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''SolPunks Pioneered The Crypto Rap Battle League'': Nicholas Sakalauskas on SolPunks and Rap Battle

A seasoned blockchain journalist & consultant keenly interested in crypto...

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Solpunks’ founder Nicholas Sakalauskas and I recently sat down to discuss SolPunks’ efforts to revive the rap battle culture through NFT and its recent partnership with Tubi.


Olayimika Oyebanji

A seasoned blockchain journalist & consultant keenly interested in crypto educatio...

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A year ago, SolPunks, an iconic NFT collection on the Solana blockchain, teamed up with FUBU, NEKTR and VODKILA to sponsor the Gladiator Rap Battle, the first NFT-backed rap contest to be held in the US. The Gladiator Rap Battle has featured budding rap artists like Shon Murdock, Swave Sevah and Quantum Physics, with each one exchanging braggadocious rhymes to the cheers of a thrilled and entertained audience.

In one of its most-watched freestyle Youtube videos, Shon, a rapper from Queens, New York, takes on Harlem-based rap artist Swave Sevah in a rap battle that saw biting sentences flying around. For this year's edition, SolPunks, the Rap Battle's chief sponsor, is partnering up with Tubi, America's largest video streaming app, to bring the contest to a larger audience, in a bid to keep the rap culture alive through NFT.

Solpunks’ founder Nicholas Sakalauskas and I recently sat down to discuss SolPunks’ efforts to revive the rap battle culture through NFT and its recent partnership with Tubi.

Nick, can you briefly tell us about yourself?

Certainly, many call me Tractor. It is a name I picked up in the crypto space. I hail from just outside the city of New York and I was born in the early '90s. I am into quite a variety of things. I've always been big on hustling, trading everything from antiques to cars, pokemon cards to video games and I'm big into nostalgia and how that gives things value.

Nicholas Sakalauskas(Middle)is flanked by co-organisers

How did your journey to blockchain begin?

So I'll be dead honest. I sold 10 bitcoin for $50 each back in the early 2000s, it was more or less only good for the dark Web at the time. Crypto was still young, This is I believe just around when Asic mining started really taking off and it was the Mt.Gox days. Only a few kids in town were into it and we all more or less helped each other debug and build various rigs.

The evolution of the crypto space and how it operates now is something we could have never predicted. There is a lot of history as to how I got involved with the space as deeply as I did. I never would have imagined being well-known or running a major NFT project, especially not one so rich in history. It's been quite a ride.

What makes SolPunks NFT unique as Solana’s iconic NFT collection?

I think for me it was love at first sight, I'm not sure if you ever saw the movie the founder, But I describe it as seeing McDonald’s for the first time. It just had the best vibe. Everybody respected what Solpunks was and what it represented. It's amazing so many people have had their hands on the project. Yet everybody respected it, nobody stole or cheated the mint, it was almost like the process was sacred.

The community we had was so unique and tight that we were able to trust each other and trade without a marketplace. Our network became the very first Solana NFT Community, the page is still up and used from time to time. Solpunks were the first NFT to be fully minted out on Solana. All the hype starts there.

True to the saying that real OGs do not fade away, what is the bond or secret keeping the Solpunks community together at a time when NFT is the butt of the joke?

I think the bond we have is unique. Our community and governance model rely on our tightness as a community. The NFT boom was really, in my eyes, everyone just trying to reproduce the SolpPunks' level of success. Deep down, we know this and don't take anything personally. The space will do what it does. Some things hurt us, some things help us. But we can't control the sentiment. All you can do is just keep moving.

How did Solpunks' sponsorship of the Gladiator Rap Battle begin?

What a great story! It actually began as a concept of small crypto-themed events. I introduced a friend of mine to what I had going on. Let's call him Chi. He plugged me in with Shon Murdock and that led to a series of calls that really explored the limits of permissionless branding. We always wanted to get Solana on board. That was a goal but FTX blew up so fast that I guess those guys didn't take us seriously at the time.

Granted it was an untested concept and they were worried about their optics but we decided to go full steam ahead with it since we had to start somewhere. Solpunks pioneered the first crypto battle rap league of its kind.

Can you tell us about the Gladiator Rap Battle and its mission?

Absolutely, It's all about small circles and high impacts. These events were built with one thing in mind, helping Change the game and familiarize everyone with the digital hustle in a way they themselves can adopt. There is no event like what we got. We want people leaving with real digital souvenirs and ideas on how they can implement this tech into their life. You recently announced on Twitter that Tubi is proud to team up with Solpunks for the rap battle.

You recently announced on Twitter that Tubi is proud to team up with Solpunks for this year’s rap battle. How did you secure this partnership?

They approached Gladiator actually. Have to give credit to Shon for pulling that together. Tubi saw the quality of our team and work. Tubi saw the quality of our team and the work we put out. They didn't want us to change a thing. I don't know if we expected to be hosted on anything as big as Tubi but we're thrilled to be given this opportunity.

What does it entail?

So our events are themed, we have some of the best names in m battle rap and we are working to make each event more impactful than the next. We have small private venues and we really get a chance to show people how they implement crypto into their events.

Do you see an NFT renaissance?

Yes, I think the NFT boom was just the start. We haven't really seen mass adoption, apart from that initial hype. regulation is still nowhere near properly being structured and ai just started breaking down the digital divide. NFT Gaming is still in its infancy. I believe we're only familiar with the toys we grew up with and a lot more is to come, especially leading up to and after quantum computing advancements.

Any parting words?

I think that covers things, I really look forward to what's to come. Not all news is as exciting as crypto news. And crypto has its cycles. If we moved properly, we should be ahead of what's to come, if not be the catalysts that directly lead to that future. With that said, thank You for your time, Ola! It is always a pleasure!

by Olayimika Oyebanji @penworth.A seasoned blockchain journalist & consultant keenly interested in crypto education, DAO, NFT, Defi and Web3.
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