Once Upon a Time in Shaolin

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Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
Once Upon A Time In Shaolin cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 25, 2015
GenreHip hop
Wu-Tang Clan chronology
A Better Tomorrow
Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
The Saga Continues

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is a double album by the New York hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan that was limited to a single copy sold in 2015. It is the most expensive individual album ever sold.[1] One double CD of the album, which was recorded in secret over six years, was pressed in 2014 and stored in a secured vault at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco. The album was auctioned to the highest bidder through auction house Paddle8 in 2015,[2] and it was subsequently revealed the winning bid of $2 million was placed by American businessman Martin Shkreli. A legal agreement with the purchaser states the album cannot be commercially exploited until 2103, although it can be released for free or played during listening parties.[3] It has since been argued by some artists involved with the project that producer Cilvaringz misrepresented to some affiliates of the group what they were contributing their work to, and that it was not a true Wu-Tang Clan album but rather a con job.[4] Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA however quickly discredited the accusations by tweeting "It's funny to hear 2 journalists, 2 managers & 2 of my students think they can define a 'real' Wu-Tang Clan album better than the founder???" [5]

Shkreli shared the intro and part of two tracks after threatening to destroy the album.[6] In 2017 Shkreli allegedly livestreamed a portion of the album to YouTube after a verdict was reached in a criminal case against him.[7] On September 6, 2017, Shkreli placed the album up for auction via eBay;[8] it received 343 bids, with a winning bid of $1,025,100 USD. However, the sale was never completed, and in March 2018, the album was ordered by a judge to be forfeited as a result of the seizure of Shkreli's assets following his conviction for securities fraud.[9]


Wu-Tang Clan producer Cilvaringz conceived the idea of a musical work in a single form based on music exploitation as a commissioned commodity in the Baroque, Enlightenment and Renaissance ages.[10] The idea was developed with Wu-Tang de facto leader RZA into a concept presentable to the public. The album reportedly features singer Cher as a guest on two of the album's tracks.[11]

The album was auctioned through auction house Paddle8 in 2015. A winning bid for the album was accepted on May 3, 2015, followed by months of legal diligence. Due to the unprecedented nature of the sale, new and unique legal structures were written for the sales agreement. The sale was completed on August 26, 2015, at a price "in the millions" to a "private American collector".[12] On December 9, 2015, Bloomberg Businessweek identified the buyer as Turing pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli.[13] The actual sale price was not revealed, but Bloomberg reported[13] and Shkreli confirmed that he had purchased the album for $2 million.[14]

In a statement emailed to Bloomberg, RZA said that the sale had been agreed upon before Shkreli's controversial price hike of Daraprim, an anti-infective agent most commonly used in immunocompromised patients with toxoplasmosis. RZA added that the group had donated a "significant portion" of the proceeds to charity upon learning who the buyer was.[15] Among the charities Wu-Tang Clan donated to were the Children's Literacy Society, the Hip Hop Chess Federation and TTAC, an institution focused on showcasing alternative cures for cancer.[16]


The ornate casing for the album

Many fans reacted negatively to the news of the single-copy album, believing the album would not be available to the public until 2103. Wu-Tang member Method Man spoke out against the 88-year commercial ban, blaming fellow member RZA and producer Cilvaringz. RZA replied that the 88-year ban was necessary to maintain the integrity of the album as a work of art and to deflect any notions of a grand marketing or publicity stunt. According to him, the number 8 bears symbolic significance because there were eight original members of the Wu-Tang Clan, the numbers of the year 2015 add up to eight, Paddle8 has eight in its name, and a rotated eight is the symbol for infinity, which was used on their second album, Wu-Tang Forever.[17] Wu-Tang later released an official statement saying that, although the music may not be sold to the public until 2103, the owner may exhibit or distribute the music for free.[3]

The Guinness Book of Records certified Once Upon a Time in Shaolin as the most valuable album in the world,[18] surpassing records by Elvis Presley and the Quarrymen (later the Beatles). On March 3, 2015, the album was detained at JFK Airport for three hours while border control determined the contents of its box.[19]

