Why the Government Is After a Unique Wu-Tang Clan Album (And How It Can Be Yours)

The short history of the Wu-Tang Clan’s 2014 album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin has been weird and fraught. Now it’s getting even weirder.

Only one copy of the double album exists, which was sold at auction in 2015 for $2 million to one Martin Shkreli.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Shkreli has been in the news in recent months and is currently in jail awaiting sentencing after being convicted of securities fraud (it turns out he’s doing quite well there). Shkreli is also known as America’s most hated CEO or the “pharma bro” who jacked up the price of a drug used to treat malaria, cancer and AIDS by over 5,000 percent.

Yea, this is the same guy you’ve heard about.

Now the latest is that a federal judge has ordered that Shkreli forfeit over $7 million worth of his possessions as part of his sentence, including the world’s only copy of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.”

The appeals process may prevent the actual transfer of the album to the feds for awhile, but if the current rulings against Shkreli are affirmed, he’ll have to hand it over and one federal judge will be able to throw some of the most sought after listening parties ever.

Just kidding, no ethical judge would ever do such a thing. 

What’s actually most likely to happen is that the album will instead spend a period of time in a vault somewhere until it can again be auctioned off in what will certainly be one of the hippest government auctions ever. Because, you know, cash rules everything around us; dollar dollar bills, y’all.

But until that fateful day when a different rich person bids a crazy amount of money to possess the secrets of Shaolin, it will briefly be the property of the people.

Not that we can expect to demand access to the one-of-a-kind album by rolling up to a courthouse and flashing a U.S. passport, but for a period of time it will technically be a ward of the state.

If we want to keep it that way, perhaps we the people ought to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise some cash for the winning bid to take possession and then release the album into the public domain.

Of course, this might not be all that exciting if you’re not into Wu-Tang. If you consider yourself more high brow, the pharma bro’s collection may still be of interest. Shkreli’s tastes turned out to be diverse; he’s also being forced to give up a rare Pablo Picasso painting.