One unwritten rule of the internet is that anytime a new financial and/or cryptocurrency-related and/or inscrutably money-generating innovation gets attention, two things will occur: 1) There will suddenly be countless Twitter accounts related to it, many of them sketchy-looking or at least mysterious, and 2) a famous rapper will get involved, somehow, some way.
As expected, this has played out in the world of NFTs. When nonfungible tokens—often one-of-a kind certificates for a piece of digital artwork—exploded in popularity beginning late last year, a bustling and strange Twitter scene popped up right along with it, earning the blessing of Twitter CEO and crypto enthusiast Jack Dorsey. Online NFT communities have tended to enjoy the privileges of relative anonymity and obfuscating pseudonyms. As a result, there are all sorts of significant power players about whom no one knows anything. The guy who reportedly hacked Banksy’s website to sell an NFT of one of his artworks? Unknown. The artist known as Pak who sold tens of millions of dollars of NFTs through Sotheby’s? Unclear. The hot shots who bid the most money within the marketplace? You get the idea.
This is also the case with a mysterious NFT trader known as @CozomoMedici, whose handle invokes the Renaissance patron Cosimo de’ Medici. 2021 Medici doesn’t have quite have the luster of the original, but since joining Twitter and the NFT marketplace OpenSea in late August (profile bio: “For over 700 years, we have loved the jpegs”), he’s garnered a significant following in the NFT world, as well as $17 million worth of tokens, while laying out his rapid journey to becoming an asset-rich collector along the way. Medici garnered and publicized enough significant works—procuring the reported “holy grail” of rare NFTs, buying items whose proceeds were sent to benefit Afghan refugees, ponying up enough cash to break sales records—to become a star in a matter of weeks.
A week ago, the Medici account tweeted that it would reveal its true identity in order to leverage “considerable fame” to “bring many welcomed eyeballs to NFT.” That’s right—the newest NFT star on the scene is apparently a dang celebrity! And by Monday, none other than Snoop Dogg had tweeted from his personal account that he is Cozomo de’ Medici. Shortly after this unmasking, the Doggfather briefly changed his personal Twitter to a weed-themed Nyan Cat NFT that Cozomo owns in his collection, and sent a cryptic tweet on Wednesday encouraging his fans to “follow the wallet.” A few hours later that evening, Medici offered an “ticket” to 10 users who discovered “the secret soirée.” The users who did uncover this event, as confirmed by Medici himself, had found a “Snoop Dogg Private Party Pass” on the OpenSea network. One of the accounts that won the ticket, @fastackl, tweeted an inside look at the “party” room, which featured pixelated avatars of the Snoop Dogg logo, a pot leaf, and a very Snoop Dogg–looking figure alongside an actual dog, all soundtracked to “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” The party also resembled a “metaverse” design Snoop would tweet on Thursday, hosted on a virtual network known as The Sandbox that Medici has tokens for.
A lot of outlets covering the tech, crypto, and music worlds immediately pounced on this revelation. It seemed plausible, after all: Snoop became an NFT evangelist earlier this year; much like Medici, he is a wine enthusiast; Medici had claimed to be “dear friends” with NFT creator Justin Aversano, who earlier this summer had given away tokens of an iconic old Snoop photo. However, there were still a few things amiss about this conclusion, as Jordan Pearson and Jason Koebler reported Wednesday at Vice. For one, Medici claimed to have a home in Lake Como, Italy, throughout this time, posting original photos as proof, but Snoop doesn’t appear to have been in Italy at all this summer, much less lived in the country. And on Sept. 10, Medici tweeted a photo with Jason Derulo from this region (the R&B star had also attended a wedding in the area around this time), with his face obscured by his pixelated avatar. But not only does IRL Medici appear to be far shorter than Snoop is in that image, he also seems to be a white man. It seems as though this was part of a stunt to both promote Derulo’s new NFT investments and to tie a famous name with Medici.
Right before the Snoop tweet, the Cozomo account pledged not to bring up its host’s supposed fame again, so as not to distract from the noble quest of pouring “many millions of the Medici fortune to work in the jpegs.” But now one has to wonder: Who is Cozomo Medici really, and how did some random, possibly Italian trader so rapidly become an NFT star with enough clout to advise celebrities like Jason Derulo and, apparently, Snoop Dogg, anyway?
One theory, as laid out by Bitcoin tweeter @IzzyEibani, is that Medici is actually Russ, a popular rapper-singer who’s collaborated with Snoop and also gotten into crypto. There are some promising leads here: Russ is short and white and of Italian descent; per his Instagram, he was in Italy for much of the summer; and he dropped tracks titled “Lake Como” (in which he claims, like Medici, to have a “villa on the water”) and “Italy” in July and early August, respectively. Plus, back in January, he tweeted about how he bought Bitcoin five years ago after being convinced by Milan, presumably referring to the Italian city. Italy has a burgeoning crypto scene (albeit with some restrictions) and is hosting NFT events, so it doesn’t seem unlikely that Russ’ home country not only got him into the scene but inspired him to make its history part of his NFT theme.
While this seems the most likely theory to me, it’s worth looking at other possible options. After all, the Medici account had teased revelations of his identity for weeks, nudging followers to make their own guesses, which ranged from Bitcoin personalitt Dan Held to Mark Zuckerberg. Among the names Medici himself pushed out (which, notably, do not include either Snoop’s or Russ’ name): Jason Derulo, Elon Musk, Muse frontman Matt Bellamy, a jpeg trader named Keyboard Monkey, George Clooney, Golden State Warriors owner Chamath Palihapitiya, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It was all likely an attention-seeking stunt, to be sure, yet certainly an effective one.
There are possible connections when it comes to a few of these names. Derulo, who was the earliest major celebrity explicitly linked to the account, is an obvious suspect—however, besides his one photographed visit to Italy, he doesn’t appear to have been in the country all that often. Bellamy sold some NFTs in July and once had a residence in Lake Como … which was listed for sale in 2017. A Twitter user noted aspects of George Clooney’s life that make the actor a contender—but Clooney is extremely not online and has not had any documented ties to NFTs (not to mention, he’s pretty tall).
Still more possible candidates have been put forward. Some users noted that Richard Byrne, the infamous conspiracy theorist, is a longtime crypto trader whose former company, Overstock, has its investments managed by a blockchain-focused firm known as Medici Ventures. However, Byrne has claimed Italy was behind “election fraud” in the U.S., making it unlikely he’s too eager to embrace the country’s culture, and anyway he’s been busy dealing with legal troubles stateside. Meanwhile, Medici had previously tweeted out a Forbes profile of a teenage crypto investor as “Clue # 1” regarding Cozomo’s identity, but the young trader in question has few ties with Italy or any rappers.
So, what have we learned? I am personally sold by two possibilities: 1) that Russ is Medici; or 2) that Cozomo isn’t famous but is a kind of “asset manager for celebs” including Snoop, Derulo, and others, as a comment on the Ethereum subreddit theorizes. There’s another potential explanation: that whoever is running @CozomoMedici is just some random guy with a lot of money who was then able to pay his way to the top. Whatever it really is, this stunt certainly has attracted more eyeballs to NFTs. Mission accomplished, I guess.