Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time In Shaolin has essentially become Hip Hop folklore at this point. Purchased by infamous “pharma-bro” Martin Shkreli for $2 million in 2015, it’s become an obsession for many curious, hardcore Wu-Tang fans.
The album’s fate seemed sealed in Shkreli’s hands until he was convicted of securities fraud and $7.4 million worth of his assets were seized by the Feds earlier this month. In an interview with Rolling Stone, RZA admits the second he saw Shrkeli had put the album up for sale on eBay, he called his attorney to see if he could buy it back. Unfortunately for the Wu-Tang legend, he was told that was impossible.
“I’ve actually tried to get it back but the paperwork and the contract stops me from getting it back,” he said. “When [Shkreli] put it on eBay, the first thing I did was call my lawyer, and I was like, ‘Yo, let’s go.’ And they said, ‘All right, check with your contract.’ And it’s no, you can’t do it. Ain’t that a bitch?”
But RZA admits he didn’t really want to let it go in the first place.
“It was hard for me to sell that album because I wanted it to be on my living room table,” he said. “When it was finally completed and everything was sent out, I was like, ‘This would be great in the Wu mansion.’ Whoever comes by here can see this piece of art sitting in my living room. I argued with the people that invested money to get the project on its way, but they wanted [their investment] back.
“So it would’ve cost me more than the selling price in reality, because of the deficit that was already incurred. Also, everybody is like, ‘This ain’t for you. That’s even more selfish than selling it.’ They were talking to me to let that thing go.”
Elsewhere in the discussion, RZA also talked about the backlash he received for selling the rare project for such an exorbitant amount of money.
“I got a lot of flak from fans for that album,” he explained. “I’ve lost fans, because they think I’ve done something that was out of the nature of what Wu-Tang is. I think they’re wrong, but they will have their opinion, right? They felt that we tried to make music become something that only the elite can have, and that’s far from the reality. No, we just wanted to point out that when you devalue something, you got a big conflict over it.”
Once Upon A Time In Shaolin was part of the $7.4 million in assets Shkreli was forced to forfeit. Forbes recently reported the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York would determine the album’s future.