Last night was obviously a good night for terrible human beings. As Donald Trump triumphed over Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election, Martin Shkreli, the “pharma bro” who paid $2 million for Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time In Shaolin album last year, took that as a cue to resume his campaign for celebrity scumbag status.
“If Trump wins, my entire unreleased music collection, including unheard Nirvana, Beatles, and of course, Wu-Tang, comes out, for free,” he tweeted last month. Just as Trump spent his victory speech lying through his dentures about being a President “for all Americans,” Shkreli didn’t exactly keep his word.
Following Trump’s upset victory, the 33-year-old jumped on Periscope and streamed just two songs from Wu-Tang’s album. However, for a project that was produced not by RZA, but by a Wu super fan by the name of Cilvaringz, and was dubbed a “fake Wu-Tang album” by Method Man, the record actually sounds better than you might think.
The first track Shkreli played was the album’s opener, which features Kung Fu dialogue and a typically cinematic intro from Raekwon. “All my Liquid Sword n*ggas, all my Cuban Linx n*ggas, Tical n*ggas, who was riding through the darkness with us,” says The Chef over ominous strings and sounds of thunder. “Once upon a time in Shaolin. The saga continues…motherfuckers.”
After that, Shrkreli previewed track number two, a vintage-sounding Wu banga featuring energized verses from Inspectah Deck and Method Man. Even Shkreli couldn’t help but to crack a smile as Rebel INS laid Cilvaringz’s pounding production to the sword: “You best protect ya neck / Take your own life when you mess with Deck / Surrender whatever you rep / You was never a threat."
Technically, this isn’t the first time Once Upon a Time In Shaolin has been played for the public; last year, RZA and Cilvaringz treated a group of art collectors and critics to 13 minutes’ worth of the album at New York’s MoMA PS1. Complexpraised the music as “raw and rugged down to the mixing and mastering. The dusty yet crisp signature sound that evokes a fierce blade, both razor-sharp and rusted would feel very familiar to fans of vintage Wu-Tang. Lyrically the album also felt like a return to form.” It sounds like an accurate review, even based off the two songs we’ve heard.
But it might not be too long before we get to hear the album—in full—for ourselves. During his Periscope stream, Martin Shkreli hinted that he plans to release Once Upon a Time In Shaolin with the approval of the Wu-Tang Clan, who he believes also want it in the hands of the public (just ask Method Man).
"I gotta to decide how to put [it] out — there’s about 30, 35 tracks. I actually have a contract with the Wu-Tang Clan where I’m not allowed to do this. Obviously I own the music and I bought it and I paid a lot of money for it. In many ways, the contract shouldn’t matter that much. But I am a man of my word, I had to play a little bit of it. I also have to keep my word to them, too. I think they want the music to come out, but it has to come out in a way to support [them]."
So much for making a single copy of an album, auctioning it off for millions of dollars and keeping it out of public reach for 88 years. After dropping the whole museum tour idea, selling it to a giant douchebag and potentially granting a wide release, RZA’s goal to restore the value in music isn’t exactly working out as planned. He said himself, “[the album] can be given away for free” and “it will be the owner’s decision to release it or keep it as a single unit, not the Wu-Tang Clan’s.”
It looks like Martin Skhreli is taking option A.
Even if it does go from a $2 million treasure to a free .zip file, Once Upon a Time In Shaolin still sounds like the best Wu-Tang record in years.
By Andy James. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: YouTube