A Beginner’s Guide to Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency, According to Nipsey Hussle
Everyone wanted to cash in on the cryptocurrency craze at the close of 2017. Led by Bitcoin's steep rise in value, the digital currency space made both headlines and big bucks for those who invested early and shrewdly. But Nipsey Hussle was way ahead of the opportunists.
Following the advice of Marc Ecko, the Los Angeles rapper got on board with Bitcoin back in 2013, studying up on the decentralized peer-to-peer currency that had launched four years prior. Today, he's a beneficiary of and ambassador for the growing industry—in August, he bought an ownership stake in Amsterdam-based crypto company Follow Coin, which seeks to inform potential investors on the moves of expert traders.
"The hip-hop culture shouldn't be left out like we always are," Nipsey tells XXL. "Our influence is leveraged, but we're always left out until it's too late. That’s why I thought it was important to be involved as an entrepreneur and to be vocal and bring it to the hip-hop consciousness, so that people who have resources and assets available can participate."
With the release of his major-label debut LP Victory Lap approaching next month, Nipsey phoned XXL to explain the appeal of cryptocurrency and why you may want to invest sooner than later.
XXL: How did you first get exposed to cryptocurrency?
Nipsey Hussle: In 2013, the week before I dropped Crenshaw, Complex wrote an article that said that Nipsey Hussle is one of the top 25 underperforming artists. I was so offended that I responded with my own opinion about these journalists—their point of view is not validated in our culture. Marc Ecko—owner of Complex at the time—caught wind of it. He was like, “Come to the office. Let's talk.”
We had a real convo outside of just the article. I was telling him my vision for The Marathon store: creating a retail network across the country in a physical place where people could walk in and experience the aesthetic of the brand, kind of like the Apple store or Disney stores. He was like, "That's dope, but think about e-commerce. I want you to research this thing called Bitcoin." That was 2013.
So I fly to L.A. and when I get back home, on the front page of the Los Angeles Times finance section is an article about Bitcoin. I took that as a sign. From that point I started paying attention to form an educated opinion. Once I started getting the details—why these programmers remained anonymous and created a version of currency that people could trade—I'm like, “This makes perfect sense.”
Having been a follower for a few years now, how did it feel to see the boom that happened in crypto in 2017?
Seeing what happened with Bitcoin, Ethereum, LiteCoin and the whole category is confirmation for a lot of the things that we were suspecting. I didn't think Bitcoin was gonna explode that fast. To see Bitcoin go to $17,000 [last year]—even me, as somebody that was on it early—that caught me off guard. It made me even zoom in a little bit more.
I remember seeing PayPal and Apple Pay get integrated, and it took a while. But imagine when you can pay for Starbucks with cryptocurrency, when you could checkout on Amazon with your cryptocurrency. What will that do to the value and the confidence of people investing? That's the opportunity. When retail accepts it as a form of payment, you gonna see the real boom. For these coins to be where they're at, it lets you know how high the ceiling is.
You're seeing it slowly happening—the Bitcoin Futures market opened in December and Bloomberg has embraced major cryptocurrencies, too. These are important financial institutions.
Right, and just for the record, the resistance is purely political. I don't think that the resistance is organic. Because this currency is not linked to central banks. It's unregulated. That means a lot for the power structure that exists now. People that's in power—the central banks, these fiat currencies that are traded globally—they got influence over the messaging and the narrative in the media. When you see people on Fox and traditional investors saying, “Don't invest. Don't put your money in these coins,” that's not actual financial advice. That's political rhetoric.
What makes you so confident about the future of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?
I pay attention to politics and technology. Think about why [Muammar] Gaddafi got killed. That has a lot to do with why Bitcoin is working. Gaddafi was trying to get Africa to stop accepting fiat currencies from the United States and Europe. He was trying to get everybody on the gold dinar—they would trade resources with the rest of the world based on that. Bitcoin is the digital version of what Gaddafi was trying to do.
The U.S. dollar is not linked to any precious metal; it's a fiat currency. If you look at world history, any country that allowed a fiat currency to exist, the empire fell less than 100 years later. Every one of them. [There’s] not one exception.
So it's a overlapping amount of information that led me to believe this makes sense. It's not just a technology thing. It's something that represents the best interest of the people. These dudes that fucked up the economy in ’08, they ain't go to jail. And everybody lost their retirement, all these people lost they homes, ended up fucked over, but the niggas that was responsible didn't have no repercussions. So I think that this was a karmic innovation. To balance the lack of power that the people had, because we can't create currency. We don't own central banks. But we can, because of the internet, and because of the opportunity that the blockchain created.
That’s really interesting.
I ain't just rambling. Fact check everything I said. It'll come back 100.
The internet has disrupted the status quo and reshaped so many different industries—take music, for example—and it seems like something similar could happen with currency now.
