Today, there is a vigorous debate raging between cryptocurrency and centralized currencies. Bitcoin celebrated its tenth anniversary this year, and cryptocurrency values overall were climbing again after a period of decline. Media interest increased again too, and with it, arguments about cryptocurrency’s volatility and ultimate value to society. Was it still just a speculative fad without real utility? Or a foundational technological breakthrough on the order of the Internet itself?
As an investor and technologist, I am interested in cryptocurrency on three levels: as an asset (i.e. a digital alternative to gold); as a currency (to create a new transactional layer on the internet); and as a platform (to build alternative kinds of financial applications). As such, Greylock is an investor in both Coinbase and Xapo.
And as both an entrepreneur and an engaged citizen, I believe that respectful but spirited debate is an important attribute of any healthy society. Pitting diverse ideas and viewpoints against each other is how you test, evaluate, and refine them — and that’s how learning happens and progress is made.
Given this, the cryptocurrency debate seemed like the perfect subject for a battle rap! We decided to pit the original bankster himself, Alexander Hamilton, arguing for the merits of centralized currencies against cryptocurrency’s mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto.
I enlisted EpicLLOYD from Epic Rap Battles to play Hamilton, Timothy DeLaGhetto to play Satoshi, and legendary lyricist Gift of Gab to host the battle. The video includes cameos from dozens of cryptocurrency pioneers and Internet entrepreneurs alike. Indeed, one of the most rewarding aspects of this project was getting people like Adam Back, Wences Casares, Dylan Field, Charlie Lee, and Zooko all in one place and having great conversations on where cryptocurrency is heading.
Why produce a battle rap music video that debates the strengths and weaknesses of centralized and decentralized currencies? Chalk it up to the influence of Lin-Manuel Miranda!
Like thousands of others who’ve seen Hamilton, I was delighted and amazed by Miranda’s musical vision and talent. And I was particularly struck by his two “Cabinet Battle” songs, and the way he used battle rap to express the opposing viewpoints that informed the issues and debates underlying fundamental moments in America’s development.
Since then, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using battle rap to explore some of the most polarizing issues that characterize our own era.
These days, however, debate often consists of little more than ad hominem attacks, synchronized shouting, and reflexive efforts to abort any competing perspective with charges of, as our factually allergic President puts it, “FAKE NEWS!” There’s lots of noise but very little listening.
But while battle rap is obviously competitive in nature, what I realized watching Hamilton is that it’s also a form of discourse where extremely attentive listening routinely occurs. Because battle raps are won and lost based on who presents ideas and arguments in the most clever, funny, and linguistically creative ways, participants and listeners alike pay close attention to what’s being said.
As we note in the video, it’s still not clear if Satoshi is a pseudonym, a group of men, a man from Japan, a damn hologram, or a grouponym — okay, I just freestyled that last one right now — so who knows if he, she, or they showed up? But watch closely and maybe you’ll spot something I missed.
More importantly, I hope the video gets more people talking about crypto and its evolving role in global commerce. As I wrote in Wired UK four years ago, I’m a strong believer that at least one global cryptocurrency will eventually achieve mass-market adoption. In 2014, I personally invested in Blockstream and led Greylock’s investment in Xapo. In 2017, my Greylock partner Josh McFarland led our investment in Coinbase.
But as far as cryptocurrency has come in ten short years, we’re still in the early days of this technology. And since I believe that informed, civil, and open-minded debate ultimately leads to more innovation and adaptation, I hope the debates continue.
So check out our new video — and share your perspective on our YouTube page when you do. We value your feedback. In fact, we’re rewarding one bitcoin, split between two winners. But don’t expect us to show up at your door with an over-sized paper check. Our prize is going to be distributed quickly, seamlessly, and digitally!