Martin Shkreli, the drug industry’s number one bureaucrat that America loves to hate – aka “Pharma bro” – seems to bristle when rappers poke fun of his nose. Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, represents everything that is wrong with big drug conglomerates and rising healthcare prescriptions. He has been the poster child of rapacious business practices ever since his company bloated the price of Daraprim – a drug used to treat AIDS patients – from $13.50 to $750. That’s roughly a 5,500 percent increase, in case you are doing the math. That means the cost of a monthly course for a person on 75 mg dose would be $75,000.
Described as a “vulture” and the “most hated man in America,” among other unpublishable names, the 32-year-old Martin Shkreli – who was recently arrested for securities fraud – is back in the news for his bizaare rant against a fairly well-known rapper who compared Shkreli’s nose to the late Michael Jackson’s tiny, plastic protuberance.
According to the Washington Post on Jan. 29, rapper Ghostface Killah, whose real name is Dennis Coles – a hip-hop artist and founding member of the multi-platinum east coast Wu-Tang Clan – called out the price-hiking Shkreli for his decision to skyrocket Daraprim.
“I don’t even know him,” Ghostface said earlier this month. “But I know what he did with the AIDS [drug] like that, that’s not right, that’s not right.” Coles called Shkreli a “Pee Wee Herman” and a “Michael Jackson nose kid.”
The unlikely duo also share another connection: In December, Wu-Tang Clan’s album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was sold to the rap connoisseur Shkreli, who paid $2 million to own it. The double album was limited to a single copy, and was secretly recorded over a six-year period. Finished in 2014, the LP was locked up in a Moroccan vault and auctioned off last year. Binders sold with the pressing state the purchaser cannot commercially exploit the album until the year 2103.
But Shkreli is using the album as leverage, demanding that Ghostface issue a “written apology” consisting of at least 500 words, with “no grammatical errors,” or he will destroy the album. In the two-minute, 18 second video, seen here via TMZ, the sport coat-wearing Shkreli, flanked by masked men dressed in their best impression rapper threatening outfits, promises potential peril to the album.
“If you ever say some dumb [stuff]again, this album, this Shaolin, I’m going to erase all your [stuff] from this album, you understand?” the scrawny-faced Shkreli says as his trio of goons swig alcohol. “I’m going to erase you from the record books of rap,” Shkreli says, calling the 45-year-old Ghostface Killah “an old man that’s lost his relevance.” He adds: “You have to listen to me. Without me, you’re nothing.”
After some swift backlash over his drug hike, Shkreli backed off some, telling CNN Money in late September that he “agreed to lower the price of Daraprim to a price that is more affordable.” Though he did also take a parting shot at the media, tweeting: “It seems like the media immediately points a finger at me so I point one back at em, but not the index or pinkie.”
With all of his obtuse rants, his recent arrests and overly-candid tweets, it seems Martin Shkreli is taking it squarely on the nose.