Fans can finally get a chance to listen to the Wu-Tang Clan’s one copy album… but there’s a catch

May 28, 2024, 9:04 PM | Updated: 9:05 pm

The Wu-Tang Clan originated as a group of rappers from Staten Island, New York in the 1990s....

The Wu-Tang Clan originated as a group of rappers from Staten Island, New York in the 1990s. (Bob Berg/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Bob Berg/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

CNN — “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is as mysterious as its title. Recorded by legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan in secret over six years, only one physical copy of the album was ever made and just a handful of people have heard it in full.

Now a few lucky members of the public will be able to listen to it – if they can get to a museum next month on the Australian island of Tasmania.

The rare piece of hip-hop history is set to go on display at the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) from June 15 to 24, according to the museum.

The album will be part of an exhibit that lasts a little over a week with a limited number of free tickets available for curated private listening sessions.

It is part of the museum’s “Namedropping” exhibition which explores the rare objects which “possesses mystical properties that transcend its material circumstances,” said Jarrod Rawlins, director of curatorial affairs at Mona.

“’Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ is more than just an album, so when I was thinking about status, and what a transcendent namedrop could be, I knew I had to get it into this exhibition,” Rawlins said in a statement.

The album itself is bound by a legal agreement which states it cannot be commercially exploited until 2103, although it can be played at private listening parties, according to the museum.

Wu-Tang Clan first announced in March 2014 that it would produce one copy of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” to be sold to the highest bidder. The album came in a hand-carved box with a leather-bound book of parchment paper containing lyrics and its backstory.

By releasing only one copy of the album, the group wanted to “put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music,” Wu-Tang member Robert “RZA” Diggs told Forbes in 2014. The album was also created in protest of the devaluation of music as an artform in the digital age, RZA said in the interview.

Since then, the album has had a history almost as unusual as its release.

In 2015, notorious “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli bagged the album for about $2 million – making it the world’s most expensive music album ever sold at the time.

But US federal authorities seized it from Shkreli, who was eventually convicted  of securities fraud and conspiracy in 2017 for defrauding investors out of more than $10 million between 2009 and 2014.

Before his conviction, which was related to his time as CEO of biotech company Retrophin, Shkreli was dubbed “the most hated man in America” in 2015 while serving as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals after he increased the price of a drug used by AIDS patients from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

In 2021, the US Justice Department then sold the album without disclosing the buyer. At the time the DoJ said the money from the album’s sale would go toward the remaining balance owed on the approximately $7.4 million forfeiture order entered against Shkreli at his March 2018 sentencing.

Digital art collective PleasrDAO, who describe themselves as a “decentralized autonomous organization” and an early adopter of NFT digital art, later confirmed in a  video the same year that they bought the album using cryptocurrency.

While PleasrDAO did not disclose how much it spent to acquire the album, the The New York Times reported it exchanged hands for the equivalent of $4 million.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

FILE: Elected officials and representatives from U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams unveil t...

Associated Press

Possible 2026 World Cup training camps may include Salt Lake City or Herriman

Possible team training camps for the 2026 World Cup include a site in Salt Lake City among several other U.S. cities.

4 hours ago

The statue 'Contemplation of Justice' sits above the west front plaza of the U.S. Supreme Court on ...

Mark Sherman

Supreme Court rules California man can’t trademark ‘Trump too small’

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against a man who wants to trademark the suggestive phrase “Trump too small.”

5 hours ago

FILE - Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloo...

Mark Sherman

Unanimous Supreme Court preserves access to widely used abortion medication

The Supreme Court has preserved access to a medication that was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year.

6 hours ago

FILE - The 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is seen, Oct. 2...

Terry Spencer, Associated Press

Six years after the Parkland school massacre, the bloodstained building will finally be demolished

The demolition of the building where 17 people died in the 2018 Parkland school shooting is set to begin. Crews will begin tearing down the three-story building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday.

14 hours ago

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands while meeting i...

Fatima Hussein, Associated Press

G7 leaders agree to lend Ukraine billions backed by Russia’s frozen assets. Here’s how it will work

Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies have agreed to engineer a $50 billion loan to help Ukraine in its fight for survival that would use interest earned on profits from Russia's frozen central bank assets as collateral.

15 hours ago

File - Workers install lighting on an "X" sign atop the company headquarters, formerly known as Twi...

Associated Press

What happened to the likes? X is now hiding which posts you like from other users

Social media platform X is now hiding your likes.

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Fans can finally get a chance to listen to the Wu-Tang Clan’s one copy album… but there’s a catch