PleasrDAO Drops Wu-Tang’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ Album as NFTs

If you’re a hardcore hip-hop fan, you’ve likely heard of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the 1:1 album created in 2014 by the world’s greatest hip-hop supergroup the Wu-Tang Clan. But just because you’ve heard of it, doesn’t mean you’ve listened to it.

Until today, the album’s been owned by private entities and kept under wraps. Now, thanks to PleasrDAO, “the saga continues.”

The album was produced by RZA and Cilvaringz over the course of six years and features every member of the Clan besides Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who passed in 2004. Released to protest the devaluation of music caused by streaming and digitalization, many consider Once Upon a Time in Shaolin to be the original Music NFT and Wu-Tang Clan to be the first DAO.

“We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of music…This is like someone having the scepter of an Egyptian king,” RZA, the head of the Wu-Tang Clan, said in 2015.

Here’s how the story goes.

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was released in 2014 and purchased in 2015 by Martin Shkreli, also known as “pharma bro,” for the jaw-dropping price of $2 million. The 1:1 album came with proof-of-ownership, authenticity documents, and an agreement that it couldn’t become available to the public until the year 2103. It was the most expensive piece of music ever sold.

But Shkreli wasn’t the best proprietor or person. Not only notorious for hiking the price of pharmaceutical drugs, he became even more hated when he threatened to destroy the album and was rumored to use the CD case, which is emblazoned with jewels, as a coaster.

But in 2018, justice came knocking.

Shkreli was arrested for fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison. His assets were seized, including Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which was held by the Department of Justice in a temperature-controlled vault.

Finally in September 2021, PleasrDAO, a Decentralized Autonomous Organization that collects culturally significant objects, purchased the album for $4 million and set out to fulfill Wu Tang Clan’s original vision. This time, with the help of NFTs and blockchain technology.

Today, the OG music NFT is available to mint for $1 on the Base blockchain, an Ethereum Layer 2 network from Coinbase. The distribution is being handled by Pleasr in collaboration with Crossmint, Holograph, and Privy.

Fans can purchase the album with credit card or Apple Pay. Crypto wallets will be created automatically and the NFTs will be minted and sent to their wallets. The 1:1 album will also be airdropped to Reddit users who hold the meme stock GameStop (GME). They have long been teasing that Pleasr was planning to drop the album.

PleasrDAO said it will also be giving artists a cut of revenue generated from sales, let them perform the songs live, and release Once Upon a Time in Shaolin on streaming platforms in the future.

Wu-Tang & Hip-Hop Pioneer & Innovate in Web3

When we look back on the brief history of NFT Music, it’s clear that Wu-Tang Clan and hip-hop have played an important role. And it makes sense; hip-hop’s been trying to cut out the middleman for decades and NFTs and blockchain makes that possible.

Most recently in March 2024, Wu-Tang rapper Ghostface Killer dropped an NFT Ordinals music project on Bitcoin. The 10,000 free Ordinals NFTs came with CCO rights, which allow anyone to remix, reuse, or modify the music.

West-Coast legend Snoop Dogg has also been heavily involved in Web3 and NFTs, from creating an ice cream brand from his Bored Ape IP to launching the “The Snoop Dogg Passport Series,” an NFT collection that gave fans access to token-gated content, including behind-the-scene footage from his recent tour with Wiz Khalifa.

Because NFTs and blockchain technology allow for true ownership over digital assets and connect artists directly to their fans, it’s unsurprising some of the original pioneers of hip-hop would be attracted to the space.

Ten years after the creation of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin — an album that’s story has grown to mythic proportions — and there’s no doubt that Wu-Tang Clan, perhaps unsurprisingly, was ahead of their time. Today, thanks to PleasrDAO and the ethos of Web3, the music can be owned and enjoyed by fans around the world.