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Banksy’s website hacked, fan scammed $336,000 and got money back

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The mysterious graffiti artist from England Banksy got his website hacked seven days after his team warned him it might have security issues. A British collector and also fan got scammed with a $336,000-worth digital art. Luckily, the fan got his money back. 

On Tuesday, Banksy’s digital art was promoted on his official website. It was an image that displayed one of the NFT collectibles called CryptoPunks. 

NFT, also known as non-fungible tokens, represents unique digital items such as art. With NFT, the owners of the digital artwork can be bought and sold by creating an ownership certificate. People who buy NFTs carry certificates that indicate ownership of the original item. However, this certificate doesn’t mean buyers have copyright, which means other netizens can still access or view the digital item. Simply put, an NFT acts like an ownership receipt of a digital item. 

Banksy fell prey to hackers Tuesday when his official website was hacked and scammed a fan out of $336,000 (£242,000). Security experts gave the graffiti artist a heads up that the website might be hacked. However, the artist ignored it. 

Who is Banksy? 

Banksy is an England-based graffiti artist, street artist, film director, and political activist. Although the artist is famous both online and offline, he keeps his identity a secret. He’s dubbed as the anonymous British graffiti artist. 

He remains anonymous while creating his artwork and only reveals it when it gains traction on social media. Banksy’s style leans more towards stencils to make it quicker to paint. The great French graffiti artist Blek le Rat also has a significant influence on Banksy’s style. 

NFT scam

A British collector thought he bought a world-renowned artist’s first-ever NFT, only to realize that the artwork was fake after buying it. He had been led to a link to an auction with the URL “banksy.co.uk/NFT.” The link showed a collectible entitled “Great Redistribution of the Climate Change Disaster was deleted after the auction. The auction finished early, and the fan bid 90 percent over other fans. 

The fan paid close to $336,000 for a fake Banksy digital art. The British collector under the name Pranksy wanted to stay anonymous. Moreover, Pranksy was even more surprised when the hacker returned the entire amount save for the $5,000 transaction fee. 

He said an anonymous person alerted him on Discord about the auction. He also said that the hacker might have been scared because Pranksy found out who he was and followed him on Twitter. Pranksy also recounts how the media was all over the NFT hack scam and might have pushed the hacker to return the money. 

Although he is now $5,000 short, he says he’s still fortunate to get the rest of the amount back. He said he feels sorry for others in a similar situation, with the worst outcome of not getting a refund. 

Scam or stunt?

While the fake link is already weird enough, others thought it was also highly bizarre that the scammer returned the money. People even speculated it was all part of a stunt.

However, Prof Paul Gough, an expert on Banksy art and Arts University Bournemouth principal and vice-chancellor, says it couldn’t have been. 

For one, Banksy was recently busy with his “Spraycation” stunt, where he filmed 10 of his projects in East Anglia. And secondly, the artwork is a far cry from his stencil-inspired style.

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Entertainment

FN Meka, the world’s first AI rapper, gets booted out by record label

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fn meka

It’s not unusual for companies to use artificial intelligence (AI) to create artist personas. In the 2022 VMAs, Eminem and Snoop Dogg performed in the metaverse with their digital alter egos. And AI rappers are no different. In April 2019, FN Meka debuted as the world’s first AI-powered rapper. 

Soon enough, he gained a huge following on Tiktok for his Hypebeast aesthetic and larger-than-life personality. In 2021, his Tiktok ballooned to 10 million followers. His popularity prompted Capital Records to sign him on August 14 this year. But, internet users began pulling up records of his questionable online behavior. Ten days later, his label booted him out.

Here’s how it happened. 

Apparently, AI rappers exist. 

FN Meka’s concept isn’t a true original. In fact, when it comes to virtual rap avatars, you’d probably think of British rap group Gorillaz first. 

Brandon Le created the AI rapper avatar to sell non-fungible tokens. However, executive Anthony Martini led the avatar to new heights. Martini signed the rapper to Factory New, a record label he made for virtual artists. 

His first single, “Florida Water,” features Gunna and Cody “Cix” Conrod, a Fortnite player. On the day FN Meka signed the deal, the single was released.

