This is an opinion editorial by Jacob Kozhipatt, a YouTuber and writer.
One of the world’s most prominent celebrities and cultural influences, Ye — formerly Kanye West — recently publicly showed support for bitcoin. Ye wore a custom-knitted hat embroidered with the anonymous founder Satoshi Nakamoto’s name on it days after JPMorgan Chase & Co. canceled the music icon’s account.
Many in the Bitcoin community point to his financial cancellation as to why bitcoin matters. While Ye’s remarks have been interpreted as anti-semetic and many were offended, they were not illegal — so it could be argued that it is unfair to unbank him. However, as JPMorgan is a commercial company, not a government entity, it is within their rights to not serve the artist. Thus, many cryptocurrency enthusiasts believe that Ye may see the value of the decentralized financial system bitcoin provides.
Ye has a rocky history with cryptocurrency, as one of the first altcoins, Coinye West, was named after the controversial artist. Ye, then known as Kanye West, promptly sued and shut down the project. Ye also spoke out against NFTs during the peak of their hype in 2021. That said, while Ye has critiqued other cryptocurrency projects, he’s been relatively supportive of bitcoin in the past.
So, could Ye’s financial cancellation be what pushes him to dive fully into bitcoin? And, perhaps more interestingly, is Ye’s presence positive or negative for the digital currency?
Why Ye [Kanye West] Is Good For Bitcoin
Many Bitcoiners are excited with the prospect of Ye showing support for bitcoin.
Ye is one of the most significant cultural figures of the 21st century, with figures like Elon Musk, Virgil Abloh and Chance the Rapper all citing the Chicago native as an inspiration. His music garners tens of millions of plays every month, and his brand Yeezy is considered to be one of the world’s foremost streetwear brands. In fact, in under a decade Ye went from a relatively unknown name in the world of fashion to making up 10% of Adidas’ total revenue. Thus, many bitcoin supporters hope that Ye could bring a lot of attention, and potential new users, to bitcoin.
Moreover, the controversial businessman arguably has an ideological reason to support a bitcoin-based system. Many bitcoiners, who often skew libertarian, would point to JPMorgan ending their relationship with the artist as a perfect explanation for why the cryptocurrency matters.
Roger Ver, known online as “Bitcoin Jesus,” argues that one of the main reasons cryptocurrency matters is it banks the world’s misanthropes. For people in countries like Iran, North Korea and Russia –– enemies of the United States, ergo enemies of the world’s reserve currency –– bitcoin exists to bypass the financial sanctions imposed on them. Many speculate Russian oligarchs used bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a means to preserve their wealth during the period following Russian sanctions.
Why Ye [Kanye West] Is Bad For Bitcoin
Ye’s career has been mired in controversy, from his 2007 statement that, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” to interrupting Taylor Swift during her VMA award. Despite this controversy, he’s constantly been able to come back stronger, becoming one of the greatest selling artists of all time and willing a multi-billion dollar streetwear brand into existence. But, as Travis Andrews writes for the Washington Post, it seems as though this time he may have pushed it too far.
Ye, who himself admitted that his remarks were intentionally provocative, recently lost multiple lucrative partnerships with Balenciaga, Vogue, and Adidas. Keepers of culture, like Anna Wintour’s Vogue Magazine, have permanently cut ties with the musician. Other media companies have followed suit, saying that they will stop platforming Ye’s controversial thoughts. Moreover, Endeavor CEO Ari Emmanuel wrote a piece in the Financial Times urging businesses, including music streaming platforms, to avoid partnering with the designer. This is all to say: Ye’s brand is severely damaged — and it arguably isn’t good for his reputation to be intertwined with bitcoin’s.
Moreover, many think that Ye doesn’t have a serious passion for the digital currency. Mahbod Moghadam, founder of Helladoge.com and a bitcoin whale, who is himself Jewish, expressed in a direct message that Ye’s presence would be good for bitcoin, but doubted that the rapper actually believed in the digital currency, saying “he seems not to know/care about bitcoin which is disappointing.”
Ye admitted to not understanding bitcoin, and while he may have a casual interest in the idea of bitcoin as innovative, it doesn’t seem that he wants to commit serious capital or time to the cause.
How Will Ye Impact Bitcoin?It is hard to determine what Ye’s effect will be on bitcoin — or if he’ll even mention it again.
Ye faces several personal and professional problems at the moment, and is unlikely to take on any new causes. While he should use bitcoin to transfer his money out of JPMorgan — bitcoin regularly transfers hundreds of millions of dollars for a fraction of the cost of traditional payment methods — he most likely won’t. Ye admits to not knowing that much about bitcoin, despite knowing about cryptocurrencies for close to a decade.
The social power of Ye supporting bitcoin may also mean very little. As many brands — both in media and business — are distancing themselves from the former billionaire, it can be assumed that his public perception is at an all-time low. That said, Ye still has millions of followers who readily pay attention to everything the artist says, and maybe that could translate positively for the cryptocurrency.
This is a guest post by Jacob Kozhipatt. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.