Who Is Music Mafia, the Hacker Group That Is Leaking Kanye West Songs For Bitcoins?
Over the weekend, two unreleased Kanye West tracks suddenly appeared on the internet. There was “Euro (Switch Hands)” featuring ASAP Rocky, a fidgety banger reminiscent of “Facts,” and “Hold Tight,” an auto-tuned posse cut with Migos and Young Thug. Both songs are currently available on YouTube–until they inevitably get pulled down for DMCA violations, anyway–but they originated on a less familiar URL: musicmafia.to. It’s unclear who exactly is behind the site, or how they obtained access to not only the Kanye songs, but also many others.
On its homepage, Music Mafia describes itself as a source for “songs from artists recorded years ago and they have never released them,” plus “exclusive beats from the biggest producers,” “e-mail addresses and personal phone numbers of your favorite artists,” and “music videos before they get released.” In addition to the Kanye tracks, there are also unreleased songs and alternate versions by Calvin Harris, Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd, Meek Mill, Future, and Tory Lanez listed as available for download. Though none of those artists have commented on the authenticity of the leaks, the site does appear to have genuine demos of Harris’ “Slide,” complete with alternate Migos verses, and Lee’s solo version of French Montana’s “Unforgettable,” which he features on but in this form has just a guest appearance by Afrobeats star Wizkid.
Music Mafia gives no indication about how it procured the songs. If you accept that this isn’t some guerrilla marketing scheme, and that the major labels behind these artists probably haven’t entered into a formal agreement with a tiny anonymous website on a top-level domain from the Kingdom of Tonga, it seems like a safe assumption that the music was hacked, either from the musicians themselves or from someone else who had access to it. This assumption was reinforced when Drake’s Twitter account tweeted a link to the musicmafia.to URL on Friday afternoon before it was quickly deleted. Complex has a screenshot:
Whoever is behind Music Mafia isn’t releasing the tunes out of the kindness of their hearts. The site also lists several song titles alongside links to Bitcoin wallets, with the implication that the songs will be made available for download once an unspecified donation goal is reached. These are “Can U Be” by Kanye West, “Don’t Tell Me” by PARTYNEXTDOOR featuring Jeremih, “Earth to Move” by Maroon 5, and “Convicts,” a song that appears to be by a Dutch DJ named Quintino. As Complex notes, Travis Scott teased a video of Kanye dancing to a song called “Can U Be” on Instagram in 2016.
Publicly available records of transactions to and from those wallets on the bitcoin blockchain reveal that not much money has been added to the ledger. The “Can U Be” wallet received its first bitcoin on Friday, and has received a grand total of 0.00729563 BTC since then, which is the equivalent of about $19 USD at the current exchange rate. Music Mafia indicates that they’ve received 5 percent of the money they would need to release the full version of “Can U Be,” meaning the group would be asking for about $400 total in exchange for the leak.
That said, wallets for the other advertised tracks have received no bitcoin at all at the time of this writing, despite meters on the Music Mafia site showing that they’ve reached a percentage of the donation goal. “Private wallets exist as well,” the Music Mafia FAQ page reads, seemingly anticipating this line of criticism. “Blockchains are not an indicator for how far the crowdfunding has progressed.” But if the wallets are private and unlisted on the Music Mafia site, it’s unclear how prospective donors would be expected to find them.
Music Mafia’s site lists only an address on the encrypted messaging app Bitmessage as contact information, and registrar data for the URL also contains no means of contacting the organization. We’ve reached out to Music Mafia via Bitmessage and will update this story if we hear back.