Why the Wu-Tang Clan Probably Won’t Get Martin Shkreli’s Album Back

The only good news: “Pharma bro” no longer owns “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin”

Martin Shkreli Vanity Fair Wu Tang Cover

An attorney for a member of the Wu-Tang Clan says that even though “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli is losing possession of the one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” the legendary rap group will probably not get it back.

The Justice Department is taking possession of more than $7.3 million in assets from Shkreli — including the one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album he bought at auction in 2015 for a reported $2 million.

Shkreli was sentenced this month to seven years for fraud, and paperwork filed Friday solidified the U.S. government as the new owner of the world’s most expensive single album.

Since no one in the Trump Administration is known for Wu-Tang fandom, could the government do the kindly thing and hand the record back to the people who created it? Probably not, according to Peter Scoolidge, attorney for Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, co-producer on “Shaolin.”

“That is not their m.o., though, right?” Scoolidge told TheWrap. “Their m.o. is to take and sell it to satisfy a money judgment, so that puts the kibosh on just giving it away.”

But the government is limited in just how it can resell the record, because it was sold with several stipulations limiting its use: The buyer is forbidden to sell it for 88 years after purchase, no alterations can be made to the individual tracks, and it can only be used for the buyer’s personal use.

Azzougarh and “Shaolin” co-producer Robert “RZA” Diggs also reportedly still own 50 percent of the master recording, which means, according to Scoolidge, that when the government takes possession of the elusive album, Azzougarh and Diggs could file paperwork to enforce those stipulations.

So what happens if the government just decides to keep the record, making it, at least theoretically, public property? Would that make it possible for Wu-Tang fans not nicknamed “Pharma Bro” to get to hear it for themselves?

Fans should probably keep the champagne on ice… for about 88 years.

“My client’s intent is to maintain the status quo with regard to the album… that it’s not to be sold commercially,” Scoolidge tells TheWrap. “Whoever takes it has to abide under the same terms under which it was sold originally.”

Looks like, for the foreseeable future, legally-binding Contracts Rule Everything Around Me.