November 24, 2021

Wu-Tang Clan: DAO Snags O.G. NFT From DOJ!

When last we checked-in on The Wu-Tang Clan, the US Attorney for the EDNY had just announced the sale of the group’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” album to an unidentified buyer.  Now, the NYT reports that the details of that transaction have been made public. By now, it won’t come as any surprise for those of you who’ve been following our reporting on The Wu-Tang Clan that there’s a crypto connection:

PleasrDAO, which took possession of the album on Sept. 10 and is keeping it in a “vault” somewhere in New York City, has decided to come forward, to celebrate its trophy and announce its goal to ultimately, somehow, make the album more widely available for fans to hear — if, that is, it can convince RZA, the Wu-Tang’s leader, and his fellow producer Cilvaringz to allow it.

PleasrDAO’s Jamis Johnson described the purchase as appealing to the group’s interest in acquiring signature items of digital culture, as well as to a wider mission that it shares with many cryptocurrency champions: prying artistic creations from an exploitative, antiquated economic system and offering the promise of a fairer one. “This album at its inception was a kind of protest against rent-seeking middlemen, people who are taking a cut away from the artist,” Mr. Johnson said in a video interview from his apartment in Brooklyn. “Crypto very much shares that same ethos.”

Although “Once Upon a Time” predates the recent craze for NFTs — “nonfungible tokens,” or digital items created using blockchain computer code, preventing them from being duplicated and allowing their provenance to be tracked — the group’s goal of recapturing the value of artistic scarcity in the digital age has led it to become seen as a kind of precursor. “The album itself is kind of the O.G. NFT,” said Mr. Johnson, 34, who was proudly sporting a Wu-Tang T-shirt.

For those of you who aren’t Wikipedia users crypto-savants like me, a DAO is a “decentralized autonomous organization,” which means “an organization represented by rules encoded as a computer program that is transparent, controlled by the organization members and not influenced by a central government. A DAO’s financial transaction record and program rules are maintained on a blockchain.” Yeah, that really didn’t clear things up for me – and neither did a visit to PleasrDAO’s website. But whatever they are, DAOs are definitely tres chic. That’s because the SEC issued a 21(a) report addressing the DAO structure in 2017, & as Dave recently blogged, the agency just brought an enforcement action against another DAO earlier this month.

Anyway, the New York Times says that PleasrDAO wants to release the album in some fashion to the public, but first they’ll need RZA & Cilveringz to sign-off on whatever they’re planning, because they inherited the contractual restrictions imposed on the original buyer, fraudster Martin Shkreli, which prohibit a public release of the album until 2103. Cilveringz is apparently game, but so far there’s no word from RZA, which means that the DAO’s plan to release the O.G. NFT that it acquired from the DOJ may be DOA.

We’re taking a break from blogging for the rest of the week. Happy Thanksgiving!

John Jenkins