In 1958, 54 jazz musicians got together on a brownstone stoop in Harlem, New York, between Fifth and Madison Avenues to take a picture that would be remembered for years to come.

In 1998, for a picture, almost 200 hip hop artists crowded onto the same stoop. And in June, 64 years after the first picture was taken, dozens of Black NFT (non-fungible token) artists gathered there to do it again.

In the early 2000s, rapper Ja Rule had hits with songs like “Always on Time” and “Mesmerize.” He stood in the front left. Now, he wants to put Black NFT artists in the spotlight with The Painted House, a platform he and his business partner Herb Rice set up after realizing they were often the only Black people at NFT events.

The Painted House put out its first project in June. It worked with the NFT launchpad platform House of Firsts to do this. “Black is Beautiful” is a book by artist Nick Davis that has more than 1,000 NFTs that show what everyday life is like for Black Americans.

Rice told Insider, “It captivated me,” “Growing up, I was very insecure about my dark skin complexion, so when I saw [Davis’] art, it took me back to a place in time when my family used to tell me how beautiful my Black skin was.”

The two said that other people feel the same way about Davis’s art.

When asked how the art made him feel, Ja Rule said, “This represents me,” “I don’t see too many images with my Black skin on them.”

Mark Cuban and Lindsay Lohan, among others, have also jumped on the NFT bandwagon, so Ja Rule is not the only famous person to do so.

He says that “smart rappers” like NFTs because they “like to be ahead of the curve on things – we can keep our ears to the streets.”

Ja Rule says that NBA Top Shot, an NFT marketplace where basketball video clips can be traded, is how he started collecting NFTs without even realizing it.

“I’m a big card collector, and I thought this was the natural progression to trading cards, a digital form of trading cards,” he says.

Bringing people together

Before The Painted House, Ja Rule and Rice started an investment group called Brotherhood Dow to teach their close friends about NFTs, cryptocurrency, and blockchains.

In their newest project, they want to release collections by new artists as well as fashion and clothing projects.

The two disagree with the criticisms of NFT marketplaces and say that they have pros and cons “like any other industry” Instead, they want to focus on the community-building aspect of NFT marketplaces.

People who buy art from Black is Beautifu will get things like new music from Ja Rule and other exclusive content.

The rapper says, “Those are things that we get to do in the NFT community that you don’t get to do in any other business entity,”

They plan to donate $25,000 to five historically Black colleges and universities from some of the money they make. The same amount will be paid by ICONN Media, which is Ja Rule’s live-streaming entertainment marketplace.

Ja Rule hopes that historically Black colleges and universities will one day be as prestigious as Ivy League schools. “We want people in our community to be proud when they go to an HBCU like if you go to a Cornell, or Duke, or Penn State, or Harvard.”

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