Music fans and art collectors around the world gasped and dug into their pockets in recent weeks, when world-class douchebag Martin Skhreli put the one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin on eBay. But there was one interested party you may not expect: RZA, the abbot of the Wu himself.
“I went to eBay myself. I had somebody make a bid for me,” RZA explained during a recent Q&A session in San Francisco, reports Noisey. “But then I talked to the lawyers… They said, we advise you not to. I said ok I’ll take that advice.”
The album ended up being sold for $1 million, which is half of what Shkreli paid for it himself with his winning bid of $2 million in 2015. The original transaction had a sales agreement with specific legal parameters, including being prohibited from being able to sell and distribute the album commercially until 2103, which was the 200-year anniversary of the formation of the Wu-Tang Clan.
RZA says he hopes that Shkreli and the new buyer don’t violate any of those legal parameters, but that he’s happy with how the auction turned out. Its sales for $2 million and $1 million help solidify the original mission he had with the album.
“What I do like about the idea of it is… that means that I’m not the only one who feels the value of the music,” RZA said. “There were multiple bidders at $1 million so that means that you got people that are starting to say, you know what, we understand. And that’s what it was all about more than anything.”
Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was already made to be a piece of history with its unique conditions: the album was secretly recorded over six years, a single double-disc copy was made and inserted into a specially-crafted jewel case, and was locked away until a bidder won an auction. It was the first album of its kind.
But it’s become even more of a story because of what happened after the bid: its winner, pharmaceutical exec Martin Shkreli, ended up being one of the most hated people in America. As the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he infamously raised the price of an AIDS-treating drug named Daraprim from $13.5 per pill to $750. And after buying the album, he was known for trolling Ghostface Killah, attempting to buy Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo exclusively for himself, and for apparently successfully buying an early copy of Lil Wayne’s The Carter V (and playing snippets online).
More drastically, Shkreli was found guilty on two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud this year, and awaits sentencing for up to 20 years in prison. He got his $5 million bail revoked in recent weeks after making a Facebook post that offered a $5,000 reward for a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair.
“We went to jail, right? It’s so crazy… Choices yo,” RZA said when asked about Shkreli. All I gotta say is choices… I think he made a few bad choices.”
RZA, meanwhile, is focused on the music. He’s on the road promoting Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues, an upcoming compilation from his legendary group that drops on Oct. 13.