You'll Never Believe Where Wu-Tang's Secret Album Resides Today

You definitely have a better chance of hearing it than ever before
You'll Never Believe Where Wu-Tang's Secret Album Resides Today

There are few artists who we as the public would indulge in the six-year secret recording of an album to be pressed as a single copy that legally cannot be commercially exhibited for nearly a century. 

In fact, we’re having a hard time thinking of anyone who wouldn’t be immediately dismissed as pretentious douchebags except the Wu-Tang Clan, who began recording Once Upon a Time in Shaolin as a statement against the depreciating power of streaming and an experiment in “a 400-year-old Renaissance-style approach to music, offering it as a commissioned commodity.”

Again, anyone but RZA saying those words would get roasted alive.

The media sensation surrounding Once Upon a Time in Shaolin peaked in 2015, when it was sold for $2 million to Martin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical executive who soon became known for shamelessly hiking up drug prices and having the world’s most punchable face. Wu-Tang insisted they didn’t know what Shkreli’s deal was when they inked the sale, and they donated the profits from it after they found out. Ghostface Killah came right out and called him a “shithead,” which Shkreli only confirmed after bragging to the media that he’d only bought the album to flaunt his wealth, although to be fair, that’s perfectly in the spirit of the “Renaissance-style approach” the Clan was going for.

Here’s the funny part, though: After Shkreli was obviously convicted of securities fraud two years later, the feds seized much of his assets to pay restitution. That included his copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. For an all-too-brief moment, the owner of one of the most coveted artifacts of hip-hop history was the U.S. Department of Justice. Get ready to lean into another sharp turn, because they then sold the album to PleasrDAO, a collective of “crypto fans” who buy NFTs “honoring ‘anti-establishment rebels.’” 

It’s simply the album’s fate to pass through hand after hand of fat-cat tech bros.

But at least they’re doing something with it. As part of a mission to bring the album “back to the people,” the group has begun lending it to museums for public exhibition, starting with… Tasmania. For 10 days in June 2024, the Museum of Old and New Art scheduled an exhibit for hosting small groups of visitors to hear “a curated, 30-minute sample of the album” for the first time in public. 

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if it sucked?


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