While sending out a newsletter mid-blackout wouldn’t be entirely off-brand, we opted to wait until we recovered from last week’s NFT.NYC festivities to relay them to you. Well, the wait is over. Now, tune in for Culture H0R: Gonzo Edition. Reporting dead from the meatspace metaverse.
Chad & El Prof
- If speaking to degens in person has taught me anything, it’s that enough people love crypto enough to defy all logic and manifest demand, even when all other market forces are urging the opposite.
- It’s still far too soon to say for sure, but some hopium addicts believe we’ve found the bottom.
Made out like a bandit
I’ve spent the night in New York City a few times, but turns out, you can’t really appreciate the immensity of the city from an anonymously decorated Google office. To tell you the truth, I’m not much of a city boy anyway. Something about retiring to a beach to smoke and read sounds far more appealing to me than running around a shit-saturated sidewalk in leather wingtips only to get hit by a bike courier or have a heart attack before I’m 40. But, being the Culture H0Rs we purport to be, it was important to make the pilgrimage to the annual gathering for paradigm-shifting technologies: NFT.NYC.
Laying in bed on our last day of the trip, at the green, spry age of 27; my knees and back screaming ‘why don’t you walk more’ as I’d spent 2 full days hiking circles all over town; my head toward the cloud as I burned a trail of NFTs, social handles, and alpha, the hidden gems of IRL, I started writing this reflection.
Some of the trip was spent on trad tourist activities — sightseeing along the riverfronts, getting lost on the 1 train, illicit exchanges in multiple parks, hypebeast shopping, extortionate drinks, and, of course, several late night pizzas. But it was the steadily increasing flow of Bored Ape logo and Doodle stickers appearing on those streets as the conference progressed that signaled the real reason we’d arrived.
The palpable passion for these communities in real life. The sweat-drippling-close vibes of a Chainsmokers private show. The pseudo-intellectual conversations with the rare degen who actually understands the technology. The afterparty on a yacht. There was much to take home from our first foray into boots on the ground reporting, but none stuck with me more than discovering the secret cliques and subgroups simmering under the crypto DAOs and NFT collections of this online country club.
Our own @NFT_nom bought in early to Doodles, an NFT collection currently sitting just outside the Top 10 on OpenSea. Her foresight also bought me plus one access to a number of exclusive events hosted by both the Doodles team and the perhaps even more promising teams materializing within, the origins of which we discussed over the course of the week.
The House of Bandits, for example, is an emerging NFT community focused on the art and adventures of a Doodle hodler, who street writes under the name Bandit, and whose Doodle (#2691) wears, believe it or not, a bandana. He’s a minor celebrity within the community of Doodles hodlers, wielding his art to further mythologize the world the founding team created. But he’s now building his own community, too, focused around Bandit-designed merchandise and other collectibles, which I found firsthand to be an enormous hit amongst the Doodles crowd. And there are plans to expand to include a community of Bandidos uniting under a love of street art in both online and IRL environments.
Now, most of the utility described in their statements online is fairly vague from a layman’s perspective, but what has me so excited about this project are the people behind it. Among the Culture H0R NFT.NYC party at least, Bandit was the star of the show, and his brazen acts of tagging billboards and other locations across New York made for a pretty iconic photo. But I had the pleasure of meeting a handful of the other team members in person, and came away impressed as well. A senior lead from a luxury fashion house, a growth hacking community leader, and tight but rabid base of fans (who’ve already demonstrated strong engagement by participating in a citywide scavenger hunt for collectibles hidden around the city and hinted at via tweets) hint at a niche sure thing with skyscraping upside, if you ask me.
Follow along with their Twitter if you want some serious alpha. They’re reported to mint sometime in June/July, so either it drops now at the height of NFT.NYC or fizzles out and disappears into the dark corner of the annals of history reserved for cached crypto Twitter threads. Which brings me back to the aforementioned origins of these sorts of communities, as discussed with Nom over free shots of tequila at the Doodles clubhouse.
The crux of the conversation focused on Nom’s observation that, because these communities are so large, sub-communities, or more realistically cliques, are forming inside of them to facilitate the intimacy needed to develop such an affiliation with the brand. Now, some of this segmentation is facilitated by the team themselves, in moderated Discord channels and what not. But the majority of it, Nom told me, seems to occur organically, as people who had aped into the same project together discovered the other common interests they shared with groups of other NFT holders. In an average DAO, you get the day trading and NFT flipping crowd, the extremely online finance bros who get most of the crypto criticism thrown their way. But in general, like in real life, they represent a vocal but marginal segment of the community, with other groups forming around shared languages, identities, and who knows what else in insulated channels and outside chatrooms.
