Boy Sminem is a character that has taken the internet by storm. Based on a photograph of a Russian teenager named Roman Zuev wearing a knockoff shirt with the rapper Eminem on it, with “Eminem” misspelled as “Sminem,” the image was first shared on Russian internet and Reddit and quickly became a meme on 4chan boards /int/ and /biz/. In Russia, Sminem is also known as “Elf.”
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The Origins of Sminem
The earliest known post featuring the boy was posted on May 18th, 2014 to the Russian forum pikabu.ru, where it gained 15 upvotes. The image was reposted to Reddit the following year on /r/ANormalDayInRussia, where it gained 971 upvotes. On December 2nd, 2016, it was posted to /r/funny, where it gained 31 upvotes. On May 1st, 2017, the image was submitted to Shitpostbot 5000.
In October 2016, the picture began circulating on 4chan boards, where the character became a larger meme. Some early threads featuring the picture were posted on October 18th and October 19th of that year. The following year, more images of the boy were posted to the board.
Sminem in the Cryptocurrency Community
In February 2018, Sminem became an unofficial mascot for 4chan’s /biz/ board, where users joked about him as though he were emblematic of a person who succeeded in the cryptocurrency market. An exchange between a Twitter user named @CryptoSminem and older Twitter user @PeterLBrandt was posted several times to the board, furthering the lore that Sminem was a pioneer in the cryptocurrency world.
In memes, Sminem often opposes the Bogdanoff twins, serving as a symbol of gains and a bullish market, as opposed to the Bogdanoffs, who symbolize losses, bearish markets, and market manipulation. This trend was reflected in popular meme videos by YouTuber Bizonacci, posted in early 2018.
Sminem’s NFT Collection
On April 18th, 2022, Roman Zuev, the man depicted in the Sminem meme, announced on his Twitter account that he was auctioning off an NFT collection surrounding the meme and various images associated with Sminem via Foundation, a crypto art marketplace. This marks a significant moment in the history of internet memes, as it showcases how something as simple as a photograph can evolve into a lucrative, digital asset.
Sminem’s Identity Revealed
In 2019, following the surge of popularity of Sminem on /biz/ and his popularity in Russia as the Elf meme, Sminem’s real name was discovered to be Roman Zuev, a Russian native born in 1996 and living in Krasnodar Krai. In 2020, an unknown person, likely an acquaintance of Zuev, created Instagram and TikTok pages for “Romario Zuev,” posting videos of Sminem. While the accounts were subsequently shut down, a number of videos of Zuev were archived by YouTube user Ivan Uchaschiisya.
The rise of Sminem serves as a fascinating example of the power of internet memes and the way they can evolve and take on a life of their own. From a simple photograph of a teenager wearing a knockoff shirt, Sminem has become a symbol within the cryptocurrency community, with an NFT collection and a cultural significance that transcends the internet. It serves as a reminder of the way that digital media can shape and influence popular culture, and how the internet has the power to elevate something seemingly insignificant into a cultural phenomenon.