secondhand, you can’t control who owned it first. Hopefully, whatever they’re passing down to you was treated delicately and with care. In the case of the Wu-Tang Clan’s coveted, only-one-copy-exists Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the original owner was loathed pharma-creep Martin Shkreli, who first paid $2 million for the album in 2015, then threatened to destroy it in a quest to “be the world’s heel.”

When Shkreli was convicted in 2017 of fraud, he was also ordered to forfeit more than $7 million worth of assets, including Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The album was then sold by the United States government this July, but with the buyer and terms kept private. Now Once Upon a Time in Shaolin has been purchased by PleasrDAO, a group of NFT investors who Rolling Stone said has “a passion for buying digital collectibles honoring ‘anti-establishment rebels.’” PleasrDAO sees the unique nature of Shaolin –it’s a physical album encased in an elegant silver box–as conceptually similar to the ethos of NFTs and wanted to find ways to bring it into that universe.

“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,” PleasrDAO higher-up Jamis Johnson told Rolling Stone.

Members of PleasrDAO include NFT artists like pplpleasr, music producer RAC, and a litany of investors. They released a video on October 20 commemorating the purchase of the record, giving us an up-close glimpse of the physical product.

Originally finished back in 2014, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was meant to make fans reconsider the way art feels increasingly disposable in the digital age. Wu-Tang member RZA told Forbes that they planned to take the album to museums and festivals, charging for attendance in small groups and ensuring that those who heard it did not bring any covert recording equipment.

The project was the brainchild of RZA and Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, a Wu-Tang obsessive-turned-affiliate who had been working on the idea back in the 2000s. Since its release, Wu-Tang has dropped one album, 2017’s the Saga Continues.

In the Rolling Stone piece, Johnson says that he hopes to get the album played in exhibition spaces in a way that honors the original intentions of Wu-Tang when they made the record. “We see ourselves as the Willy Wonka factory of NFTs,” he said. “We want to do crazy shit, and we want to have a really strong charitable component.”

Hopefully, PleasrDAO find a way to share Once Upon a Time in Shaolin that respects the restrictions of the Wu-Tang Clan. And if not, well we’ll have another chance to hear the album…in 80 or so years.





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