Martin Shkreli hijacked the Wu-Tang Clan's legacy to welcome in Donald Trump's presidency

Source: AP
Source: AP

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, just as the election was called, Martin Shkreli, the notorious pharma bro who made a name for himself hiking the price of AIDS medication and a staunch Donald Trump supporter began to follow through a promise he made long ago: He leaked some of the Wu-Tang Clan's mythic Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, an album the famed New York City hip-hop ground only made one copy of, which Shkreli bought for $2 million.

"If Trump wins, my entire unreleased music collection, including unheard Nirvana, Beatles, and of course, Wu-Tang, comes out, for free," Shkreli tweeted back in October. Early Wednesday, he played a few selections of the album, streaming it via Periscope, but when pressed to drop more, he toyed with those demanding a follow through.

With Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, Wu-Tang had been trying to make a point about seeing music as valuable again. Now, their music has become collateral, a pawn in an ideological game of chess. 

It's hard not to view this as an apt metaphor for what the next few years under a Trump/Pence presidency may feel like. Both Shkreli and Trump literally hold the legacies of once powerful black cultural figures in the palms of their hands. Trump and the Republican party's stacked political setup can potentially undo much of Obama's legislation surrounding health care, LGBT rights and policing reforms. Shkreli, accompanied by his league of Trumpers, will determine how history receives one of the Wu-Tang Clan's boldest musical experiments.

To a far lesser degree, with far less at stake than the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans at stake, this is an incremental taste of what it will be like watching a Trump presidency unfold.

Source: YouTube

The rhetoric surrounding race in this election adds another sinister layer to this current hostage situation. Data reveals that a significant portion of Trump voters feel that black people are lazier and inherently more criminal than their white counterparts. Shkreli has distanced himself somewhat from this view, reassuring the world in a July tweet: "Even though I prefer Trump, racism, homophobia & sexism have no place in the US & I have a zero-tolerance to any harboring those ideas."

Knowing that Shaolin is now inextricably tied to the Trump campaign, feels an immense insult to a group that redefined gangsta rap in the late '90s.

Source: YouTube

Shkreli has said he wants to negotiate terms with Wu-Tang Clan's blessing before releasing the album in full, and none of the major players from the Wu have commented on the matter as of yet. But the damage feels done. For many fans, listening to this album will likely do little but bring up the pain of this election, if it ever arrives. On the bright side, maybe, it's reportedly a little formulaic.

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Tom Barnes

Tom Barnes is a senior staff writer at Mic focused on music, activism and the intersection between the two. He's based in New York and can be reached at tom@mic.com.

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