- Rapper Ja Rule and Herb Rice created The Painted House to help bring Black NFT artists to the forefront.
- Their first project is called “Black is Beautiful” and features artwork by Nick Davis.
- They dismiss criticism of NFT markets, arguing that they have pros and cons “just like any other industry”.
On a brownstone stoop in Harlem nestled between New York’s Fifth and Madison Avenues, 54 jazz musicians gathered in 1958 for a photograph that would inspire tributes for decades to come.
In 1998, nearly 200 hip hop artists crowded the same porch for a photo. And in June, 64 years after the original image was taken, dozens of Black NFT (non-fungible token) artists came together to do it again.
Front left was rapper Ja Rule, who had hits with songs such as “Always on Time” to “Mesmerize” in the early 2000s. He now aims to put Black NFT artists center stage with The Painted House, a platform he and his business partner Herb Rice settled on after realizing they were often the only black people at NFT events.
In partnership with launch platform NFT House of Firsts, The Painted House released its first draft in June. “Black is Beautiful” is a collection of over 1,000 NFTs by artist Nick Davis depicting the everyday lives of Black Americans.
“It captivated me,” Rice told Insider. “Growing up, I was very insecure about my dark skin tone, so when I saw [Davis’] art, it took me back to a time when my family was telling me how beautiful my dark skin was.”
Others feel the same way about Davis’ art, the duo said.
“It represents me,” Ja Rule said, recalling people’s response to art. “I don’t see too many pictures with my black skin on it.”
“Ahead of the Curve”
Ja Rule is far from the only celebrity to have jumped on the NFT bandwagon, considering numbers from Mark Cuban to Lindsay Lohan have all done so.
He says “smart rappers” like NFTs because they “like to be ahead of the game – we can keep our ears on the street.”
Ja Rule says he got into NFTs without even realizing he was collecting them, through NBA Top Shot, an NFT marketplace where basketball music videos can be traded.
“I’m a big card collector and I thought it was the natural progression to trading cards, a digital form of trading cards,” he explains.
Build a community
Prior to The Painted House, Ja Rule and Rice created an investment group called Brotherhood Dow to educate their close network on NFTs, cryptocurrency, and blockchains.
Their latest venture plans to launch new artist collections, as well as fashion and apparel projects.
The pair reject criticism of NFT markets, arguing that it has pros and cons “like any other industry” and instead want to focus on its community-building aspect.
Black is Beautifu art buyers will receive new music from Ja Rule, as well as other exclusive content, eg.
“These are things we can do in the NFT community that you can’t do in any other business entity,” the rapper said.
They plan to donate a portion of proceeds to historically black colleges and universities with a $25,000 donation to five institutions. ICONN Media, Ja Rule’s live entertainment marketplace, will match that amount.
Ja Rule hopes that historically, black colleges and universities will eventually be as prestigious as Ivy League schools. “We want people in our community to be proud when they go to an HBCU like you go to a Cornell, or Duke, or Penn State, or Harvard.”