Only copy of Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon A Time in Shaolin 'sells for millions'

Rapper Ghostface Killah
Image caption Rapper Ghostface Killah from the Wu-Tang Clan performs at SXSW in March

The only copy ever made of Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon A Time in Shaolin has been sold "for millions of dollars".

US auction company Paddle8 says the record was bought by an anonymous American buyer.

The record had been stored in a vault at a hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, since it was finished in 2013.

In March, the hip-hop group said the future owner of the double album wouldn't be allowed to release the 31 tracks for 88 years.

It includes contributions by each member of Wu-Tang Clan and comes in a hand-carved nickel-silver case with a pair of customised speakers worth $55,000 (£36,000) thrown in.

There's also a 174-page volume containing lyrics, credits and stories about the recording of each song.

Once Upon A Time in Shaolin album cover

Wu-Tang had originally planned to let the buyer do whatever they wanted with the record but changed their minds.

"We felt that retail commercialisation and mass replication would dilute the status of the album as a one-off work of art and compromise the integrity of our statement," said producer-rapper Cilvaringz.

"We genuinely felt that a swift public release after such a radical concept would neutralise the statement we are making, so we decided that the right to release the album would be transferred only after 88 years have passed."

RZA from Wu-Tang Clan
Image caption RZA is one of the original eight members of Wu-Tang Clan

Fellow producer RZA compared the record to a great work of art.

"Owning a Picasso doesn't mean you can sell prints or reproductions, but that you're the sole owner of a unique original," he said.

"And that's what Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is. It's a unique original rather than a master copy of an album."

Method Man from Wu-Tang Clan
Image caption Method Man from Wu-Tang Clan performs at Bonnaroo in 2013

A 13-minute medley of the album was played to a select group of media, fans and potential buyers earlier this year.

Rolling Stone, which was one of the only media allowed in to listen, wrote: "Simply put, if the full, 128-minute Once Upon A Time In Shaolin... is as solid as the 13 minutes heard on Monday night, it could be the group's most popular album since 1997."

The Wu-Tang Clan have always been driven by innovation, and this marks another moment in musical history
RZA from Wu-Tang Clan

The buyer bought the album in May but it's taken months to finalise the contracts and make sure the songs don't leak out.

Part of the profits will go to several US charities.

RZA said: "The Wu-Tang Clan have always been driven by innovation, and this marks another moment in musical history.

"From the beginning, we hoped that this concept would inspire debate and new ways of seeing creativity.

"Both of those goals have been achieved, and the ideas continue to evolve."

The band chose 88 years because...

1. There were eight original number of members of the band.

2. The number is in the name of the auction house which sold the album.

3. It's what you get if you add up all the numbers in 2015 (2+0+1+5 = 8).

4. The number eight on its side is a symbol of infinity, as it was used on their album Wu-Tang Forever.

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