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'Crypto Boy' TikTok Star Is Releasing Her Own NFTs—But Has No Plans to Become 'CEO of Being Unemployed'

Off the success of her viral satire of crypto-obsessed men, Salem Ilese is launching an NFT collection with Pussy Riot co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova next week.

5 min read
Salem Ilese is the TikToker behind the viral "Crypto Boy" song. Photo: Lindsay Ellary

Last week, as the crypto market tanked and Terra’s LUNA and UST tokens were in mid-freefall, a new term began circulating on Crypto Twitter: “Crypto Boy.” 

The phrase came courtesy of a new song of the same name from TikToker and musician Salem Ilese—and it quickly went viral. “I don’t care about your crypto, boy/Not even one bit-(coin)/CEO of being un-em-ployed,” so the chorus goes. The tongue-in-cheek critique of delusional crypto devotees seemed to strike a chord, just as the crypto market began unraveling. 

In an interview with Decrypt, Ilese opened up about the song’s origins, and the unexpected repercussions of her first foray into the crypto world, including a plot twist that the 21-year-old singer never saw coming: the crypto boy basher is now releasing her own NFT project, one she cares about quite a bit. But Ilese isn’t planning on going full “crypto boy” either—all the money from the collection will be going to charity.

Anatomy of a “Crypto Boy”

A week ago, the TikToker seemingly wanted nothing to do with crypto, as viewers could likely tell from the viral song’s lyrics.

“If you’ve avoided crypto boys completely, then you probably don’t talk to too many people,” joked Ilese to Decrypt, about the “Crypto Boy” phenomenon. “So many people are involved in it [crypto], and they like to let you know they’re involved.” 

Ilese is the first to say she is no crypto expert herself; but as of late, she seems unable to avoid the subject: “I’ve definitely met crypto boys. My ear has been talked off about NFTs…. I find myself zoning off into the distance as they discuss the next type of coin, whether it be Dogecoin or Shiba [Inu].”

Crypto, she said, even managed to penetrate her inner circle: “I remember someone on my team tried to convince me to invest in Shiba for like an hour.” She did not end up investing. 

So Ilese channeled her frustration at this “crypto boy” phenomenon into music, posting the song to TikTok. Once the song found its way to Crypto Twitter, it went viral.

Even the co-creator of Dogecoin, Billy Markus, got in on the trend: 

The response, says Ilese, was overwhelming: “all of a sudden, my DMs were flooded with crypto boys being like, ‘Let’s turn this into an NFT!’ It was so funny, I was like, ‘you heard the lyrics and you still like it?’” 

The song’s stance on NFTs is fairly uncompromising: “Mention NFTs one more time/And it’s guaranteed we’re not fucking tonight.” 

It seems, then, Ilese may be at risk of entering a doghouse of her own design: in response to her song’s success, the artist told Decrypt she’s releasing a “Crypto Boy” NFT collection on Tuesday. 

“Crypto Boy” Goes NFT

Ilese says the crypto boys swarming her DMs planted an enticing seed: “When everyone started reaching out about turning it into an NFT, I was thinking, ‘Ok… could be a cool way to enter into the space.’” But the risk of hypocrisy was not lost on her: “I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to turn into a crypto boy.”

To remedy that potential tension, Ilese is partnering with Pussy Riot co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova, to launch a charitable NFT series in support of reproductive rights. Each of the collection’s 1,973 NFTs will feature a full version of “Crypto Boy,” as well as custom art created by Tolokonnikova. The number of NFTs in the collection is a nod to the year of the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion-affirming Roe v. Wade decision, which a leak recently revealed to be on the verge of being overturned. 

All proceeds from the NFT sale will go directly to the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

“I’m stoked and super grateful to be working with Nadya,” said Ilese. “She’s just such an awesome force in that space.” In March, Tolokonnikova launched UnicornDAO, a fund for female, non-binary, and LGBTQ+ artists working in Web3, intended to “tackle patriarchy in Web3.” That same month, the Pussy Riot member helped raise $6.75 million for Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia, via the sale of an NFT depicting the Ukrainian flag.

The Crypto Boy NFT Collection will launch on Web3 music platform sound.xyz on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. PST. 

Twitter’s crypto boys may have opened Ilese up to a whole new world. Numerous crypto brands have reached out to her for sponsorship, and her presence has been requested at a number of crypto conferences, she said. “I wrote it poking fun at [crypto] a bit, and now I feel like I’m being immersed in it,” said Ilese. “It’s very ironic.” 

And the crypto boys themselves? They seem in no way discouraged by Ilese’s biting lyrics. If anything, they’ve adopted the song as a self-aware anthem, a balm for the pain of the new bear market:

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