UPDATE: Shkreli decided to sell the album with the current eBay bid at around $100,000. He says he’ll donate of the money to medical research and that he hopes “someone with a bigger heart for music can be found for this one-of-a-kind piece and makes it available for the world to hear.”
Martin Shkreli a.k.a “Pharma Bro” enjoys the spotlight. If anything, he relishes it. This pharma/bio-tech businessman got his first taste of the limelight in 2015 after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, increased the price of an HIV/AIDS drug called Daraprim by 5000% overnight. He became the poster child for capitalist greed and has really taken that character into heart. Shkreli owns it so much that he was just recently convicted of two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiring to commit securities fraud, but we’re not here to talk about that.
To continue his reign as the ultimate troll king, he won an auction for a one-of-a-kind album. As one of the most influential groups of all time, the Wu-Tang Clan has worked with other legends like The Notorious B.I.G., Pete Rock, Nas, and Mobb Deep. Their double album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” holds the record for the most expensive musical piece of work in the world at $2 million. It was recorded in secret for over six years, and stored in a vault at a Moroccan hotel. Due to an 88-year ban imposed by de facto leader RZA, there is only one copy that exists in this entire world.
Yes, the said copy currently rests in the comforts of his New York apartment, but we’ve got five reasons as to why Martin Shkreli doesn’t deserve the Wu:
1.) His False Sense of Exclusivity
The 88-year ban doesn’t mean that the purchaser can’t release the contents of the album. It can’t be sold or bought until the year 2103, but it can be given away. Shkreli has every right to release the album for free or play it at listening parties. Instead of doing something philantrophic like playing the album in museums or actually giving to to the public (as per RZA’s suggestions), “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is just sitting there.
Another good example is his $15 million offer to Kanye West for “The Life of Pablo”. The business troll wanted the $15 million deal to be similar to his Wu-Tang deal: a sole agreement that he is the only one in this entire world to have a copy of Pablo. Ye thankfully didn’t bite and released it on Jay-Z’s TIDAL after an astounding SNL performance.
So what does this say about Shkreli? For one, he doesn’t really care about the music. Let’s be fair and say he loves hip hop, but it’s evident that he loves his ego more. “Exclusivity” of music is a total joke; it’s meant to be shared because it’s a universal language. If you’re the kind of person who’s willing to shell out millions of dollars on an album to gain bragging rights, do us all a favor and disappear.
2.) He Disrespected RZA
After finding out about Shkreli’s unethical business practices, the Wu decided to donate a significant portion of the $2 million to charity. His statements didn’t sit well with Shkreli who lashed out on the rapper during an interview with Hip Hop DX:
“I bought the most expensive album in the history of mankind and fucking RZA is talking shit behind my back and online in plain sight. I’m just getting pissed off. That’s not the way I do business. If I hand you $2 million, fucking show me some respect.”
The two first met over a brief lunch where they talked about hip hop and what Wu-Tang means. Shkreli called him “another arrogant rapper” who talked about “how his shit is the best ever.” RZA’s Bloomberg interview, on the other hand, showed no signs of hostility; simply some friendly advice and a disinterest in the non-existent beef Shkreli was trying to stir.
3.) He Disrespected Ghostface Killah
Fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah wasn’t pleased about “shithead” (in verbatim) Shkreli winning the album’s auction. He agrees that the sale of the album was out of his hands, but did continue that “the people” should own it and not just one specific person.
Shkreli’s already bruised ego released a “diss video” including two masked goons and threats of erasing Ghostface’s parts on the album. He claims that Ghostface was just an irrelevant old man trying to pull the plug on his spotlight. Ghostface retaliated with his own diss video, substituting masked goons with his mother and sister who gave a stern talk for Shkreli. To add insult to injury, his sister narrated the time where she needed brain surgery without health insurance.
4.) He Desecrated the Very Mission of the Album
Despite the disagreement from the other members, RZA’s 88-year ban came with a reason. He explained that the non-commercialization clause was necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the album as a work of art, kind of like a painting by a Renaissance master. More importantly, the clause deflects any notion of a publicity stunt.
In comes Martin Shkreli and the whole thing turns into a publicity stunt of epic proportions. During the 2016 US presidential elections, he claimed that he would release the album for free download if Trump won and destroy it if Clinton won. Well Trump won, but the closest thing he’s done to fulfil that claim is stream the intro and two tracks on his YouTube channel. The whole thing was basically just a ploy for more eyes to watch over him.
5.) He Harasses People
To be blunt, Shkreli’s various trolling activities on the interwebs are really creepy. After journalist Lauren Duca released an essay for Teen Vogue titled “Trump is Gaslighting America”, he decided to target her. Being a professed Trump supporter, he did it on his president’s favorite platform: Twitter.
He started with sending her a DM asking if she would like to be his date for the inauguration.
I would rather eat my own organs pic.twitter.com/IgeCRZqk8w
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 5, 2017
Shkreli followed it up by adding “I have a small crush on @laurenduca (hope she doesn’t find out)” on his Twitter bio, and changed his profile picture to a photoshopped photo of him and Duca. The original photo was one of her and her husband, a fact which would make any normal person cringe. If that wasn’t enough, he updated his profile banner to a college of the journalist’s photos.
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 8, 2017
On the bright side, many others don’t agree with the album sale. During his trial’s jury selection, over 200 possible jurors were dismissed. Juror No. 59, however, has got to be my favorite.
I feel you, Juror No. 59. Like they said, “Wu-Tang Clain Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit”.