The rapper is the first artist to sign in Factory New. 

The downfall

A few days after his new record deal, Industry Blackout, an online activist group, called out FN Meka over his questionable actions. 

For one, the AI rapper had used the N-word in several of his songs, including his first single. He also mocked police brutality and posted a picture of himself being beaten up by the police. 

Plus, FN Meka was criticized for racially stereotyping Black people because of his appearance and aesthetic. Furthermore, rumors began circulating that no actual Black people were involved in his creation in the first place. 

Other news outlets also criticized the AI rapper for collaborating with Gunna, who is in jail for racketeering. 

The record company has since dropped him. In a statement, the record label offered “their deepest apologies to the Black community.” Because of FN Meka’s actions, the label has cut ties with him “effective immediately.” 

More and more problems

It doesn’t end there.

Kyle the Hooligan has come forward as the voice behind FN Meka. And the rapper has dropped new information on the issue. He alleges that the company did not pay him for the first three songs he made for the AI rapper. He also claims to have been ghosted by the creators at around 2021, when FN Meka just started gaining traction.

Of course, this comes as a surprise. Factory New claims that the AI writes the song while the humans only perform it.

Kyle doesn’t know who currently voices FN Meka, and he hasn’t probed it. What we know for sure, though, is that the rapper is based on other trendy rappers like Ice Narco, Lil Pump, and 6ix9ine. 

On August 28, Kyle the Hooligan announced that he would file a lawsuit against Brandon Le and Factory New. 

There’s a sort of irony in FN Meka. The AI rapper, voiced by a Black artist, is the product of white creators. And some activists and critics even call the AI rapper a new form of blackface. Here, critics argue that anyone can use and adopt Blackness without being Black. Today, a majority of FN Meka’s music and videos have been deleted from TikTok. Martini has also walked away from Factory New and FN Meka, leaving the rapper’s fate hanging in the air.

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How Diddy Turned a Nothing Vodka Into a Success

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You remember the early 2000s, right? All about the flip phones, rented tapes from Blockbuster, those low-rise jeans I could never pull off, and of course, a music revolution. 

Pretty much every decade had its unique flavor of popular music. But from 2000 to 2010, while garage rock was making a comeback, we also saw the uprise in amazing hip-hop tracks. One of the big artists from that era was Sean Combs. Better known as  P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Love, or whatever you wanna call him. 

Diddy; you’ve probably heard of him. He’s responsible for the hit tracks such as Bad Boys for Life, I’ll Be Missing You, and I Need A Girl (Parts 1 and 2). He’s also known for being the face of a well-known vodka company.  Although Ciroc is one of the most coveted beverage brands, things weren’t always so easy for them.   You might be surprised to learn that Diddy is the sole reason you know the name in the first place.

About Ciroc

From the Spruce Eats

 Ciroc is a French brand that produces alcoholic beverages.  Established in 2003, it mainly creates different flavors of vodka. But it also sells brandy as well. Ciroc is different from other vodkas in that it sources its alcohol from grapes rather than grain or potatoes. Its quality is, well, questionable. Well, it generally has good reviews some have claimed otherwise. According to Wine experts, the fruit used for Ciroc and many other beverages is Trebbiano grapes. They’re known as an unsophisticated grape; the type that doesn’t cost much and tends to produce undistinguished alcohol. 

Well, wine experts, I hate to break it to you, but most people don’t care. As long as the alcohol tastes good and does its job, then people will buy it. The success of alcohol depends mainly on marketing. And nothing is better proof of this than Ciroc. 

At first, Ciroc had a stupidly tough time establishing itself within the American markets. For a while, they collaborated with some no-name athletes. Earl Little was one of the first to promote it. They soon introduced Ciroc to various nightclubs with minimal success. Still, they were the 50th-ranked premium vodka. They were struggling just to sell 40000 cases. Something needed to change; they needed to do something drastic in order to become a success. 

How Diddy Elevated It

From Fortune

In 2007, Diddy was recruited to be a spokesperson for Ciroc. He was sort of a last resort, as the company decided they didn’t have much to lose. In typical Diddy fashion, he took this unknown brand and made it really cool. He took over Ciroc’s marketing in the United States, applying his unique salesmanship to it. And by that I mean, he was shocking. 

