When legendary rap group the Wu-Tang Clan announced that they were only going to sell one copy of their final album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, to the highest bidder, fans immediately erupted in anger. Things got even worse, however, once it was revealed that the buyer was one of this year’s most notorious figures.
When Wu Tang announced the album, group member Robert “RZA” Diggs told Forbes, “We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before. We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music. We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”
“The music industry is in crisis,” members of the group wrote on a new website for the album. “The intrinsic value of music has been reduced to zero. Contemporary art is worth millions by virtue of its exclusivity…By adopting a 400 year old Renaissance-style approach to music, offering it as a commissioned commodity and allowing it to take a similar trajectory from creation to exhibition to sale…we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music.”
Shkreli, who has been called “the most hated man in America,” has been a collector of music items for a while; he purchased Kurt Cobain’s old Visa card in an auction. As a rap fan, he decided he should become the owner of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” especially because doing so would afford him the opportunity to meet celebrities. Martin Shkreli, is widely known as the pharmaceutical executive responsible for skyrocketing the price of AIDS drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750. Bloomberg Business reports that Shkreli purchased the album to the tune of $2 million.
“Then I really became convinced that I should be the buyer,” said Shkreli. He got to have lunch with RZA after he purchased the record. The controversy around Shkreli’s price gouging scandal hit right around the time he closed the deal with Wu-Tang.
“I was a little worried that they were going to walk out of the deal,” he says. “But by then we’d closed. The whole kind of thing since then has been just kind of ‘Well, do we want to announce it’s him? Do we not want to announce it’s him?’ I think they were trying to cover their butts a little bit.”
It seems that RZA wants to distance himself from Shkreli. The producer wrote to Bloomberg, “The sale of ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ was agreed upon in May, well before Martin Skhreli’s [sic] business practices came to light. We decided to give a significant portion of the proceeds to charity.”
Surprisingly, Shkreli hasn’t listened to it yet — he told Bloomberg he wants to wait until he has a particularly bad day to listen to it. But he could be goaded into pressing play earlier by one special lady.
“I could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that,” Shkreli said. “But for now, I think I’m going to kind of save it for a rainy day.