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Ja Rule and Herb Rice Launch the “Next Level” Black Is Beautiful NFT Collection for the Benefit of HBCUs

Ja Rule told Billboard,”We want this brand new venture to educate people of color on NFTs, cryptocurrency, blockchain and the whole space,”

JJa Rule and Herb Rice have been friends and business partners for a long time. They started The Painted House together, and their first NFT collection, Black Is Beautiful, has a part that goes to help historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“The Painted House is a passion of Ja and I,” Rice tells Billboard of the new venture in collaboration with 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 people of color into the space — so we created an investment group called the Brotherhood Dow, for people that wanted to start buying and selling NFTs, in a comfortable setting of family and friends investing and learning about Web3 and cryptocurrency… we wanted to dovetail that with getting more Black creatives into the Web3 space.”

Rice says that he and Billboard Hot 100 number one Ja Rule “thought it was a great idea” to form The Painted House after reuniting with House of First founder Zeev Klein.

Nick Davis, one of the up-and-coming Black artists who make up The Painted House, made the first collection, called Black Is Beautiful. It has 1,000 collectible NFTs that are one-of-a-kind and show passion, faith, style, and tenacity. Some of the pieces are inspired by pop culture. Ja Rule says that “80 percent of the collection” has already been sold. The Painted House will give 10 percent of the primary sales of the debut collection to five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs): Jackson State University, Morgan State University, Hampton University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College.

Ja Rule told Billboard,“We want this brand new venture to educate people of color on NFTs, cryptocurrency, blockchain and the whole space,” Ja Rule tells Billboard. “The Painted House is like our baby, and our way of introducing artists of color into the NFT realm. It’s not easy to create generative art like NFTs 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 — whereas creating [traditional] art is often a feeling or passion you have.”

And, talking about Black Is Beautiful in particular, he says,“What we did with Nick’s project is next level. It’s kind of rare for artists to do one-of-ones, so we took on that challenge. This is what our Painted House is about, and where we’re gonna hang our hat on engaging, representing and furthering our culture and community.”

“I see myself in this art,” Ja Rule says, “Like the Black Stewie, because I’m always gonna be a child at heart with a fun-loving, free-flowing spirit with a brilliance.”

Rice has had a close connection to the Black Is Beautiful collection since he was a child. “One afternoon Ja sent me a text and said, ‘What do you think about this guy?” he says. Nick’s Instagram account was involved,”For the next hour and a half, I looked at every single picture that he posted. What captivated me about Nick, was that it was Black, unapologetic art.

“Growing up, I was always teased about my complexion, so I wasn’t secure and comfortable until one day in the fourth or fifth grade when I came home crying and my grandma saw me,” he continues. “She put her hands on my cheeks and said, ‘You are beautiful and handsome. That Black skin of yours is beautiful. You can be whatever you want.’ That touched me in a way you cannot 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 was like, ‘I need the world to be able to see this.’ It became my passion to bring this to life.”

Ja Rule says that the art shows “pleasure, struggle, and passion. It’s how we feel. And for kids who haven’t yet found their strength, it says that their black skin should be their superpower and they should lead with it.”

And the proud dad whose daughter went to HBCU Hampton University is happy that The Painted House is giving money to help Black kids go to college. Rule tells Billboard that education is the best way to fix some of society’s problems. “The second is money, and with these two things, we can help our town grow.” We want to encourage our kids to go to HBCUs. Let’s get our young Black men, who make up 80% of the NFL and NBA, to go to HBCUs so you can give money back to your schools and students and scouts will follow in your footsteps.

As part of the launch of The Painted House, Ja Rule and Rice got a group of Black NFT artists to recreate the famous “A Great Day in Harlem” photo, which jazz greats like Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie posed for in 1958 at the famous brownstone on E. 126th Street in Harlem, New York.

Before he talked about how important it was to recreate the shot, which he says was taken by Manouschka Guerrier, Ja Rule said, “Art that you can touch, like music, affects you.” “If you look at the original picture and what it meant, you can see that they were young rebels blazing a trail and telling the world, “We’re here, and this is important.” In 1998, we gave the hip-hop community a new image of a revolutionary new art form of music that everyone had written off, and now we are the most popular genre. Back then, there was the same kind of energy. And now we’ve reached the wonderful day of Web3. You will see art through our eyes and minds, and you won’t be able to change it. It’s a big deal for art, Web3, hip-hop, and jazz.”

Next, Ja Rule says, “When this NFT sells out, which we’re getting close to, I’ll put out new songs that will only be available to people who own the Black Is Beautiful NFT. It’s enjoyable. The best thing about The Painted House is that it has extras.

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