Hip-hop nostalgia is arriving in NFT form.
Blockchain platform NEAR Protocol has partnered with the Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM) and Ed Young, co-founder of The Source magazine, to release a collection of non-fungible tokens featuring rappers from the ‘70s to now.
The collection will feature NFTs of 47 rap legends – from Eazy-E to Lil Wayne – to honor the 47th year of the hip-hop era. The pop-up marketplace goes live on June 19, commemorating Juneteenth, a federal holiday marking the end of slavery.
As NFTs grow in prominence over 2021, Young sees the collaboration with NEAR as a way to reconnect with rap’s peer-to-peer origins.
“Since its beginnings, hip-hop grew from the grassroots,” Young said in a statement to CoinDesk. “From hand-recording tapes one by one to sell to friends, to the block parties powered by electricity from street lamps, it was a collective creation of a culture and economy developed through the artist and fan working together.”
Young finds NFTs promising as a means of restoring financial agency to emerging artists, eliminating the middlemen between musicians and their fans.
While the current marketplace for music-themed NFTs has largely served big-name artists with established followings, Young is confident that in the long term, independent artists will be the ones who benefit most from the technology.
“Hip-Hop Head” NFTs will be auctioned daily until July 24 on the collection’s website. The NFTs are purchasable by credit card, which NEAR sees as a test of reaching a mainstream audience.
“This marketplace highlights several of NEAR’s best features: end-user accessibility, a familiar Web2-like user experience, inexpensive and easy NFT minting, and on-chain royalties that guarantee perpetual proceeds for creators,” NEAR spokesperson Agatha Szczepaniak said via email.
The NFT portraits are created by hip-hop illustrator André LeRoy Davis, best known for his “Last Word” series featured in The Source. The first edition of each NFT in the collection will be donated to live in the gallery of the UHHM itself.