Here’s a good example. In the early 2000s, one of the key events of the decade was Obama’s run for president. Meanwhile, Diddy began calling himself  “Ciroc Obama,” basing much of his promotion on that one pun. 

Aside from the jokes, Diddy would also give the company free product placement and his music videos. He went on to create endless flavors for Ciroc Vodka, promoting it whenever he had the chance. His advertisements emphasized the “sexiness” of using grapes as the source of alcohol. He made it clear that no other vodka was like it. Over time, Diddy’s name became intrinsically tied to the brand. Within a few years, Ciroc skyrocketed to #2 on the premium vodka listings.

Nowadays, Diddy still creates flavors and promotes Ciroc in his own unorthodox way.

Featured image from Rolling Stone

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Is The “Death” Of Choco Taco A Marketing Ploy?

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Guys, I have bad news. On July 25, 2022, Klondike made a devastating announcement:

Over the past two years, we have experienced an unprecedented spike in demand across our portfolio and have had to make very tough decisions to ensure availability of our full portfolio nationwide.

“A necessary part of this process is that we sometimes must discontinue products, 

“even a beloved item like Choco Taco.

“We know this may be very disappointing, but we hope you’ll try one of our other great products, including–

Shut up! I don’t care about your other lame products! We want Choco Taco!

I don’t get it, Klondike. You’ll drop Choco Taco but keep Klondike Shakes?! This is the saddest ice cream news since Coldstone Creamery insisted on making their employees sing as a means to distract consumers from their inadequate business model. 

But I digress…

This Doesn’t Make Sense

What’s this about, Klondike? Why discontinue an ice cream truck staple? Were sales really lagging that much? Why do you have to make room for other products? You have, like, four other things. You can’t hang onto the iconic Choco Taco?

None of this makes sense. Unless, of course, it’s all a marketing scheme. 

After the announcement, Twitter had an eruption of expletives (what’s new?). 

Why would the Klondike brand make a decision like this? Either this is a marketing scheme to create surge profits down the line. Or Klondike is being run by a bunch of morons. 

The Klondike brand is owned by Good Humor-Breyers Corp. which is owned by Unilever, a British multinational consumer goods company. Fun fact: Unilever is the largest producer of soap in the world. 

We have ice cream decisions being made by a bunch of limey soap-hawking suits. 

Unilever’s YTD stock is down, though they’ve had a teeny tiny upward trend in the last month. Could this giant international conglomerate be faking the discontinuation of a beloved summer treat in order to regain profit? Unlikely.

Still, one has to wonder whether the discontinuation of Choco Taco is a simple marketing ploy to increase sales. Why not? 

There’s a Precedent for Bringing Back Discontinued Products

Plenty of products have been discontinued only for them to later return. Notable products include Dunkaroos, Waffle Crisp, 3D Doritos, and Crystal Pepsi. Planters, known for their immortal mascot, brought back their Cheez Balls after a public campaign for their return

Perhaps the most famous of these is the McDonald’s McRib. The irresistible boneless pork sandwich molded into the shape of ribs was first introduced in 1981 but discontinued in 1985 only to be brought back later that year and discontinued again in 2005. Now the McRib is available here and there as a limited edition option

It’s the “limited edition” that makes consumers salivate the most, isn’t it? The very idea that something could only be available only for a short while increases desire. A sudden sense of exclusivity or rarity makes something immediately valuable. It’s a classic supply-and-demand tactic. We want what we cannot have. 

We see you, Klondike/Good Humor-Breyers/Unilever. 

Will Choco Taco Return?

Maybe one day. For now, there will be ice cream fiends hoarding and rationing out Choco Tacos, trading them like currency in an increasingly dystopian society. 

Reddit user FilthyGunger eloquently wrote

I thought it would be here forever, and I always told myself I’ll have one later but later is here and a choco taco is not.

“It’s [sic] like losing a dog, but instead of a loving animal, it’s an ice cream-filled taco topped with chocolate and nuts. 

“Honestly, if there was anything I could say about its passing, I would say that the world didn’t just lose an ice cream taco, it lost its way.

RIP Choco Taco. For now.

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