Now I can’t say whether or not a community made up of separate communities with a shared interest in a brand is super viable long term. I kind of doubt it, which sucks, considering my plus one status also bought me early access to the Doodles Genesis Box. (Meaning I’m now bought in on the community in practice, if not in theory.) But community members like Bandit have demonstrated the power of wielding community clout to launch their own projects. With a fan base already built in, these subgroups can afford to be more targeted in their roadmaps, filling smaller demands and solving specific issues rather than making big, empty gestures at the future of the internet without doing a thing about it. Perhaps, the unbundling of web3 has already begun.
Gonna need a bigger blunt
Eminem and Snoop Dogg released their first collaboration in years, prompting the overwhelming response: just how deep in the ponzi is Paul Rosenberg anyway?
JK, JK. In all truth, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and rightfully so. It’s a return to form for the formerly beefing Dre proteges, the sort of ravenously hungry rapping over lavishly laid back beats you might’ve found on The Chronic 2001. (Or like, Compton, at the very least.) It’s a formidable effort from two artists who I’d assumed had stopped giving a damn a decade ago. Which makes the other element to the release all the more confusing.
Rather than focusing on the late career comeback or beef squashing of it all, the entire rollout seems centered around Snoop and Em’s newfound NFT patronage. Namely, the Bored Apes they purchased during the height of the craze last year and have since endorsed very publicly. Indeed, the single premiered at ApeFest, BAYC’s marquis NFT.NYC event. The timing is strange, considering the crypto market freefall, waning enthusiasm for NFTs in the culture at large, and the renewed coverage of Yuga Labs’ Nazi-adjacent stylistic impulses after a documentary titled BORED APE NAZI CLUB dropped on the first day of NFT.NYC.
Nevertheless, it’s racked up almost 25M views in just under two weeks, so NFTs clearly aren’t the cultural cyanide they’re made out to be by most critics. (Including, often, me.) Indeed, the avatars and accompanying animation are integrated rather tactfully, all things considered, with the end result far more comparable to an average Gorillaz video than other god awful uses of the BAYC IP like The Red Ape Family. They’ve even worked it into a narrative arc. Em gets such a raging contact high from returning to the studio with the Doggfather that he sees himself transforming into what he once loathed. Namely, a pale, algorithmically generated imitation of the real Slim Shady.
Citizen Kane it is not. And hearing a famously sober guy call himself a ‘walking motherfucking marijuana leaf’ is almost as cringe as the bar about bouncing his balls off Paula Dean’s tonsils. But no need to beat a dead horse to death. After all, we’re talking about mid-40s Eminem here. I’m just happy the totally-not-a-role-model of my youth found his groove again. Or, at the very least, found a new niche. Which, based off my brief impressions of the Bored Ape crowd IRL in NYC, checks out. Totally the type to drop a couple grand on a Paula Dean themed pinball machine.
Not today, apparently.
- Despite being the sports car equivalent of an NFT in every way, Chevrolet’s 2023 Corvette Z06 NFT received zero bids. It was listed during the conference, prompting a response from the marketplace SuperRare explaining that bidders must’ve missed it ‘due to the craziness of NFT NYC’. They promptly listed again and got zero bids again. Granted, at 206 ETH (~$240K) the ‘free Corvette’ the NFT supposedly unlocked (worth $90K) isn’t exactly free, is it? Besides, if you don’t understand why a universally useful tool is less valuable than a JPG, I can’t help you. Go rev your glorified muscle car somewhere else. Lambo wen?
- BlockFi might get bought by FTX after losing some $80M in a loan to Three Arrows Capital, a financial firm with a $7M+ collection of blue chip NFTs which recently filed for bankruptcy. The prominent exchange, known around these parts for its highkey grimy Superbowl ad, is also rumored to be pursuing a Robinhood acquisition. That’s two small steps for the world’s richest man under 30, one giant step for unjustified monopolies.
- Coinbase is reportedly providing user geo tracking data to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). So much for borderless finance and blockchain secured anonymity. Leave it to the biggest web3 profiteer to squeeze out all the genuine potential from the technology.
- And it wouldn’t be right to kick off a belated week of celebrating the NFT space without reporting that the Ethereum merge got delayed yet again. Luh mao.