The smell of marijuana wafted through a half-filled event space in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, as a group of cryptocurrency believers downed champagne and blood orange margaritas.
The event, sponsored by Ripple Labs Inc., brought together XRP loyalists and skeptics alike for a concert headlined by 46-year-old rapper Snoop Dogg on Tuesday evening. The invitation-only XRP Community Night celebrated a popular but controversial token intended to disrupt international money transfers.
“Whenever I hear the word ‘promotion’ it makes me cringe,” said Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse, adding that the event was meant to build community, not hype, around Ripple’s XRP, the world’s third-largest digital currency. Garlinghouse said he wasn’t the one who picked Snoop Dogg as the headliner.
Not everyone there was sold on XRP.
One attendee, in town from the Netherlands for New York’s Blockchain Week, criticized the cryptocurrency, saying it relies on banks instead of disrupting them. Others, including bankers from Wall Street firms, questioned the legitimacy of digital tokens in general.
But the detractors were balanced by longstanding XRP fans. One developer in town from Austria said he’s been part of the XRP community since 2013 because he believes in the technology. Another said his entire family has invested in the coin.
Around 9 p.m., Snoop Dogg arrived to an adoring crowd sporting Patagonia fleeces, button-up shirts and Team Ripple tees.
“So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed,” they sang along as Snoop strutted onstage flanked by dancers in rhinestone bras and a person in a canine costume, wearing a jacket with ‘Dirty Dogg’ written on the back.
This wasn’t Snoop Dogg’s first encounter with cryptocurrency. “My next record available in bitcoin n delivered in a drone,” he wrote on Twitter in 2013.
But this time around, the rapper said nothing explicit about digital currency investment onstage. He wasn’t paid in XRP for his performance, according to two Ripple representatives at the event.
Near the end of the show, Snoop asked the audience a question: “Do you wanna a) hang out with me, b) drink with me or c) smoke some [expletive] weed with me?”
The audience overwhelmingly chose C.