The rapper first alerted fans to the move when he changed his profile picture on Twitter to a Cryptopunks icon – CryptoPunks are a collection of 10,000 NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain, released by software company Larva Labs in 2017; each Punk features a pixelated face of a human, ape, alien or zombie.
This specific CryptoPunk was purchased on April 25 for 55 ETH, worth $126,000 at the time (although just $102,000 today). The punk is male and features a gold chain and big hair, both seemingly emulating JAY's features.
Not only is Jay-Z likely buying NFTs, but he’s planning on selling them too. Following the CryptoPunks profile change, it was announced in a statement that the musician is auctioning an NFT based on his debut album Reasonable Doubt at Sotheby’s.
JAY-Z has commissioned digital artist Derrick Adams to create a one-of-one animated digital collectible that is meant to “recontextualize” the album cover, which was originally released exactly 25 years ago.
Called Heir to the Throne, the NFT is composed of a single animated image of the original artwork rendered in bright colors, multi-layered textures, and flat surface dimensions. According to the statement, the image was inspired by both JAY-Z and Adams’s experiences with “life in the urban streets.”
“It’s fitting that JAY-Z’s pioneering lyrical brilliance is commemorated through the iconic vision of acclaimed artist Derrick Adams in a bold new medium," a Sotheby's representative told CoinDesk. “The release of Heir to the Throne marks the continued influence of Reasonable Doubt and its deep legacy of cultural importance.”
The NFT sale comes just days after JAY-Z launched two Reasonable Doubt-related lawsuits. The first was targeted at the album cover's photographer Jonathan Mannion over his allegedly exploitative use of the popular image. The second was filed against Roc-A-Fella co-founder Dame Dash over his attempts to sell an NFT of the iconic album.
Now it looks like both lawsuits were prompted by JAY-Z's own attempt to monetize the image in the NFT space. The exhibition which kicked off yesterday and runs till July 2 will be available at Sotheby’s New York but also digitally in the virtual world Decentraland. A portion of proceeds from the sale will benefit the Shawn Carter Foundation, an organization bearing the rapper’s name that provides scholarships to low-income students. Bidding will start at $1,000.