Sometimes, things happen in life that are just too perfect for anyone to make up.
The Wu-Tang Clan, possibly the most influential group in the entire history of hip-hop, recently got back together to drop another record. Never a group to do things the normal way, they decided to take a novel approach to record distribution: They would make one, single, copy of the album and sell it to the highest bidder.
The album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, is a 31-track masterpiece that was recorded over a six year period, and housed in a handcrafted box made of nickel and silver. Inside, the album sits alongside a leather-bound book of lyrics and the album’s background information, written on 174 pages of parchment. “This is like someone having the scepter of an Egyptian king,” Wu-Tang leader RZA stated.
An invite-only listening party was organized in March, 2015, to attract potential buyers for this particular scepter. As they entered, all of the attendees were required to hand over their phones before listening to a mere 13 of the album’s 128 minutes. Following the listening party, bidding opened. Whoever shelled out the most money would own the only copy of the album ever produced, and would be able to do whatever they wanted with it – the only limitation was that they couldn’t benefit from it, financially, for 88 years.
Two months later, in May, a buyer rose out of the scuffle. According to Paddle8, the organization that ran the auction, the Wu-Tang Clan spent the next several months with the undisclosed winner, “finalizing contracts and devising new legal protections.” The Clan took the privacy of their buyer seriously.
The buyer, however, didn’t. He was Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur/future felon whelped by the gods of Capitalism and Trolling. He took his publicity seriously, and promptly went public.
The wails of agony and outrage commenced, especially from the Wu-Tang fans and other music connoisseurs whose support of the Clan’s previous albums had been markedly underwhelming.
Shkreli immediately took to Twitter to brag about his infamous buy.
Live streaming. Talking music, drugs and stuff. May play something special. https://t.co/Ez8X7Bon7v
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) December 9, 2015
Within hours, though, things took a turn for the epic: A leak of what was purported to be the purchase contract. This contract, the one that the Clan and Shkreli had honed and perfected over the course of several months to “devise new legal protections,” seemed to include a fascinating clause:
Journalists, ever worried about being the first to break a story, immediately picked up the story. Others, with more regard for the truth, questioned the leak’s authenticity. The source was an otherwise unexceptional Twitter account that, upon utilizing research methods that can only be replicated with the scroll wheel of a mouse, not only had a reputation for faking documents, but also had no reason to have access to the controlling document of such a secretive sale. Also, contractual clauses allowing illegal acts aren’t allowed.
Interested parties seemed to find the “leak” amusing.
We’re really getting the urge to call Bill Murray.
— RZA! (@RZA) December 11, 2015
I would honor the proposed Bill Murray & WTC amendment to the album purchase agreement. Just know, I am not the one to steal on.
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) December 10, 2015
Shkreli responded with some of the band’s most famous lyrics: “They would have to protect their necks. It is me who they would not want to be f—ing with.”
The leak seemed debunked.
But then, 8 days later, a plot twist: Shkreli got arrested by the FBI for securities fraud.
The timing of the arrest alone is suspicious. Other facts make it tingle with conspiracy, like a real-life revenge heist movie, to the scale of Ocean’s 46.
Shkreli wasn’t arrested just anywhere – he was arrested at the Murray Hill Tower Apartments. The apartment complex is on Second Avenue – the number of millions Shkreli paid for the album – and a block away from the Museum of Tolerance – something Shkreli also lacks. Even the history of Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood plays a part. The area was named after a prominent 18th century family of the same name. It’s unclear if they’re related to Bill. That Murray family cemented its place in American legend when, on September 15, 1776, Mary Lindley Murray occupied the officers of the advancing British army by hosting an excessively extended tea party. The delay allowed General Israel Putnam to retreat out a New York City overrun with redcoats and rejoin George Washington’s main force. In much the same what that an arrest would occupy someone while Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was recovered.
Even the title of the Wu-Tang album suddenly makes more sense. “Shao” is a Chinese word for one of the hills in the Song Mountains, while “lin” means “forest.” The skyscrapers of New York are often referred to as a forest, or jungle, and the Murray Hill neighborhood is, in fact, an incline on the east side of Manhattan. Once upon a time, this album may have been in Shkreli’s shaolin.
The facts continue to line up. Even the FBI might be involved. The U.S. Attorney in charge of the investigation of Shkreli is none other than Robert L. Capers. The FBI has suspiciously gone out of their way to shut down rumors that they’re involved with anything to do with the $2 million album.
#Breaking no seizure warrant at the arrest of Martin Shkreli today, which means we didn’t seize the Wu-Tang Clan album.
— FBI New York (@NewYorkFBI) December 17, 2015
But of course they didn’t. Contractually, it can’t be the FBI who makes the heist – it has to be the Wu-Tang Clan and / or Bill Murray.
We might have just witnessed the greatest caper in history, and not even known about it. We can’t wait for the movie.