So there's a thing called the blockchain. And there's all these different opportunities that it creates. Chris Lloyd, one of my business partners that I really respect, he works at Andreessen and Horowitz. He comes from hip-hop culture—he used to work with Jermaine Dupri—and he told me, “Nip, this how you gotta look at the blockchain. The blockchain is like the internet in 1994. Fast-forward the internet to 2018, we got Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon. All multi-billion dollar industries that was built off of this technological innovation called the internet.” There's all these entrepreneurs that are gonna use the opportunity that the blockchain creates to build the next Google. They're in their lab building right now. And over the next five, 10 years, we're gonna see these things pop up.
Critics argue that the price of cryptocurrencies are too volatile, that the price can change dramatically in very short time spans. Do you think that's something that will stabilize as it becomes more accepted into regular commerce?
You gotta watch something over the course—that's why my brand is called The Marathon. Premature certainty is the enemy of the truth. You need to pay attention to things for a while and you can start to see patterns. Bitcoin is still really new. I do agree with the critics saying be careful. And don't think that you found a get-rich-quick scheme. I don't think that's what this is. Look at the reality of what’s going on—it makes perfect sense for there to be an unregulated peer-to-peer currency that people can exchange goods and services via, without it being linked to a central bank. And it's no ulterior motive. It's honest, between the two parties. And the transaction is transparent. So, where is the flaw in that?
Your tangible stake in the cryptocurrency world is via Follow Coin. What purpose does that serve?
It's basically a conduit. The goal is to bring understanding and reputable advice for the average Joe that wants to be involved in cryptocurrency. Let's say you got $10,000 that you want to invest. Or $1,000. Follow Coin is an application where the most reputable currency traders make their advice and trades public, and you can follow these currency traders. It's like if Warren Buffet got on Twitter every morning and said, “I'm about to buy Gillette stocks.”
The hip-hop culture shouldn't be left out like we always are. Our influence is leveraged, but we're always left out until it's too late. That’s why I thought it was important to be involved as an entrepreneur and to be vocal and bring it to the hip-hop consciousness, so that people who have resources and assets available can participate.
Honestly, my homeboy Sinister Pook is doing life in jail. He’s featured on my Slauson Boy 2 mixtape—he did a piece of spoken word. We trying to get his case overturned right now, but he just invested $3,000 in crypto from a level-four prison. It's blowing my mind because it exploded and penetrated culture and the consciousness of our world quicker than I thought it would.
Did you make a bunch of money off of cryptocurrency blowing up these past few months?
Aww, we ain't gonna put that on record, man. I don't want the IRS hollering, but my brother and I, we are investing. I'ma be honest, we didn't go crazy because we wanted to pay attention to the growth. But we did benefit from the upswing that happened in 2017.
Everyone is looking for the next cryptocurrency that is going to take off, after Bitcoin, LiteCoin, Ethereum and Ripple. Are there any others that you’re watching?
Honestly, I think there's gonna be a ton of cryptocurrencies and all of them are gonna rise in value. Because they have such a base price right now that there's nowhere to go but up. Some of these coins start at a fraction of a penny.
This is a rule of branding: What's good for the category is good for everything in the category. You ever see those corners where it's four gas stations—different brands—and you be like, "Why the fuck they got four gas stations on one [intersection]." That's because the intersection becomes known as the gas corner, and all four brands benefit from each others’ presence.
Even if you look at West Coast hip-hop: One of the reasons we ain't never hate on each other as the new generation is we had a pow-wow, a convo. We was like, "Look, what's good for one of us is good for all of us. Whoever the biggest dude is, we gone respect that and support that because it grow the category.” As much as we competitive artists, we gotta understand that what's good for one of us is good for all of us. So I think that's what we're looking at with cryptocurrency. As the category grows, every coin in the category will grow, so it's about taking the coin at the right time. When the coin is undervalued, invest. When it's overvalued, watch it, pay attention to it, and try to gauge where the ceiling is gonna be. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme, but it’s something that has great potential to continue growing over the next decade. I don’t think it’s gonna slow down no time soon.
Speaking of West Coast hip-hop, what should we expect from Victory Lap? It's been a long time coming.
It represents my story. It's a collection of my narratives—real things that I went through that make being in this position incredible. When we dug up that $200,000 out my mama backyard on 60th, $100,000 of it was mildewed. I used this album to really challenge myself to create songs out of the narrative, different songs that I never really went into depth about.
Are there any rap features?
I got three of the rappers I respect the most on the album. It's other songwriters and R&B singers that I collabed with, but I shared verses with three artists. Each one gave me something classic. I know people throw that word around real frivolous, but I feel like everybody stepped up to the occasion and gave me an A-level verse. I'm excited about it. I feel like if you love hip-hop, this is a tribute to the legacy of rap music. Dope beats, dope lyrics, real stories—underdog came from nothing. Did it his way. This album is the brand of what we represent.
Is there anything else you would tell your fans who might be curious about Bitcoin and the other cryptos?
Just educate yourself. Do your research, your due diligence. It'll take a week and you'll be able to absorb the majority of the important information. It's not a hard concept to understand. If you can understand supply and demand, if you can understand throwing out free music and monetizing via the tour, you can understand cryptocurrency.
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