Wu-Tang Clan’s Millionaire Album Buyer Comes Forth, Just As RZA Distances Himself.
Last month, it was reported that Wu-Tang Clan’s perceived seventh album had been sold for a sum of more than $1 million. Produced by veteran Wu affiliate Cilvaringz, the work featured vocals from all members (reportedly including the late O.D.B.), largely recorded in Morocco. More interestingly, the album known as Once Upon A Time In Shaolin was released as just one single copy, not to be reproduced for 88 years.
However, despite the reports, nobody came forth. Some speculated that RZA’s Hollywood friend and collaborator Quentin Tarantino was the owner, while other respected sources vowed the whole affair was a hoax. Bloomberg has come forward to not only identify the buyer, but delve into the 32 year-old’s reasoning for putting down the “C.R.E.A.M.” for the Clan.
Martin Shkreli is the only man on earth who can claim ownership of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. The pharmaceutical mogul has a reported penchant for music memorabilia. Bloomberg reports, “[Shkreli] started collecting music-related items. He once joked on Twitter about trying to buy Katy Perry’s guitar so he could get a date with her. He purchased Kurt Cobain’s Visa card in a Paddle8 auction and occasionally produces it to get a rise out of people when it’s time to pay a check.”
Paddle8 is the same auction house that joined forces with Wu-Tang Clan to take the album to market. When Paddle8 played a public snippet of the LP at New York City’s Standard Hotel, Martin was in attendance. As the auction house founder Alexander Gilkes proposed that the album’s ownership would lead to significant reason for more celebrities to take interest in his private life, the mogul’s interest reportedly increased. “[It was] then [that] I really became convinced that I should be the buyer,” Shkreli said. He would be arranged to meet Wu-Tang abbot RZA, who dined with Martin. “We didn’t have a ton in common. I can’t say I got to know him that well, but I obviously like him,” reflected the millionaire on the famed producer/MC.
Before finalizing the the album’s purchase, the 32 year-old high bidder was reportedly granted an additional, partial listen of Once Upon A Time… The business publication reports that Shkreli sent someone from his staff. Afterwards, the deal was sealed…although Martin will not publicly state the purchase price of the LP.
Although a motive in purchasing the Wu album was to gain friends and influence peers, its new owner’s business practices have been deemed controversial, on both sides of the political aisle. Bloomberg analyzes that “Shkreli’s new company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, had purchased an anti-parasitic drug called Daraprim and raised its price from $13.50 a pill to $750.” This is the medication deemed a “life-saving AIDS pill” by The New York Daily News. In response Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called into question this raise as an act of greed. “Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous,” she tweeted. Republican candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump publicly attacked Martin also. “He looks like a spoiled brat to me,” Trump said.
RZA has also reacted to the Turing Pharmaceuticals association with Once Upon A Time… The Hip-Hop star told 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.” Perhaps this is why it took six months for the sale to circulate in the media, despite initial reports stemming back to early 2014. Neither the charities RZA and the Clan selected, nor the percentage of proceeds was disclosed.
Reportedly planning more artists one-off albums (a proposition that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, among others have toyed with), Martin Shkreli is unapologetic to the millions of Wu-Tang Clan fans who may never hear an album that he can say he owns. “At the end of the day, they didn’t buy the last album or the one before that, and all they had to pay was $10.” he is quoted to have said.
In 2014, Wu-Tang released A Better Tomorrow, which debuted at #29 on the Top 200.