“I myself hold bitcoin,” Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and a member of the PayPal Mafia, told CoinDesk as he described his reasons for releasing a new hip-hop video about central banks competing against cryptocurrency.
Hoffman’s interest in bitcoin goes back years, yet it would be a mistake to lump him in with the burn-traditional-banking-down school of long-time evangelists.
“I am a pro-government and well-run society guy,” he said, and yet Hoffman – a partner at VC firm Greylock – also believes a small handful of global cryptocurrencies will arise, inevitably, because they will enable things the world wants and needs.
“So that’s why I have this, to elevate the discourse,” he told CoinDesk.
The video is a small offering to the online discussion about the future of money in a much catchier format than we usually see. It pits actor-rappers playing Alexander Hamilton (the U.S. Founding Father and first Secretary of the Treasury) against Satoshi Nakamoto (the person (or group) that released the code that powers bitcoin).
Hoffman was inspired to make the video by watching the musical “Hamilton.”
He wanted to borrow the didactic rap format to improve the dialogue around an important topic and felt that the fight between traditional banking and decentralized capital made sense.
It’s an approach that will be familiar to fans of the YouTube channel Epic Rap Battles of History (ERB), the two main characters go back and forth rhyming out key points supporting each side and taking down the other.
“As if banks these days still help people make money,” the emcee playing Nakamoto, YouTuber Timothy DeLaGhetto, spits in response to the necessity of banking. “The interest in crypto’s on rapid ascent. What’s your current interest? Like half a percent?”
But the pro-banking side can give as good as it gets.
Epic Rap Battles member EpicLloyd plays Hamilton, with objections to crypto such as, “Untraceable money, wow, so clever. One typo in your address and it’s gone forever.”
Just in case readers aren’t familiar with this particular genre, consider checking out Gandhi vs. Martin Luther King, Rasputin vs. Stalin and (this reporter’s all time favorite) Eastern Philosophers vs. Western Philosophers.
And indeed this isn’t the first time that someone has borrowed the format to make an economic argument. In 2010, economist Russ Roberts teamed up with the group Emergent Order to do a video called “Fear the Boom and Bust” about the economics of contemporaries John Maynard Keynes and (crypto favorite) Friedrich Hayek.
Which side are you on?
With regard to this entry in the cannon of historical hip-hop, it’s hard not to view the video as pro-crypto.
Who wins in a debate: Alexander Hamilton or Satoshi Nakamoto?
— Reid Hoffman (@reidhoffman) September 4, 2019
The video is littered with cameos from the industry’s Illuminati, such as Charlie Lee, creator of Litecoin; Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn, co-founder of Zcash, Lily Liu, co-founder of Earn.com; Elena Nadolinski, founder of Beanstock; Wences Casares, CEO of Xapo; Ben Davenport, co-founder of BitGo and many, many others.
If people say that the video is really just an argument for cryptocurrency, Hoffmann says, “I think I am OK with them saying that.” But he continued:
“I do think it’s good for the world to have one or more cryptocurrencies, and I think one more of those will be bitcoin or a derivative of it. I think that’s a good thing.”
Since his early days in technology, he saw companies come along that helped society work in new and better ways. For example, at PayPal, he saw individuals empowered to accept payments, which paved the way for millions of small businesses.
He saw bitcoin as a chance to offer similar new benefits, such as in emerging markets. He said he thought at the time, “This could be super important toward helping build society the way it should be.”
But really the underlying message of the video is not so much crypto replacing the banking system, but how the conversation can evolve so that both institutions advance in a way the improves more lives.
“What you are really doing is a design goal of how you evolve crypto networks and how you evolve banking systems, so that both are a part of a well-ordered society.”
Screenshot via YouTube / Rhyme Combinator