RZA Tried to Buy Back 'Once Upon a Time in Shaolin'

“The record has become an entity … It’s like the Mona Lisa.”

By //Music

As revealed by a new Rolling Stone feature, RZA has attempted to repurchase the Wu-Tang Clan‘s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album on multiple occasions. Speaking to Kory Grow, the 48-year-old icon confesses that he still thinks about the LP and its fate every single day.

“I definitely read every article about it,” RZA shares with Rolling Stone. “It’s kind of crazy. The record has become an entity, very different from a lot of albums. It’s like the Mona Lisa. It’s got its own folklore, and that’s what me and [co-producer] Cilvaringz wanted.”

While the lone copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin remains a possession of Martin Shkreli, RZA has tried to legally wrestle the project out of the disgraced former hedge fund manager.

“I’ve actually tried to get it back, but the paperwork and the contract stops me from getting it back.,” RZA explains. “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?”

Under the LP’s original contract, the album wouldn’t be able to hit the retail market again until 88 years after its 2015 purchase. However, due to Shkreli’s recent fraud conviction, RZA might have a good shot at reclaiming One Upon a Time in Shaolin in the near future. With Shkreli off to federal prison for seven years, Forbes notes that he will probably be forced to forfeit his $2 million USD album. Forbes‘ Zack O’Malley Greenburg writes:

The most fascinating question that now arises is the legality of seizing a work still owned in part by Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh and Robert “RZA” Diggs, producers of the Wu-Tang album. In addition to holding 50% of the master recording, they also stipulated that the album’s buyer couldn’t sell it until 88 years after the purchase–and that, in the meantime, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin was only for the buyer’s personal use, part of a plan to push the value of music back to the level of fine art.

“The contract the album was sold under requires Mr. Shkreli to bind any new taker of the album to all of the same terms it was sold under,” says Peter Scoolidge, Azzougarh’s attorney; the album has not yet been physically seized, as far as he knows. “If and when that happens, my client could file papers in the forfeiture proceeding to enforce the restrictions on use of the album.”

Shkreli could also still file an appeal, which would further delay the process; his attorney, Ben Brafman, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

While the future of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin might be up in the air at the moment, RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan have still managed to remain active in recent months: the last Wu-Tang album, The Saga Continues, debuted last fall.

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Rolling Stone
Wu-Tang ClanRZAMartin Shkreli

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