Nas is the latest superstar artist to ride the NFT wave.
The rapper and Jared Gutstadt’s Audio Up Media are selling a limited number of eight animated digital posters that celebrate Nas’ Apr. 19, 2014 Illmatic 20th anniversary concert in Johannesburg, South Africa as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Billboard has learned. A single copy of a ninth NFT, which is described as an artistic representation of Nas and the Illmatic album in an afro-futuristic style, is also going up for sale.
Those who purchase the NFTs will be gifted never-before-seen video of the full concert, which also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid in South Africa.
While the eight animated NFTs were compiled using footage from the concert, the audio featured in each is not from the live show but instead consists of re-recorded orchestral interpretations created by Gutstadt, who is also the founder and former CEO of the music licensing company Jingle Punks.
All nine NFTs, which were created by artist Bloo Woods, will be available beginning this Saturday (July 31) at 5 p.m. ET on the NFT marketplace Ethernity.io, which curated the sale. Price points on the eight animated posters, all of which are one minute in length, range from $111 to $888, while the ninth NFT is an auction piece with a starting price of $6,969.
Fifty percent of Nas’ proceeds from the NFT sale as well as 2.5% of Ethernity’s proceeds will go to Nile Rodgers' We Are Family Foundation, which "focuses on initiatives that unite the world by famously empowering youth around the world who are changing the game with their ideas, innovations and social good solutions." Like Nas, Rodgers' art also has a South Africa connection; the singer-songwriter and guitarist has long claimed that the song from which his foundation takes its name, Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" -- which he co-wrote with Bernard Edwards -- was a favorite of late South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela. Rodgers additionally composed the music for the 1988 Eddie Murphy film Coming to America, which was the first movie premiere to screen for an integrated audience in South Africa.
"I'm thrilled that the NAS NFT will be raising money for We Are Family Foundation," said Rodgers in a statement. "I have always been an admirer of Nas as an artist and as a pioneer and constant innovator of hip hop. Nas and I have a strong connection to causes linking music and social justice. It was incredible seeing how Nas and Jared brought the 20th Illmatic full circle with these powerful images and music. I truly believe that NFTs are just starting to realize their potential not only across the music space, but as a vehicle for change."
The idea for the 2014 concert came from a chance meeting the year prior between Nas and Gutstadt, who had the idea to create orchestral tracks based on Illmatic. Once Gutstadt finished composing the tracks, Nas performed them live at the April 19 show while backed by Gutstadt’s chamber ensemble, The Hipster Orchestra, as well as the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
"Playing in South Africa a few years ago was one of the most vibrant and important shows – the energy was electric and having Jared's Hipster Orchestra (*now known as Audio Chateau) combined with Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra was next level,” said Nas in a statement. “I have been really interested in NFT’s and cryptocurrency for a while now, so being able to memorialize that show through NFT’s, while also continuing to support Africa with the sale of each of these concert clips, is real cool."
"Performing in Johannesburg with Nas on the 20th Anniversary Illmatic was one of the most significantly creative and cultural moments of my career," added Gutstadt. "Being able to commemorate this as a collectible music moment is exactly what the NFT market is built for. The 30,000+ people in attendance got to physically experience this and now our NFT will allow Nas fans and fans of music history to partake in the experience at a digital level. Nas and Nile Rodgers already have a close connection, and Nas chosing to include the We Are Family Foundation as the charitable component, was truly organic and the money will be going to a great place."
Added Ethernity founder and CEO Nick Rose, "Illmatic is one of the most iconic hip-hop records of our time and Ethernity Chain is proud to partner with Audio Up, We Are Family Foundation, and Nas to offer his first authenticated NFT. We really believe in the long-term utility of NFTs. Whether the digital assets are used as collector’s items, or to build a fan club, or even for future virtual world and game integrations, there are so many opportunities for creative exploration. The shared experience of Nas and Nile Rodgers expressing their craft in a post Apartheid South Africa is interwoven into the collection, shining a light on the progress we have made and the work we still need to do."