FOIA request reveals rare photographs of that Wu-Tang Clan album bought by Martin Shkreli

Back in 2015, the now-infamous "Pharma-bro" Martin Shkreli spent $2 million dollars to purchase the only existing copy of a new album from the Wu-Tang Clan, titled Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Here's how Bloomberg described the rare box set:

The 31-track album would come in a hand-carved box, accompanied by a leather-bound book with 174 pages of parchment paper filled with lyrics and background on the songs. The music itself was expected to be spectacular. All the surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan contributed to Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, along with some special guests. Aside from RZA and his co-producer, Tarik "Cilvaringz" Azzougarh, nobody had heard the entire record. It was stored in a vault in the Royal Mansour Marrakech hotel in Morocco and any duplicates had been destroyed.

Shkreli, of course, then went to prison for securities fraud, leaving the album wasting away in storage until July 2021, when it was sold to help cover the cost of the restitution owed by Shkreli. Vice recently submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Marshals for information on the album, which was reportedly sold in "as-is" condition (read: beat to shit). In addition to some rare photographs revealing the contents of the previously-unseen boxed set, here's what else they learned:

The feds were close-mouthed about what they sold it for and to whom, but a lawyer who facilitated the transaction listened to some of the album and told Motherboard it was a certified banger. Turns out a crypto collective that parcels out shares of NFTs and other collectibles to sell as investment opportunities paid $4 million for the album.

A Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the transaction returned an official (and rather official-looking) bill of sale from the U.S. Marshals, a redacted contract detailing the sale, and 54 photographs that give the most thorough look at the album and its contacts yet.


The photos give us a wonderful look at the album and its contents, but they're also redacted, so that they don't reveal too much. (The FOIA provision the feds cited in redacting records covers "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential," which perhaps actually applies here.) The track listing, parts of the lyric book, and the CDs themselves have been covered over by a big white block. The boxes also look rough. The outer box has scratches in the leather. There's a big divot to the upper left of the icon Wu-Tang symbol exposing the cedar box underneath.

You can head on over to Motherboard if you want to get a look at a gorgeous Wu-Tang collector's item that you will never ever get to listen to.

Government Photos Show Sacreligious Desecration of Unique Wu-Tang Clan Album [Matthew Gault / Motherboard]