André LeRoy Davis, one of Brooklyn’s celebrated artists, has created a collection of his artwork for the emerging NFT (non-fungible tokens) art scene that recognizes and pays tribute to 47 years of hip-hop history. 

Davis teamed up with the blockchain platform NEAR Protocol and Ed Young, the founder of NFT.hiphop, to launch the Hip Hop Heads NFT Collection

It features 103 illustrated heads of legendary rappers, from old school hip-hop pioneers like the members of Run-DMC to contemporary giants like Kanye West, who Davis illustrated in a career that spanned more than three decades.

Auction bidding started on Juneteenth and runs through July 24. No cryptocurrency is required to place a bid. The winners will receive their Hip Hop Head NFT in their NEAR wallet. Details on how to bid are explained at the marketplace’s website.  

“I’m doing this to pay homage to hip-hop history and its artists,” Davis told BK Reader, adding that he also wanted to leave a legacy that includes NFT artwork.

Andre LeRoy Davis. Photo: Provided.

Davis, the son of Barbadian immigrants, was born and raised in Brooklyn. He grew up in several neighborhoods, including Crown Heights and Flatbush. 

“I didn’t know back then that what I was doing was called illustrating,” Davis said about the beginnings of his artistic journey. 

At about age 6, Davis, inspired by his older brother’s drawings, started sketching cartoon characters and Ebony magazine covers.

He came to prominence in the hip-hop world through his illustrations that appeared in The Source magazine from 1990 to 2007.

Davis was the illustrator and driving force behind “The Last Word” caricatures of rappers, DJs and hip-hop industry figures that appeared on the magazine’s last page.

He infused his illustrations with sharp-witted satire and commentary about culture and news of the day that made his work popular.

Since his days at the pioneering hip-hop periodical, his body of work now includes illustrations for Marvel Comics and album covers.

He’s also a writer and educator. Davis teaches art at Ascend Public Charter School in Brownsville.

Hip Hop Heads art auction. Photo: Andre LeRoy Davis/NFT.hiphop

Davis said about six years ago Ed Young, the co-founder of The Source and a long-time friend, contacted him about playing some role in supporting the creation of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2024.

To that end, part of the Hip Hop Heads Collection has been donated to the museum to establish its original crypto art collection.

“We are doing this to spur the revolution,” Young said in a statement in which he also highlighted how technology ignited changes in the music industry over the years.

“I’ve seen enough to know the signs: the next wave of hip-hop is here, and it’s happening on the blockchain,” the 30-year industry veteran continued.

Young introduced Davis to NEAR Protocol.

“NEAR Protocol felt like the best fit for me,” said Davis, who has been careful over the years to maintain legal ownership of his artwork. “They were the right people, the right situation, and the right company for me.”

For artists and art collectors, NFTs help to solve the digital age problem of protecting ownership of original artwork that can easily be reproduced on computers.

Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs exist on a blockchain, a method of public digital record keeping that’s decentralized and provides proof of ownership and authenticity of digital artwork. 

Through the NFT auction, fans can now own a piece of hip-hop nostalgia. 

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Nigel Roberts

Nigel Roberts is a New York-based, award-winning freelance journalist. During his career, Nigel has written for several newspapers and magazines. He has extensive experience covering politics and was a...

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