Wu-Tang Clan’s Rare Album ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ Now Available as Five-Minute, $1 Sampler

After the much-storied, one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” has been the subject of ownership issues as recently as this week, current rights holder PleasrDAO is finally making it available to the public — at least, five minutes of it.

The company has put a sampler of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” available for $1 on thealbum.com ($1.86 with tax, but who’s counting). Listeners can shell out a buck and change to hear never-before-heard verses from Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and Redman, plus a taste of a handful of songs from the two-disc, 31-track album. The $1 purchase supposedly is for the entire record, but listeners can only hear excerpts for now.

More from Variety

In a press release, PleasrDAO states that the sampler will hopefully bring them one step closer to getting the full project out before its contractual release date of October 8, 2103. “Additional music from the album will become available as Pleasr works with the original artists to deliver it to the owners of the encrypted album over the coming weeks,” states the release.

On thealbum.com, a message displays on the sampler page. “On March 2, 2015, RZA and Civalringz brought together 150 art experts, rap fans, and potential buyers to present a unique Listening Session of a sample of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” it reads. “The sampler was never played publicly again, until now.”

PleasrDAO explained on X (formerly Twitter) that each sale of “Shaolin” will bring the countdown to release 88 seconds closer than its contractual one. Each copy of the record is encrypted and is tradable by $ALBUM.

There’s no word on when the album will ever release to streaming or physical in full, at least in this century, but the release of the sampler appears to be a workaround for the restrictions placed on its initial sale. “Shaolin” was initially sold in 2015 to the notorious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli, and as part of the terms, the double album could not be commercially exploited in full for 88 years.

Shkreli tried to sell the album on eBay in 2017 with a winning bid of $1 million, but the sale was canceled after Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud. The government auctioned off the album in 2021 to PleasrDAO, which acquired the rare project with two payments over the years totaling $4.75 million.

Most recently, “Shaolin” has been a hot topic after PleasrDAO accused Shkreli of holding on to copies of the album after the sale and sharing them publicly. In a suit filed earlier this week, the company claimed that Shkreli bragged about playing the album on YouTube and making copies for others. Two days after the suit was filed, a Brooklyn judge put a temporary ban on Shkreli from streaming or disseminating copies of the album.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.