It is impossible to make some things up. The story of a rap album recorded by one of rap’s most famous rap groups is beyond impossible. But, here we are, as Rolling Stones writes regarding the appearance of Method Man and Ghostface Killah earlier last week.
Here’s the story. Martin Schreli, also known as the Pharma Bro, paid Wu-Tang members $2 million for the only copy of an album named, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.” Pharma Bro had the only copy. Then, Pharma Bro was sentenced to seven (7) years in prison (securities fraud) and forced to turn over the album to the Justice Department. So, now, the exclusive album is in the hands of Jeff Sessions, who as Attorney General, heads the Justice Department.
Super…duper…crazy, I know. So, two prominent members of Wu-Tang show up on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. And, the rappers proceed to challenge Jeff Sessions (who is in the form of a Keebler elf cookie) for release of the album to the public. After Sessions refuses, Method Man eats the pastri-fied AG.
The world is getting some new music. The government owns the album, which means the public owns the album. So they can get streaming and publishing dollars for its release. But, and this is what is fascinating, given the treatment of this album, this instance of money being paid for the exclusive ownership of an artwork transforms the entire genre. Musical art here is being treated like visual art, where it’s value is based on limiting its distribution. That is a novel and scary proposition.