In February 2016, artist Jason Koza sued RZA, Cilvaringz, Paddle8 and Shkreli in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for the alleged unauthorized use of his artwork on the album.[20][21]

Track listing[edit]

The track listing remained a secret for the buyer.[citation needed] Paddle8 released a track list of working titles the group used during the recordings.[citation needed] The track listing has been compiled by Complex magazine.[22]


Wu-Tang Clan
Additional personnel

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greenburg, Zack O'Malley. "New Details Emerge On Wu-Tang Clan Secret Album Sale". Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  2. ^ Tshepo Mokoena (January 8, 2015). "Wu-Tang Clan: unique copy of album will be sold by online auction". The Guardian. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Shawn Christ (March 6, 2015). "Wu-Tang Clan Issue Statement to Clarify 'Once Upon a Time in Shaolin' Release". Music Times. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  4. ^ Leonard, Devin (September 14, 2017). "Did Martin Shkreli pay $2 million for a fake Wu-Tang Clan album?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  5. ^ "RZA Discredits Wu-Tang Album Fraud".
  6. ^ Lars Brandle (January 28, 2016). "Martin Shkreli Considers Destroying or Leaving Wu-Tang Clan's 'Shaolin' in a Remote Place". Billboard. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  7. ^ Saul, Emily (August 4, 2017). "'Pharma Bro' plays $2M Wu-Tang Clan album to celebrate verdict". New York Post. New York. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  8. ^ "Wu-Tang Clan - Once Upon A Time In Shaolin - Rare CD!". EBay. September 15, 2017. Archived from the original on November 20, 2017.
  9. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (March 6, 2018). "Martin Shkreli's $2m Wu-Tang Clan album seized by federal court". the Guardian. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  10. ^ "Forbes Asks Cilvaringz How The Idea For One Copy Conceptualized".
  11. ^ Evan Minsker (November 24, 2015). "Wu-Tang Clan's One-of-a-Kind Album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin Has Been Sold". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  12. ^ Zack O'Malley Greenburg (November 24, 2015). "Wu-Tang Clan Secret Album Sold By Paddle8, But To Whom?". Forbes. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Leonard, David; Hordern, Annmarie (December 9, 2015). "Who Bought The Most Expensive Album Ever Made?". Bloomberg Businessweek.
  14. ^ Justin Hunte (December 16, 2015). "Martin Shkreli Plans To Bail-Out Bobby Shmurda". HipHopDX. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  15. ^ Devin Leonard; Annmarie Hordern (December 9, 2015). "Pharma's Bad Boy Exec Paid $2 Million for Wu-Tang Clan's New Record". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  16. ^ "TTAC Confirms Donation Wu-Tang Clan".
  17. ^ George Palathingal (February 20, 2014). "Wu-Tang Clan's Method Man slams 'stupid' release plan for Once Upon a Time in Shaolin". Smh.com.au. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  18. ^ Guinness World Records (September 1, 2015). Guinness World Records 2016. Macmillan. p. 187. ISBN 978-1910561027. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  19. ^ Baker, Soren (March 6, 2015). "Wu-Tang Clan's 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin' Album Seized At Airport". HipHopDX. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  20. ^ Gardner, Eriq (February 9, 2016). "Wu-Tang Clan's $2 Million Album a Target in Copyright Lawsuit". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  21. ^ "Koza v. Diggs et al, Docket No. 1:16-cv-00956 (S.D.N.Y. Feb 09, 2016), Court Docket". Bloomberg Law. February 9, 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  22. ^ "You'll Never Hear the New Wu-Tang Clan Album, But This Is What It Sounds Like". Complex. March 3, 2015. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  23. ^ "Wu-Tang Clan's U-God Says Cher Is On Unreleased 'Shaolin' Album". Retrieved November 30, 2018.

External links[edit]