Iggy Azalea is cashing in on crypto, as her ‘memecoin’ makes $194 million in one week

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Iggy Azalea knows the power of a meme. On Wednesday afternoon, the Grammy-nominated rapper shared a photoshopped image of herself breastfeeding Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum. The caption: “He was just hangry.”

The meme was designed to troll Buterin following his rebuke of her Solana-based “memecoin,” Mother Iggy ($MOTHER), that began trading last week. Celebrities should only launch cryptocurrencies to serve “some kind of public-good,” instead of “financialization as the final product,” he wrote.

Memecoins are a tongue-in-cheek subculture of crypto. Anyone can launch a currency in the name of anything. Merging finance, internet trends and gambling, investors flock to the highly speculative assets during viral moments.

“I don’t think peace is very profitable when it comes to the landscape of memecoin,” Azalea said in an interview with Fortune. “It’s what drives virality, it drives my community, and it drives our market cap, and that’s what I’m here to do. So respectfully, get out of the way.”

‘Cash rules, make my own rules’

Six years on from rapping the lyrics “Cash rules, make my own rules,” Azalea is doing, well, just that. Following its first week of trading, Mother Iggy’s price has soared by 1,200% to around $0.20, reaching a market capitalization of over $190 million, according to CoinMarketCap as of June 7.

This underscores a broader trend of celebrities turning to memecoins to monetize and engage with their fanbase without a middleman. While some find the trend obnoxious, it appears to be both profitable and an effective way for some celebrities to find their way back to the spotlight. 

“I’ve listened to more Iggy Azalea over the past few days than at any point in the last decade—there may be a lesson in there,” Teddy Fusaro, president of Bitwise Asset Management, told Fortune.

Mother Iggy’s launch was both accidental and considered. After spotting a scammer on Telegram posing as Azeala in order to launch a memecoin, she was forced into action. “If this guy says he’s launching my coin in 24 hours, I’m launching mine in 23 hours,” she said.

But she’s been observing crypto from the sidelines since 2020. Watching non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and Web3 art projects come and go, she knew there was something for her in the industry—she just wasn’t sure what. Memecoins felt like a trend fueled by a language she can speak.

“I’m someone that naturally has had so many memes over the course of my career; things go viral on purpose or accidentally. I felt like it was a space I could really engage with in a successful way,” she said.  

Considered to be the currency of micro-trends, memecoins themselves have become the trend of crypto’s most recent renaissance, arguably usurping the role NFTs played during the previous bull market. The value of popular Pepe ($PEPE) and Shiba Inu ($SHIB) have soared 363% and 201% respectively, in the past year-to-data, according to CoinGecko data. Some of the zaniest successes this year? Jeo Boden, Doland Tremp, MAGA Hat, Elawn Moosk and even Good Gensler, trolling the SEC’s Chairman, Gary Gensler. 

Economic nihilism?

Omid Malekan, an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, told Fortune that he views memecoins are the “ultimate proof” that blockchain technology is the financial infrastructure for the digital age. “Where else could celebrities issue a fan asset without having to go through a gatekeeper and reach so many people?” he says.

However, like all forms of democratization, it’s a corner of crypto often rife with scams. Issuers can deposit large amounts to themselves, promote the coin to send the price soaring, and then pull the rug.

“These celebrity-backed coins are scams and will go to zero pretty quickly. While anyone should be able to use any platform, these coins omit material information, are misleading and often violate securities laws,” Terrence Yang, Managing Director at Swan, told Fortune.

But Azalea insists she’s no rug-puller. She says wants to find long-term utility for the coin and thinks the celebrity buzz offers a way for the retail industry to engage with Solana. The two start-ups she has co-founded—a contract-free phone data provider, and a site for gifting and crowdfunding—will allow customers to pay with Mother Iggy coins. But her ultimate goal is to transition Mother Iggy into a stablecoin. “That would be like the Holy Grail,” she says.

But not every memecoin project has been a success, suggesting a large online following doesn’t guarantee investors. Last week Caitlyn Jenner ($JENNER) also hit Solana, however, it has been cast in Azalea’s shadow, hitting a market cap of under $10 million, with just 7% growth in the past week.

In the realm of critical memecoin theory, Azalea theorizes two pillars of success. One is a willingness to engage with the crypto community where they are at. In her case, the former involved creating a Telegram channel within days of trading. The second is playfulness—cut to Azalea’s provocative memes—and leveraging crypto’s trolling culture.

So, rather than memecoins becoming a common tool in a celebrity’s arsenal, Azalea predicts there will be just a handful who will be able to strike the right tone and monetize.

Another hurdle celebrities may face is regulation. Malekan argues that unlike Bitcoin or Ether, memecoins should be treated legally like gambling, “otherwise it will be very easy for celebrities to abuse having their own namecoin and treat it like a cash grab,” he adds. He wants to see issuers being transparent about how much they retained and the high chance of volatility.

But ultimately he sees the growth of memecoins, meme stocks and gambling as indicators of economic nihilism: “People feel like they need to do risky things with their money to get ahead.”

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