BeinCrypto spoke to Latashá Alcindor, a multi-disciplinary artist making groundbreaking strides with her non-fungible token (NFT) drops. She discusses the opportunity this space provides and what it’s like building these new worlds.
Web 3.0 and blockchain technology is often discussed as the mechanism to individual freedom. Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and decentralized finance (DeFi) are considered the tools to break down long-standing institutional gatekeepers.
This decentralized revolution is certainly apparent in the NFT boom of 2021. Artists who had long been overlooked for their digital creations are instilling interest and ownership into their artwork.
For multi-dimensional artist Latashá, the burgeoning metaverse is an opportunity to be the builders of this space. To expand and enhance creativity and to address the institutional issues in the arts.
Manifesting the NFT
Many have analyzed the NFT boom as a partial response to the COVID-19 lockdown. For Latashá, this was very much the case.
“I am an artist of many worlds. I do music, art, film, and performance art. Pretty much whatever my spirit is flowing to. Now I’ve gotten into the space of NFT crypto art.” she says.
“I have been making music for about eight years as a rapper. I’ve gone by the name LA but also transformed to Latashá over time. Then kind of navigating the music industry for some years and hated it. A lot of it felt like the music industry was a really hard institution for women of color to really thrive in without feeling like they’re breaking their integrity.”
Despite her success, opening for major rappers like Kanye West, she never saw this result in tangible gains.
Once the pandemic hit, touring stopped. At the time, she and her fellow artists were looking for other ways to release and promote their art.
“I really tell everybody that I had believed that I manifested NFTs with all of my homies because we all were just trying to figure out how to do this.”
She was originally skeptical when her partner initially introduced her to NFTs. However, Latashá explains that she took her time to look into this world on the precipice of kicking off.
“I found out there was a space for music and NFTs. So I minted my first NFT in February on Zora and found myself in this world. My NFT sold in three minutes. At that moment, I knew there was something really special about value for an artist in the space. That [also] made me the first female rapper in blockchain,” she says.
Building the system, acknowledging the systemic issues
As expressed, Latashá completely embraces NFTs for the potential they provide. However, she notes that this growing space is not without its issues.
“Firstly, I feel like the NFT space as a whole and the metaverse is still is very complex and complicated. It still has its implicit systematic issues ingrained into it. But because it’s so young, we have an opportunity to transform this space to our best capacities. To be upfront about the problems.”
As expected, much of the NFT space is, in some ways, mimicking the “real world.”
Those at the forefront are often the same as those who dominate in traditional art circles — white, cis-gendered, men.
“The space is still inherently white and male and cis male. I often use a new idea of what this space could be in my work. I have a lot of ‘crypto bro’ friends right now especially being in the space. But allowing them to see my perspectives and truths, I think is transforming the mindset of a lot of people.”
In addition to bringing these issues forward, Latashá is deeply involved in recruiting, promoting, and supporting other artists in the NFT world.
“All I can do is try to onboard more amazing artists that I believe deserve this platform. Try to speak out when speaking out is necessary, and show up when I have to show up.”
She does this through her art, her artist community, and her work as a community lead for ZORA.
“This is a great opportunity to see something new and really form it and mold it the way that we see is fit for our best being,” she says.
Building better value through an NFT
In addition to being a key player in supporting artists in this space, Latashá’s creative and community work focuses on reinvigorating art with real value for those creating it.
With the rise of Web 2.0 giants like Instagram and Spotify, in addition to the institutional ownership embedded in the music industry, true ownership, and long-term value have been difficult for artists to keep hold of.
“I think that’s the fault of Web 2. I feel like that’s the fault of legacy platforms just not giving worth at the beginning to JPEGs or music. It would have been so dope if, when we were using Tumbler, every time we made a post, we made a buck or something like that. It would just have changed everything. Just the idea of value would have changed,” she says.
Instead, she sees the growing NFT space and metaverses as an opportunity to step away from the process of auditioning for the approval of a brand.
“This is a means of creating your own and I’m so hyped for that.”
The metaverse for community
Alongside encouraging and assisting individuals, Latashá is also involved in the emerging space of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).
As part of HerstoryDAO, she sees the ability of these decentralized organizations to center the interests of those often excluded, especially women of color.
“The DAOs that I’m a part of, especially Herstory DAO, speak to the preservation of people of color. Especially women of color, especially black women taking space.”
HerstoryDAO specifically is linked to her and her work. It came about following inspiration from one of her first NFTs, Intro to Latashá.
“One of the founders, who is not a founder anymore, saw my piece, and was like, ‘this is exactly what we need. We need to identify as women taking up space, and speaking their truth and telling their story and bringing forward that history, to blockchain.’ So, when my piece dropped, a group of people who all believed in that narrative and idea came together and created Herstory DAO,” she explains.
Community is central to how people build and support one another. As a result, Latashá sees HerstoryDAO as fundamental to the kind of growth needed in this space.
“So HerstoryDAO is, I believe, the beginning of that work, and there’s so much more to come, but I’m really excited and grateful to be a part of the community that sees the necessity of that.”
“Be on your own time”
While Latashá sees the NFT and blockchain space as brimming with opportunity, she also warns creators not to be caught up in the fear of missing out (FOMO).
“Just take it with time, your own measure of time because I think time within the metaverse is very chaotic. If it takes you a few months before you mint your first piece, amazing. If it takes you a few years before you make your first piece, amazing.”
This concern for the rushed pace of the NFT space runs deep for Latashá. Since she sees it as such an area for opportunity, she worries about the health of those who are entering and participating.
“I think the rush culture that capitalism just systematically creates is definitely embedded within the blockchain. So, I often worry about people’s mental health, spiritual health, and physical health within this space. I’ve seen how this space could compose so much of people’s psyche and spirit, and I don’t want that for so many,” she explains.
“So I think my biggest concern is just people taking time. I think time is of the essence for ourselves. We need to remember: Time is our most valuable asset. I know that’s cliche, but it’s very, very true. Especially within blockchain, because people are going to see a million things pop up and be like I got to be a part of this, I got to be a part of this, and before they know it, they’re depleted.”
“I don’t want to see that for people, I want to see quality happen within the blockchain. I want to see real art being highly supported within the space and real communities being pushed forward within this space that have true meaning, so don’t rush. Let it happen.”
Be an actual person, not just an NFT avatar
This drive for balance is also mixed with a belief in authenticity. For Latashá, those wanting to enter the space shouldn’t strive to mint and make big bucks only. Rather time and participation should the focus.
“Pay attention to what’s happening, be respectful to the community, and show up for the community even before getting into blockchain. A lot of this is community-based. People don’t support if you’re not in the community. Take time, get to know people. Be a person, so don’t just feel like you’re an avatar, be an actual person, and show love to the art.”
Just the beginning
As someone who has been a first for the space, putting out the first female rap NFT, Latashá has a keen understanding that this is only the beginning. For herself and for blockchain-enabled works in general.
“It meant a lot, bringing my art into the blockchain because, yes, it seems to just be a code behind it but it also has value. I feel like, over time the blockchain is going to mean something way beyond what we understand right now. I don’t even think my brain could comprehend what this is going to equate to in the future.”
As a multi-disciplinary artist part of the rise of the metaverse, she explains it best as individuals building our own universes.
“We’re all becoming our own little universes now and at the core of it we’re the sun, and then one planet is music, one planet is writing, one planet is storytelling. There’s just a bunch of different planets now that we could create for ourselves. That’s what this is supposed to be about, all of us creating our own little universe or our own little planet with a lot of moons,” she says.
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