The CEO of Goldman Sachs moonlights as a DJ and is even making (awful) dance tracks. We’ve had about enough of it. How electronic music is playing a vital – and viral – role in the whitewashing of Wall Street’s most notorious bank.
Lloyd Blankfein is a loathsome man. The longtime CEO and chairman even looks like a movie villain, hired straight from central casting at a time when Goldman Sachs was hated and despised for its role in the 2008 financial crisis and the rewiring of the world economy to vacuum up as many of the crumbs that fell to the ordinary people and return them to the top of the food chain, where they belonged.
“The world’s most powerful investment bank,” Matt Taibbi famously wrote in Rolling Stone, “is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” It wasn’t just the company he kept: Taibbi noted that in 2008, when tens of thousands of Americans lost their homes, Goldman Sachs paid a paltry $14 million in taxes — barely a third of the compensation Blankfein personally took home.
In reality, Solomon been fucking up dance music with a violence that rivals Goldman’s blood funnel feasting on the American commonweal — and it seems like it’s about to be supercharged to the next level.
Despite seeming to relish in his reputation as the Darth Vader of the new American economy, Blankfein has clearly learned that not all PR was good PR, particularly when it leads the man in the street to want to see you pushed up against a wall. Blankfein’s Wikipedia entry — like that of many scoundrels from the Great Recession — has been endlessly laundered until it’s now scrubbed of all compelling information. Nowhere on that page will you learn about allegations Blankfein lied to Congress, manipulated stock prices, used offshore tax havens to drop Goldman’s taxes from 34% to 3.8% in a single year and defrauded investors while profiting from the fraud. Goldman fought the latter charges all the way until 2016 when it paid a $5.1 billion fine and admitted all.
None of this is listed in Blankfein’s entry, which is sort of like writing an essay about Robert Downey Jr. that doesn’t mention cocaine.
It’s surreal — and shows how effective the whitewash campaign has been — that it’s 2020 and I feel the need to illustrate for the 1,000th time all the appalling and outright illegal things Goldman Sachs has done. It’s a long fucking list. Hilariously, Wikipedia has a gigantic article in 17 sections entitled “Goldman Sachs controversies,” none of which have made their way to the profile of the man who lead the bank through nearly every one of them. Or — more likely — they were on his page, but have since been whitewashed away.
The Wikipedia whitewash is in reality just one front in Goldman’s war to absolve their corporate sins and whitewash their reputation into being seen as a benevolent force in American life. Goldman has also launched a “community” program called “10,000 Small Businesses” — a transparent tactic by which the bank which was the face of robber baron capitalism for the past generation seeks to hide behind Chip and Bob, owners of your local hardware store. 10,000 Small Businesses is obviously a more acceptable face of capitalism than the one Americans from all across the political spectrum are rebelling against. Goldman launched the initiative, according to the Washington Post, with a goal “to give 10,000 people with established businesses accelerated training in growth, including coursework.”
Apparently the solution to the financial sector’s capture of the economy and democracy as a whole is assigning us some homework.
But that’s not all they’re doing. They’re also planting an endless series of fawning stories about Blankfein’s replacement, the kinder and gentler face of Goldman Sachs: new CEO David Solomon.
As someone in the music industry, you’ve likely heard about David Solomon even if you don’t recognize the name. He’s the so-called “Goldman Sachs DJ.” Or as he calls himself on weekends away from the Hamptons: “DJ D-Sol.”
Solomon made $23 million a year according to one of a score of recent puff pieces about the “Goldman Sachs DJ,” but don’t get it twisted: he’s more Vampire Weekend than Vampire Squid. A profile by Jade Scipioni for CNBC is more than a match for Blankfein’s sanitized Wikipedia profile.
Solomon, Scipioni tells us, is an Everyman of the American financial superclass, with the charming simplicity of the special man who doesn’t realize just how special he is.
“I mean, why wouldn’t you take the subway?” Solomon opines. This quote itself has been laundered by CNBC from yet another profile of Solomon, this time in Fortune, but it’s crucial here in showing what a rebel Solomon is. It’s revealed after Scipioni discloses that Solomon actually “fetch[es] his own coffee at the office” but before we find out that supplicants who already have an appointment with Solomon are allowed to walk right past the receptionist — really — and just knock on his door.
But the stage lights here once again illuminate the most interesting thing about this most interesting CEO: his love of music — and DJing in particular. Like the teenage rebels of Footloose, Solomon’s love for the rhythm gives him life and can’t be restrained by the conventions of the button-down world. “Certain Goldman Sachs’ board members” are unhappy with Solomon’s quirky ways, we’re told. The CEO who spins under the name “DJ D-Sol” admits that “some of his associates urged him to hang up his headphones.”
“You know what, it’s who I am, and nobody would tell me not to play golf,” Solomon tells us. “And why shouldn’t I — because I’m a CEO?” CNBC is quick to add that Solomon donates all of his DJ earnings (amount: unknown) to charity, which makes one wonder how he affords that $24 million apartment in The San Remo in Manhattan or the $36 million estate in Aspen. Or, more recently, the two private jets ordered in breaking a Goldman Sachs taboo that even his predecessor Blankfein wouldn’t violate. I mean, why wouldn’t you take the subway?
It’s incredible that stories like this still exist and proliferate, with at least 30 to 50% of the American electorate favoring candidates that want to pull the tarp off the guillotine and sharpen up its blades to deal cleanly with problems like the ones Goldman has profited from.
But this isn’t about one or two stories. Profiles or aggregated stories about the “Goldman Sachs DJ” appeared on over 100 websites in 2019 alone, with multiple stories on CNN, Business Insider and CNBC. The dance music press picks these up almost unedited and usually adds a bit of wry sarcasm but nothing that questions why a 57 year old man’s DJing hobby is suddenly the talk of the town. After all, as Solomon tells us, nobody would write about him playing golf, would they?
Solomon is beneficiary and Goldman the likely benefactor of a PR campaign in which his DJing is being highlighted as something quirky, unusual, “humanizing.” It’s as phony as the “10,000 Small Businesses” program, paid for by money of the kind you and I can’t even dream about — and a compliant and frankly stupid media can’t stop themselves from falling for it.
It might paint a softer, gentler, more nuanced portrait of the man piloting the Vampire Squid, though the stories are often remarkably scarce on the details of Solomon’s actual musical ability.
Which is the next logical question: everyone wants to know what kind of music an investment banker/DJ would play.
Scipioni for some reason describes “DJ D-Sol” as something akin to an open format DJ (“think Guns N’ Roses and The White Stripes,” Scipioni tells us). This is completely wrong, but I guess you get what you pay for. In reality, Solomon been fucking up dance music with a violence that rivals Goldman’s blood funnel feasting on the American commonweal — and it seems like it’s about to be supercharged to the next level.
With his banking career soaring, David Solomon has been able to place original tracks with some of the top EDM labels in the world. His debut — you really can’t make this up — was an EDM cover of Fleetwood Mac’s wide-eyed easy-listening anthem “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow).”
His latest is for the label we might consider EDM’s spiritual extension of the moneyshitters at Goldman Sachs — Spinnin’ Records — and it’s another cover, a bass massacre of Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It.”
It’s everything you’d expect from EDM sweated out from the soul of a man, the soul of a banker who knows that a good drop isn’t just a way to leverage high interest debt from dying local governments.