Here’s a Complete Timeline of the Wu-Tang Clan and Martin Shkreli Feud
We may only be a month into 2016, but beef has been the main point of emphasis for many artists. But one of the more unlikely spats to have emerged as of late is one that involves the Wu-Tang Clan and a pharmaceutical executive named Martin Shkreli, who's the owner of the enigmatic Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.
Secretly recorded over several years, the album has gained attention from the public for being a a one-of-one release and has garnered the kind of hype reserved for mythical -- yet unreleased -- LPs like Dr. Dre's Detox and Andre 3000's rap solo. This is quite appropriate, being that no one outside of a chosen few have ever heard the album to date due to RZA refusing to release it directly to the fans.
Instead, RZA decided to sell the 31-track double-album to the highest bidder in an auction. “We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before,” the Wu-Tang leader told Forbes in 2014. “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.”
RZA was the first Wu member to speak on record about Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Although many of the other members of the Wu disagreed with RZA's move and said so publicly, the album was sold to Shkreli, who has been at odds with the crew with different members of the crew ever since. We put together a timeline of the beef between Shkreli and the Wu-Tang, giving a step-by-step rundown of the situation.
After much speculation, in December of 2015 it was finally announced that someone had purchased the Wu-Tang Clan's mysterious Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album. That person was none other than pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli. Already infamous due to increasing the price of an anti-parasitic drug Diaprim that he had acquired the rights to by 500 percent, Shkreli reportedly threw done $2 million for the one-of-one 31-track double album -- a project that has yet to be heard by the public. “I was a little worried that they were going to walk out of the deal,” Mr. Shkreli told Bloomberg Business about the album purchase. “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?’"
Just when rap fans thought that the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin saga was over and done with, news began circulating that there was a loophole in the agreement that Shkreli signed. The rumor was that a member of Wu-Tang or actor Bill Murray could attempt to steal the album back. The rumor stemmed from a Twitter user who goes by the name Rob Wesley, who posted a section of the purchase contract Shkreli inked with RZA and company. RZA would fuel the comments on Twitter, tweeting, "We're really getting the urge to call Bill Murray." He would later admit that Bill Murrray is not included in the contract in any way. The rumors were completely untrue.
While RZA's plot to regain possession of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin may have been a hoax, it was certainly no charade when Martin Shkreli was arrested and charged with securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy on Dec. 17, 2015. Investigators allege that Shkreli operated his former hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management, and biopharmaceutical company called Retrophin Inc. as a “Ponzi-like scheme,” where every subsequent venture was used to pay off defrauded investors from the prior one. After being released on $5 million bond, TMZ reported that his copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin could be seized by the government. That would be true if it was determined that the money used to buy the album was earned through fraudulent measures or if Shkreli is found guilty and ordered to pay restitution. The possibility of the government ending up with Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was just the latest in a series of unforeseen twist of events involving the album. Even the FBI chimed in on the matter.
Many rap fans may have detested the thought of Martin Shkreli being in possession of one of the most coveted albums in the history of hip-hop and the nefarious plans that could be in play, but the RZA showed no such concerns in an interview with Bloomberg. “He bought it, he can do what he wants,” RZA said. “Art, the beautiful thing about art, from my standpoint, is that it has no discrimination. What we’ve done is historical, and you can’t remove that.” He did mention that it would be great if Shkreli decides to use the record to create good will. “If Mr. Shkreli feels philanthropic, he has the power to do something really cool, you know what I mean?” RZA said. “He could do something that would allow more people to hear the record.”
Members of the Wu-Tang Clan had been mum on the subject of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin following Shkreli's purchase of the album, but Ghostface had a few words for the pharmaceutical exec in January. “That shithead,” Ghostface told TMZ in reference to Shkreli. “Fuck him. You don’t take some AIDS pill that you have for what? I guess it’s like $7 and then make it like $800. You don’t do that. I don’t care if he bought the Wu-Tang… whatever, whatever, whatever. But on that note, that’s why he’s crazy.”
When asked about Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, Ghostface maintains that he has no control of what happens to the album, but hopes that the people will eventually get to hear it. He doesn't seem to understand the point of withholding the record from the public. “Right now, that’s out of my hands,” the rapper said. “I’d like the owner to be the people. Whatchu gonna hold it for 88 years for?"
