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The Notorious ‘Pharma Bro’ Bought Wu-Tang Clan Album May Actually Reach A Wider Audience

'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin' is in the hands of new owners

The saga of the Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is taking a new turn. Only a single copy was released and auctioned off back in 2015. The condition was that it wouldn’t be publicly shared. 

It was bought by the now notorious (as Dazed magazine named him) ‘pharma bro,’ Martin Shkreli, who was convicted and jailed for his white-collar crimes. As part of his conviction, Shkreli had to hand it over as part of his $7.36 million assets.

Earlier in 2021, the US federal institutions auctioned off the album, without disclosing the buyer or the sum for which the album was auctioned off.

Now, the New York Times has revealed that the new owner of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is the crypto group PleasrDAO, which paid $4 million in cryptocurrency, via an intermediary, for the privilege. An NFT acts as the ownership deed for the physical record. Despite being around for less than a year, PleasrDAO has also claimed ownership of NFTs related to Doge and Ed Snowden, and reportedly counts Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova among its members.

According to PleasrDAO’s Jamis Johnson, the purchase of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin chimes with the group’s interest in icons of digital culture, as well as cryptocurrency enthusiasts’ general desire to disrupt the art market. “This album at its inception was a kind of protest against rent-seeking middlemen, people who are taking a cut away from the artist,” Johnson tells the New York Times, going as far as to call the album: “Kind of the OG NFT.”

Johnson expresses an urge to get the music out to a wider audience in the future. “We believe that we can do something with this piece,” he says, “to enable it to be shared and ideally owned in part by fans and anyone in the world.”

Though he does apparently want to honor Wu-Tang Clan’s original intentions, he says: “Our direction right now is to get this open to the whole world.”

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CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

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