New photos of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album released by US government

© US Department of Justice via Buzzfeed News

The one-off album was sold in July 2021 as part of convicted pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli’s forfeiture order.

New photos have emerged of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album.

The one-of-a-kind record was purchased by controversial pharmaceutical mogul Martin Shkreli in 2015 for $2 million. Following the sale, Shkreli – who gained notoriety for raising the price of life-saving AIDS drug Daraprim – threatened to erase Ghostface Killah’s contributions, sell the record or destroy it. Ghostface Killah called him a “shithead.”

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was seized by US marshals in 2018 after Shkreli was convicted on two counts of securities fraud and one count of securities fraud conspiracy. Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison and was also required to pay a $7.4 million forfeiture judgment, $388,000 in restitution and a $75,000 fine. 

In July 2021, the album was sold by the US federal government to an undisclosed buyer for a reported $4 million. The New York Times later reported that the album had been purchased by cryptocurrency collective PleasrDAO.

Following a Freedom of Information Act request by both Buzzfeed News and Motherboard for documents relating to the transaction, 54 previously unseen photos of the album have now been shared alongside a redacted contract and a bill of sale from US marshals.

The new photos, which you can check out here, reveal the current state of the album and its various containers. As the bill of sale notes, the album was sold to its new owners in “as is” condition. 

The double album is housed within an inner silver box, with a gold-leafed certificate of authenticity, a leather-bound lyric book and a presentation box emblazoned with the Wu-Tang Clan logo, which was designed by British-Moroccan artist Yahya Rouach also included in the sale – and pictured here.

Photos of the two CDs themselves, the album’s tracklist, and portions of the lyric book are redacted from the documents, with the US government reportedly citing “trade secrets” as the reason why these details can’t be released. This is also why the price the album sold for last year remains redacted from the bill of sale.

Last year, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA expressed regret over selling the album to Shrekli. In an interview with New York radio station Hot 97, the artist claimed the album had fallen into “the wrong hands”.

“No disrespect to Martin Shkreli because I don’t ever knock somebody who, you know, when somebody buys something they buy something, right?” he said. “But it was in the wrong hands, in all reality. He made the deal before it was revealed of his character, his personality, and all the insidious things he would go on to do. That wasn’t the guy I met but he definitely unfolded into that guy and he had control of this one-of-a-kind piece of art.”

Read: 20 years of Wu-Tang Forever.