Ghostface Killah may be known for putting people in their place, but the wise words of Ghost Deini had no affect on Martin Shkreli, who shot back at the Wu member with a few tweets poking fun at his album sales and calling him over the hill. "Ghost mad that Shaolin outsold his last 5 albums… dude’s a non-profit rapper. Calls himself ironman, but sounds rusty AF," Shkreli wrote, before hinting that Ghostface could expect more words coming his way. "A @GhostfaceKillah response tomorrow evening. Don't cry, Ghost. All rap careers come to an eventual end. Long time coming, motherfucker," he tweeted. Shkreli gives Ghostface fair warning that this is only the calm before the storm.
Ghostface Killah was approached by TMZ following Martin Shkreli's multiple tweets mocking him and decided to dish out some more jabs directed at the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album owner. “This the man that wanna be beefing, right? The Michael Jackson nose kid?” Ghostface asked after pulling up an unflattering picture of Shkreli. He continued his impromptu roast fest, stating, “Check that nose out... it look like he done carved his nose up.” The rapper warns Shkreli that he’s not the one to engage in a game of the dozens. “C’mon, bruh, you don’t even wanna do it. I’ll break ya heart in four days, you know what I mean? In four days.” Ghostface may have felt that he had the last laugh, but time would prove otherwise and show that Shkreli is a super villain of the highest order.
Martin Shkreli drew the ire of many fans after Vice reported that Shkreli threatened to destroy the sole copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. In a profile on the reviled pharmaceutical executive, Shkreli says, "I’m not just the heel of the music world. I want to be the world’s heel.'" While his comments were more than likely an attempt to stoke the fire already surrounding the album, given what the public knows about Shkreli, him doing the unthinkable wouldn't be far-fetched and is surely within the realm of possibility.
If you're at all familiar with Ghostface Killah, you'd know he is not one to trifle with (ask Action Bronson), but Shkreli managed to one-up GFK in terms of a videotape threat. Of course, TMZ got their hands on the brief clip, which finds Shkreli talking tough to Ghost while surrounded by his own goons.
“Most people don’t ever try to beef with me, know why?” he asked. “Because nobody’s that dumb... For whatever reason you think it’s okay to beef with me but that’s a big mistake. At the end of the day, I feel very sorry for you. You’re an old man who has lost relevance and you’re trying to reclaim the spotlight from my spotlight, and that’s not going to work, Dennis."
Shkreli continues disparaging Ghostface, going as far as threatening to remove the rap legend's vocals from the album and demanding a written apology from the rapper.
"In fact, if you ever say some dumb shit again, this Shaolin album, I’m going to erase all your shit on this album. I’m going to erase you from the record books of rap," he continues. "You’re my son, you have to listen to me. I butter your bread, you understand me. Without me, you’re nothing...I expect you to write me a written apology from the heart. Some contrition, some long letter where you explain you’re sadness and sorrow for what you’ve done."
We'd advise Shkreli not to hold his breath waiting for any remorse or pleas copped from Ghostface, but he proves to be more than willing to trade barbs with all comers, even a legend like Pretty Tony.
In light of the recent publicity surrounded his purchase of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, Martin Shkreli was invited to Power 105's The Breakfast Club radio show for an interview. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the whole Clan, including Ghost, but we’re talking musically,” Shkreli explained. “There’s a difference between music and real life and personas.”
Addressing his back-and-forth with Ghostface, Shkreli refused to mince any words or wave the white flag.
“He disrespected me," Shkreli said. "It definitely felt like the guy was taking shots at me. In the hip-hop game as we all know, it’s not easy to be on the receiving end of those things without jumping back… It’s not even a hip-hop thing, it’s a man thing...especially publicly.”
The pharmaceutical exec gives GFK his props as an artist, but makes it clear that the Wu member puts no fear in his heart and even threatened to slap him. “He’s one of the greatest rappers ever, but he’s still a man, he bleeds the same blood as me, it’s both red," he states. "And if you want to talk shit, I’m not the one... If he were here right now, I’d smack him right in the face.” Shkreli's words threw many rap fans for a loop and served as yet another sign that he isn't scared to throw down the gauntlet at a moment's notice.
Martin Shkreli may be quick to speak under normal circumstances, but he did the exact opposite during a congressional hearing surrounding the price of pharmaceutical drugs. He even opted to plead the fifth when questioned. Shkreli's tactics frustrated South Carolina Representative Terry Gowdy enough to get him to bring up the Wu-Tang Clan album in an attempt to get Shkreli to talk.
“We can even talk about the purchase of Wu-Tang Clan -- is that the name of the album? The name of the group?” Gowdy asked, but Shkreli continued to remain silent on all matters. Shkreli's refusal to talk made headlines and put the enigmatic Wu-Tang album under the microscope once again.