Not everyone can explain what an NFT is, but few would argue that non-fungible tokens—whether in the form of NBA Top Shot clips or members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club—became the defining cultural medium of 2021. Artists such as Beeple and Pak made headlines and set records at auction houses. Membership in the aforementioned BAYC set a new bar for social cred. Mark Zuckerberg ripped the term “metaverse” out of the Geek Bible (aka, Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Snow Crash) and thrust it into mainstream headlines. At their worst, NFTs were inexplicable—and very desperate—marketing grabs by Hollywood studios, brands, and celebs. At their best, they’re boundary-pushing art pieces and content (novels, games, movies) that democratized ownership and distribution in the arts. Then there were some odd ones that defied categorization. Herewith are some of the stranger fruits born from 2021’s NFT boom.
Because who doesn’t need a retro-tastic, animated GIF of an evolving slow-cooker over the ages? In honor of the Crockpot’s 50th anniversary, Sunbeam ventured into web3 and auctioned off just such an NFT on the NFT marketplace OpenSea, with bids beginning at 0.03 Ethereum (about $100). The video features the original 1971 model (remember when all appliances were beige?) in blocky, 2D animation, bubbling over with some kind of ragout. The dinner-prep marvel then morphs into sleeker models from the newly-launched Design Series warming up a pot of ramen. Sunbeam leaned in hard on the metaphor. “We began as a simple bean cooker that minimized kitchen-time for busy homemakers,” read the press release. “But we know we need to evolve by appealing to the next generation of creative, at-home cooks. The solution was synthesis: blending past, present, and future. And while our new Design Series did that by bringing those cooks an iconic appliance with a modern aesthetic, this NFT did it by storing the classic Crockpot on blockchain rather than in the cupboard.”
A metaverse milestone in 2021 was certainly this: an NFT signed with the Hollywood talent agency CAA. That would be Jenkins the Valet, a digital character plucked from Bored Ape Yacht Club—the blockchain-based social club where users adopt avatars of quirky-looking monkeys—but which then evolved into its own headline-grabbing intellectual property, and, yes, agency representation. Created by Tally Labs, Jenkins is a surly-looking ape with a heavy underbite and bad teeth. He wears valet garb (vest, cap) and has over 25,000 followers on Twitter, where he began posting his origin story in May. Three months later, he hit the blockchain as a series of NFTs that sold out in six minutes and generated more than $1.5 million in sales. Buyers were given access to a members-only website called The Writer’s Room, where they could help provide fodder for a community-driven NFT book through a choose-your-own-adventure format. Enter CAA, which paired Jenkins up with author Neil Strauss (Rules of the Game), who will help craft the book. TV shows and movies are sure to follow, natch.
Cyber Eau de Parfum
The world’s first “digital fragrance” arrived this year via Berlin-based Look Labs, which used near-infrared spectroscopy to create a digital reflection of a perfume’s molecular wavelengths. (For what that means, see here.) Artwork based on the perfume, Cyber Eau de Parfum (but of course), was sold as an NFT, along with 10 accompanying digital artworks. Then 888 physical versions of the unisex perfume also hit the market —the number is a nod to the year the French perfumery that produced it was founded: 1888. Per Look Labs, Cyber Eau de Parfum’s scent was “inspired by sci-fi movies and a world in which technology, AI, and advanced scientific innovations are integrated part of our daily lives.” It’s a bouquet of “energizing headnotes” that then “blends into a heart of incense, chilling out the scent into zen wooden notes and amber.”
Snoop Dogg sitcom
The first NFT sitcom came courtesy of—who else?—Snoop Dogg, who partnered with the Harlem Globetrotters to drop Da Dogg Gone Gym on the blockchain platform Vast in October. The show, which is set to a soul-funk background track, features a 1970’s-era Snoop Dogg playing a Globetrotter trainer trying to whip the team into shape. The project was part of a larger Globetrotters campaign—New Tech, New Trainer, New Tour—which includes a new theme song penned by Snoop Dogg. The Globetrotters project is just one piece of the rapper’s burgeoning NFT empire. He dropped an original track, NFT, as a non-fungible token back in March, and under the alias Cozomo de’ Medici has amassed $17 million in NFT holdings, including nine. coveted CryptoPunks.
NFT toilet paper
Charmin entered the NFT space with the first-ever NFTP (non-fungible toilet paper)—a digital art piece inspired by the brand. The marketing stunt went even further, offering a “physical display” in the event that buyers wanted to “hang your NFTP in your bathroom alongside your IRL rolls.” Five unique NFT collectibles were offered, with early bids ranging between $500 and $2,100. One of the NFTs featured the familiar, cuddly Charmin bears, but others were original art pieces by artists Donna Adi, Shanee Benjamin, and Made by Radio. The move was one of many made by brands—including Pizza Hut, Budweiser, and Adidas—to leap into the crypto space as a means of drumming up noise. Whether it did the same for toilet-paper sales is less clear.
In keeping with the potty humor theme, Brooklyn-based film director Alex Ramírez-Mallis opted to comment on the lunacy of the crypto craze via a collection of non-fungible farts. The sounds were recorded over a year’s time during quarantine with a group of friends, who initially shared them via WhatsApp. When the NFT market began exploding, Ramírez-Mallis and his buddies turned the recordings into a 52-minute “Master Collection” audio file and put it up on the blockchain for sale. NFTs of solo farts were also available for purchase. “The NFT craze is absurd—this idea of putting a value on something inherently intangible,” Ramírez-Mallis to the New York Post. “These NFTs aren’t even farts, they’re just digital alphanumeric strings that represent ownership . . . . I’m hoping these NFT farts can at once critique [the NFT bubble], make people laugh, and make me rich.”