Pharma Villain Martin Shkreli Paid Millions For The Mysterious Wu-Tang Album

Someone is not necessarily a decent person because he or she has decent taste in music. You’ve probably learned that difficult life lesson by now, but if you need a refresher, consider the case of hedge-fund shitface Martin Shkreli, who got famous earlier this year when, as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of the AIDS/cancer drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per tablet. (He recently agreed to lower the price, but hasn’t yet, and has said publicly that he should’ve jacked the price up even higher.) Shkreli was the main investor behind Collect Records, the label run by former Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly, and Rickly had to make the difficult decision to sever all ties with Shkreli, once he learned that Shkreli was a greed-driven sociopath, even though the decision put Rickly’s label in peril. And today, we learn that Shkreli is the one asshole in the world willing to pay millions for a secret Wu-Tang Clan album.

If you’re still catching up on this ridiculous story, last year the RZA announced that he and the Wu-Tang Clan had recorded a new album called Once Upon A Time In Shaolin. But the album wasn’t going to be available to the public. Instead, RZA claimed that there would be one copy of the album, and he would only sell it to one person; the asking price was $5 million. That copy was being kept hidden away in Morocco, and it comes in a hand-carved box, with a leather-bound book of parchment paper, and a pair of custom speakers worth $55,000. The group spent years recording the album in secret, and it features at least one guest-vocal from Cher. Thanks to some contractual provisions from RZA, the buyer won’t be able to let the public hear the album for 88 years. RZA has said that owning the album would be like owning “the scepter of an Egyptian king.”

Well, Shkreli bought the album. RZA announced last month that the album had been sold, but he wanted to keep the buyer secret. He only said that it was an American collector who had paid millions. People guessed that it was RZA’s friend Quentin Tarantino. Nope. Shkreli did not care about keeping his purchase a secret, and now Bloomberg Business is reporting that it was him.

Shkreli was one of many buyers who were reportedly interested, and he went to a private listening session and had lunch with the RZA. Of the RZA, Shkreli says, “We didn’t have a ton in common. I can’t say I got to know him that well, but I obviously like him.” (Shkreli also claims that he loved Wu-Tang’s early single “C.R.E.A.M.,” which is just too fucking perfect.) Shkreli reportedly paid something in the neighborhood of $2 million for the album, so I guess he got a bargain.

Around the time he was negotiating the deal, the news of his Daraprim price-gouging broke. He says, “I was a little worried that they were going to walk out of the deal. 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.” In a statement, RZA says that after he learned about Shkreli’s business practices, the group “decided to give a significant portion of the proceeds to charity.” He doesn’t say how much, or which charities.

To Wu-Tang fans who might be pissed off about his purchase, Shkreli says, “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.” Shkreli also hired Fetty Wap to play a Turing Pharmaceuticals company holiday party, and about that, he says, “Typically you would say, ‘As an average fan, I can’t get Fetty Wap to give me a personal concert.’ The reality is, sure you could. You know, at the right price these guys basically will do anything.” Fucking charming. Shkreli hasn’t listened to Once Upon a Time in Shaolin yet yet. He says he’s going to save it “for a rainy day,” but “could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that.”

So, to recap: Shkreli is driving AIDS and cancer patients into bankruptcy, and driving up insurance costs for the rest of us, so he can own this ridiculous monument to his own opulence. Meanwhile, RZA and the rest of the Wu are profiting from this asshole’s rapacity. In short, everything sucks, and the world is built entirely for rich fuckfaces.

UPDATE: On Twitter, Shrkeli solicited suggestions for his next “private album,” remarking, “If there is a curious gap in your favorite artist’s discography, well, now you know why.” And as Pitchfork notes, he generated a spreadsheet of potential candidates including Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Prince, David Bowie, and Paul McCartney. The tweets and livestream are below.