A week ago I wrote about how the the single-copy Wu-Tang album is essentially a sham, a cash grab cloaked in marketing schemes and empty art talk. And I closed that piece by asking who in their right mind would spend millions on a watered down Wu-Tang album.
Well, now we have our answer - Martin Shkreli. If that name sounds familiar it's because he's the pharmacology CEO who recently became infamous for buying the rights to a drug relied on by AIDS patients and jacking up the price by 5,000% overnight; because get rich or kill people trying, that's why. In the age of the internet we're often too quick to demonize people who make complicated, human mistakes, but nope, here was a person who was just purely and simply a terrible human being.
“I really became convinced that I should be the buyer,” Shkreli told Bloomberg BusinessWeek, explaining how auctioneer Paddle8′s chief Alexander Gilkes had wooed him with a private listening session at the Standard Hotel, suggesting the album would allow him to mingle with famous people who wanted to hear it." - Forbes
And now that terrible human being owns the Wu-Tang album, and he bought that album with blood money of AIDS patients so he can mingle with famous people. To say this is the worst case scenario doesn't do the idea of a worse case scenario justice. When I wrote that it was upsetting to watch the Wu-Tang's name, a name that had always served as a symbol of the people, become a rare art item only the wealthy will ever touch, I pictured the album in the hands of some billionaire who would tuck it away forever in one of the closets in their Monaco mansion; maybe a Getty, a Rothschild perhaps. But this guy?
And so the story of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, an album once celebrated as revolutionary tool to redefine the worth of hip-hop, an album fawned over by the media in art museum listening sessions, ends, not with a bang but with a disgusted whimper.
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]