Ja Rule and business partner Herb Rice created their new Web3 venture, Painted House, to put Black NFT artists center stage in the digital art scene. To this end, back in June, a group of Black NFT artists stood on a New York brownstone stoop between Fifth and Madison Avenues to highlight Black creators in the digital art space and to encourage new artists to enter the world of non-fungible tokens.
The artists gathered and took a pew, where more than 60 years ago, a group of Harlem jazz musicians gathered for what became an iconic photograph, which was to become the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary film, ‘A Great Day in Harlem’. In 1998 the stoop was again used to highlight black artists, but this time it was rappers, some of whom became Hip Hop icons.
The latest photo was organized by Manouschka Guerrier and attracted some old-guard rappers who have already seen the potential in the technology. Hip hop icons, including Jay Z, and most notably, Snoop Dogg, who were early to jump on the NFT bandwagon showed up.
Guerrier was early to the scene and was often the only person with dark skin at glitzy events related to the digital community. This made her question whether the NFT marketplace was a place for minorities.
Even so, according to TIME, she came to realize “the space’s potential for decentralization and ownership, and the way it could open up a world where artists create freely, release their work to the public, and profit directly without the need for penny-pinching intermediaries.”
Then, after attending the 2022 NFT NYC, she had the idea for the photo.
Encouraging Black artists into NFT marketplaces
Rapper Ja Rule wished to highlight the opportunities for Black artists in the expanding digital art space. Linking NFTs with the iconic photos expresses the potential this new art form has for changing artists’ lives, as jazz and hip hop did for past artists. The rapper thanked Manouschka Guerrier for organizing the photo shoot before explaining the symbolism of walking in the footsteps of Harlem jazz and hip hop icons,
“When you look at the original photo and what it meant, these were young pioneers rebelliously blazing a trail and showing the world, ‘We’re here and this is something to pay attention to.’ Fast forward to us re-creating the photo for the hip-hop community, of a rebellious new art form of music that everybody counted out, and now we’re the No. 1 genre. It was the same energy then. And now fast forward to the great day in Web3. We’re saying, ‘You’re gonna see art through our eyes and vision and you won’t be able to control it.’ That’s a special moment in art, Web3, hip-hop and jazz.”
The Painted House’s goal is to educate Black Americans on blockchain and We3 technology and empower Black digital artists. For this reason, 10% of proceeds from the sale of the NFTs to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to help educate students in Web3. Furthermore, Ja Rule and ICONN Media, his live-streaming entertainment marketplace, will contribute funds to the colleges.
Herb Rice speaking to Insider recalled their reasoning for embarking on the project, “We entered the Web3 NFT space a year ago after attending the annual NFT NYC for the first time. It was warm and social, but there were no people of color. We wanted to bring more people of color into the space.”
Therefore after partnering with the NFT launchpad platform, House of First, they chose the artist to create the art.
Black Is Beautiful NFT collection
For their first project and inaugural drop, painted House released a collection of 1000 NFTs. Each Non-fungible token “is a stunning depiction of the raw emotions of Black Americans navigating both the joys and struggles of everyday life in America.”
The collection sold out but is available on the OpenSea NFT marketplace. The collection has over 340 unique owners, with a total volume of 52 Ethereum and a floor price of 0.19 Ethereum.
Owners of the digital assets will receive exclusive content, such as a one-of-a-kind piece by artist Nick Davis depicting Black life, invites to NFT events, blockchain education, and a copy of new music from Ja Rule.
Artist Nick Davis
Nick Davis started sketching as a young boy. However, it was not until epilepsy made him unable to work that he started experimenting with art in a digital form on an Ipad bought by his wife. As he mastered computer-generated art, he realized he wanted to capture the daily lives of Black Americans.
He uses his art to grapple with depression and anxiety. Through art he wishes to show his love and respect for his community, and ‘despite the current state of the world, your Black remains immeasurably beautiful.
We could not agree more with what Ja Rule is trying to achieve. Artists who embrace this new art form may well achieve renown and riches like the Harlem jazz and hip hop icons before them.
Finally, the project now underway by Ja Rule and business partner Herb Rice who wishes to put black NFT artists center stage will grow long-term thanks to the charitable aspect that encourages education in these new emerging technologies. Endowing Historically Black Colleges can only increase minority involvement in the sphere.