Ja Rule & Herb Rice Launch ‘Next Level’ NFTs to Benefit HBCUs – Billboard

Ja Rule & Herb Rice Launch ‘Next Level’ NFTs to Benefit HBCUs – Billboard

Ja Rule and Herb Rice, longtime friends and business partners, co-founded The Painted House and launched their first NFT collection, Black Is Beautiful, with a charitable component directly benefiting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“The Painted House is a passion for Ja and I,” says Rice Billboard of the new venture in collaboration with the NFT launchpad platform, House of First. “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 color into the space—so we created an investment group called Brotherhood Dow, for people who wanted to start buying and selling NFTs, in a comfortable setting with family and friends investing and learning about Web3 and cryptocurrency… we wanted to combine this with getting more black advertisements into the Web3 area.”

Rice says that after reconnecting with House of First founder Zeev Klein, he and Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper Ja Rule “agreed it was a fantastic idea and launched The Painted House.”

Among the emerging Black artists that make up The Painted House is Nick Davis, who created the debut collection, Black Is Beautiful – featuring 1,000 one-of-a-kind collectibles that display depth of emotion, faith, style and resilience while embracing pop culture in some works . After selling “80 percent of the collection” under the Yes Rule, The Painted House will donate 10 percent of the primary sales of the first collection to five HBCUs: Jackson State University, Morgan State University, Hampton University, Spelman College and Morehouse College.

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“We want this brand new venture to educate people of color about NFTs, cryptocurrency, blockchain and the whole space,” Ja Rule shares Billboard. “The Painted House is like our baby, and our way of introducing artists of color into the NFT realm. Creating generative art like NFTs isn’t easy because you have to explain why one might be more rare than the other by having a specific trait – like lasers, which is unique to NFTs – while creating [traditional] art is often a feeling or passion you have.”

And speaking specifically about Black Is Beautiful, he says: “What we did with Nick’s project is next level. It’s kind of rare that artists do one-of-a-kinds, so we took on that challenge. This is what our Painted House is all about, and where we will hang our hat on engaging, representing and promoting our culture and community.”

“I see myself in this art,” explains Ja Rule, “like Black Stewie, because I’m always going to be a kid at heart with a fun, free-flowing spirit with a shine.”

For Rice, there is a deeply personal connection to the Black Is Beautiful collection, dating back to his childhood. “One afternoon, Ja texted me and said, ‘What do you think of this guy?'” he recalls. “It was Nick’s Instagram page. For the next hour and a half I looked at every picture he posted. What grabbed me about Nick was that it was black, unapologetic art.

“Growing up, I was always teased about my face, so I wasn’t confident and comfortable until one day in fourth or fifth grade I came home crying and Grandma saw me,” he continues. “She put her hands on my cheeks and said, ‘You’re beautiful and handsome. Your black skin is beautiful. You can be whatever you want.’ It touched me in a way you can’t imagine, and I became confident in my skin… When I saw Nick’s art, it immediately made me think of that time as a child, and I thought, ‘I need the world can see this.’ It became my passion to bring this to life.”

Ja Rule says the artwork shows “joy, struggle and passion. It’s our feelings. And for kids who haven’t found their strength yet, it lets people know that your black skin should be your superpower and you should lead with it.”

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And the proud father, whose daughter attended HBCU Hampton University, is happy that The Painted House is donating funds to higher education for black students. “Education is the No. 1 solution to some of the problems in our society,” Rule says Billboard. “The other is funding and with these two things we can help our community grow abundantly. We want to be a spark for our kids to attend HBCUs. Let’s get our young black men, who are 80 percent of the NFL and NBA, to attend HBCUs — so these will be your alma maters that you send money back to, and kids and scouts will follow in your footsteps.”

As part of The Painted House launch, Ja Rule and Rice orchestrated a group of Black NFT artists to recreate the iconic “A Great Day in Harlem” shot that jazz greats including Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie took at the famed New York brownstone at E. 126th Street in Harlem in 1958.

“Physical art you can touch, music as an art form touches you,” says Ja Rule before explaining the significance of recreating the image, which he credits Manouschka Guerrier with organizing. “When you look at the original image and what it meant, these were young pioneers who rebelliously blazed a trail and showed the world, ‘We’re here and this is something to be aware of.’ Fast forward to us recreating the image for the hip hop community [in 1998], of a rebellious new art form of music that everyone figured out, and now we’re the No. 1 genre. It was the same energy back then. And now fast forward to the big day in Web3. We say, ‘You’re going to see art through our eyes and vision, and you won’t be able to control it.’ It’s a special moment in art, Web3, hip-hop and jazz.”

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Next, Ja Rule reveals, “When we sell out this NFT, which we’re cruising to, I’m releasing new songs and everyone who has a Black Is Beautiful NFT will get the new music exclusively. It is fun. The beauty of The Painted House is that you also get benefits.”

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