MTV’s annual Video Music Awards took place on Sunday, and popular artists like Blackpink, Nicki Minaj, and Flo Milli performed there as musicians typically do: in person. But the performance that left viewers the most buzzed—or maybe just confused—came from rap veterans Eminem and Snoop Dogg. The two first appeared onstage sprawled out on a black couch, the latter toking a comically oversize joint, before the venue’s giant screen displayed them falling headlong into a spiral that transformed them into two of those Bored Ape avatars and transported them to, you guessed it, the metaverse.
So, uh, how did this come to be? Who, exactly, thought it would be entertainment gold to turn these men into rapping apes? Is America over? Allow me to help you make sense of … all this.
I know, right? On Thursday, the official Instagram account for the VMAs announced that Eminem and Snoop Dogg would be teaming up for an “EPIC” performance of their most recent collaboration, “From the D 2 the LBC,” at the ceremony. Neither of the two had taken the VMAs stage in a while: Eminem last appeared at the awards in 2010, Snoop in 2005. The two also hadn’t done a song together since 2000’s “Bitch Please II,” from The Marshall Mathers LP, and their last joint VMAs appearance was in 1999. So for longtime fans of the two, who would last have caught them together during the Death Row–themed Super Bowl halftime show or through the video for “LBC,” this was a big moment.
But … apes?
Yeah, we’re getting there. Both rappers are still prolific songwriters, but they’re also heavy crypto-world enthusiasts. When the craze over nonfungible tokens, or NFTS, took off last year, Snoop and Em quickly got in the game themselves. The latter dropped his first token collection, ShadyCon, for sale in April 2021, offering hundreds of comic book–like NFT drawings themed around his biggest songs. In December of that year, he also nabbed himself an NFT from the infamous Bored Ape Yacht Collective for about $450,000 worth of cryptocurrency, subsequently changing his social media profile photos to his new cartoon primate.
Snoop Dogg has steeped himself even further into Web3. Last September, he went all-in on NFTs and virtual reality by moonlighting as an online trader, changing his own profile pictures to weed-branded Nyan Cats, and offered some fans access to a digital “party room” decorated with all sorts of pixelated Snoop memorabilia. He also got himself a Bored Ape in December, and in February, only a few days prior to his Super Bowl billing, he purchased Death Row Records, the legendary rap label that had released classics like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic as well as Snoop’s first full-length solo projects. After pulling those albums off streaming services, Snoop publicly talked up his plans to turn Death Row into an NFT-centric label that will also “put out artists through the metaverse,” although details on those efforts are still sparse.
In May, Snoop also released the album Metaverse: The NFT Drop, Vol. 1, which doesn’t require either metaverse knowhow or NFT ownership in order to stream. One month later, he dropped “From the D 2 the LBC” with Eminem during Apefest 2022, which premiered the video for the Bored Ape Yacht Club event’s attendees.
So they really want to make NFTs part of their music, huh?
Indeed. As you can see, the concept for the “From the D 2 the LBC” video starts off similarly to the VMAs performance: Em and Snoop working together in the studio, the latter puffing on a ridonkulous blunt and letting the smoke float into Eminem’s headspace. The overwhelming high takes the two to an animated versions of their hometowns—Detroit and Long Beach, California—that they inhabit in the form of their NFT avatars, rapping syncopated verses that sound just as bored as their apes.
They’re allowed to do that?
It seems so! Yuga Labs, Bored Ape’s parent company, is listed in the credits for the “LBC” video alongside Nathan Love, a New York–based animation studio that’s since partnered with an NFT intellectual property licensing website run by Bored Ape itself. Clearly, Bored Ape would like to establish an IP gold mine for its NFTs with the help of some of our biggest celebrities.
So how did the MTV thing happen?
According to MTV News itself, the network partnered with Yuga Labs to bring the song to the awards ceremony. The same day MTV officially announced the live performance, it tweeted that the exhibit was inspired by Otherside, an in-development metaverse platform owned by Yuga Labs that’s been teased for months. (It also led to a blockchain fiasco in April when “deeds” for Otherside-exclusive land were opened for purchase, fueling a demand run that inflated costs and burned millions of dollars’ worth of crypto.)
The Em-and-Snoop song and performance appear to be part of the gradual Otherside rollout. Bored Ape was a heavy presence in all the promotional posts leading up to the performance, and the official Twitter account for Otherside sent a thank-you to the rappers for their “quick trip” during the VMAs, implying that all the colors and apes and animations played on screen that night were all courtesy of that very metaverse platform.
But what exactly did we see in that performance?
Well, you saw virtual versions of Snoop and Eminem, first as lifelike humanized video game–style performers, then as rapping versions of their respective Bored Apes, wardrobes and fur to match. They appear on all sorts of, um, weird flags and cars and spaceships and barren backgrounds, in contrast with the Detroit- and Long Beach–specific visual details from the original video. Near the end, the two IRL rappers “wake up” onstage from their weed-induced slumber and metaverse trip onstage, launching into a live singalong of the song’s chorus as 3D-animated versions of their apes tower over the stage and head-bob approvingly. (Thankfully, no Tupac hologram appeared.) A behind-the-scenes video tweeted by Eminem shows how the rapper performed his verse in a dark room, his movements tracked to guide those of his animated ape in the VMAs video.
But … why?
I don’t know! And clearly, Eminem fans don’t really know either, considering how unhappy comments on the rapper’s subreddit were following the VMAs. (One representative post reads, “First time in years i’ve seen everyone on here agree on one thing. This NFT shit he’s doing is straight up ass.”) Bored Ape evangelists loved it, though, and are hoping this means still more integration of real life with metaverse apes to come. They may also be hoping that this provides a boost to NFT sales, which have been flagging all year, causing Bored Ape values to plunge despite the brand’s celebrity links.
Did Eminem and Snoop win anything at the VMAs for this?
No. “From the D 2 the LBC” was nominated for Best Hip-Hop Song but lost to Nicki Minaj’s “Do We Have a Problem?,” and they didn’t even get nominated for Best Metaverse Performance (an actual thing), whose honor went to Blackpink. Better luck next time, fellas. In the meantime, you can get special edition ape NFTs based on the song and performance, if that’s your speed.
Is the future of rap all cartoon apes now?