Music, NFTs, and Community with LatasháOct 25, 2021·Last updated on Oct 25, 2021
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We’ve been talking about NFTs a lot lately. Actually, everybody has been talking about NFTs a lot lately, and for good reason. In the creative world, NFTs are changing lives. Visual art is currently leading this charge, but musical artists have been quick to take notice. In an industry where artists are used to getting the short end of the stick, NFTs are offering a new path for musicians.
Few understand this better than Latashá.
In between getting her Twitter account back and up running (it got hacked over the weekend) and dropping an NFT for her music video Who I Am, I caught up with Latashá to talk all things music, NFTs, Zora, and the power of community.
Who is Latashá?
First and foremost, Latashá is an artist.
The singer, songwriter, rapper, producer, visual artist, performance artist, and Community Lead at NFT marketplace, Zora, is quickly making a name for herself in blockchain’s budding creative scene. But she’s not new to this. Before arriving in the metaverse, Latashá had already spent years honing her craft and climbing the ranks in New York City’s hip hop scene:
“I thought I was going to do broadway- but that didn’t happen. All of a sudden I was doing cyphers and rapping all over the place. And then opened for Kanye and Q-Tip and Big Sean and all these crazy people.”
As an artist, Latashá is vibrant. Over instrumentals that often pull from modern, gritty bass music and 90s hip-hop, she always sounds right at home. Latashá injects undeniable braggadocio and an incredibly strong sense of self into energetic hooks and smooth verses, all the while offering a raw glimpse into the black experience.
But in the eyes of today’s music industry, which has become comfortable recycling the sounds, ideas, and images of yesterday, Latashá is seen as just another potential product. The industry doesn’t see artists as unique creative minds, it sees them as financial investments. To be clear, Latashá is not alone in this. Anyone looking to break into this industry will have to bend to the will of its gatekeepers, and Latashá is all too familiar with this struggle.
“For some time I was on and off on music, just out of depression and my own vibrations not aligning with what was happening in the industry at the time. So, I did the whole 9-5 thing, hated that too, quit my job in 2015, and decided to do music full time. Toured all over New York City again, was doing this whole independent artist route, and ended up being a residency artist at National Sawdust and The Shed.”
By traditional industry standards, Latashá was making it. But she didn’t feel that way.
“I didn’t understand the business at first. I didn’t even know I could get paid from shows when I first was doing it. I thought a label would just pick you up and that’s how you make your money. But over time I started reading my books and getting really deep into what the business of the music industry is. I’ve done the label meetings and A&R meetings and all that kind of stuff.
But the industry was very tough, especially for a woman rapper. Especially for a woman rapper that’s trying to keep her integrity, keep her independence. Everything that makes me feel like I can’t be independent or keep my integrity - I hate it.”
With New York City and the music industry taking their toll on her, Latashá ventured west to Los Angeles with her partner, Jah, and their two friends.
Jah, a multimedia storyteller, had begun minting digital artwork and animations as NFTs in 2020. It didn’t take long for Latashá to realize the opportunities that this new technology had to offer. On February 17, 2021, she minted an NFT of her own, a short music video titled Ilikedat. The “self portrait performance,” written and performed by Latashá, and shot by Jah, sold for $1,000 on Zora. This is the equivalent of about 250,000 Spotify streams. And unlike waiting three months or more to see a royalty check, the Zora sale hit Latashá’s wallet instantly.
And that’s all it took — she went all in.
Since then, Latashá has sold around 50 more works. With no guidelines to conform to, these new works range from conceptual performances to original songs and full music videos, with her Glo Up Remix video bringing in 10.3 ETH, or around $32,000 at the time.
It’s hard to express just how huge of a shift this is. By offering her work as NFTs, Latashá is entirely in control of what she is creating and is no longer dependent on streams, clicks, or the music industry for that matter. More than that, she owns her work, her masters, and the entire creative process. Latashá answers to no one but herself and her small circle of creative partners. She now has the freedom to create exactly what she wants.
Unwilling to conform to an outdated industry, Latashá is helping to build a new one.
Music is Art
With all of this firsthand experience under her belt, Latashá is growing more optimistic about the future of music and NFTs by the day.
“I see we’re moving in a direction where music is gonna become art again. That’s what I’ve always wished and dreamed for my music. I’ve always seen my work as art. But then the music industry denied me of that identity.
We are artists fully, and not just background noise for people at parties. This is full artistry. NFTs are allowing me to have the space to explore and be a full artist again in all of my dimensions. I’m really excited for what NFTs are doing for music overall.”
NFTs are just starting to make their way into the music industry, but one thing is already certain - NFTs are giving artists their freedom back. Without having to rely on mass appeal and the hope of generating millions of streams, artists can create what they truly want to create.
“It’s gonna get real unique, real weird again. Real real. Now people have the space, and don’t feel like they’re in a box of what they’re supposed to sound like or what they’re supposed to do because the industry has told us for so long they want this kind of blueprint. And I feel like artists have the opportunity to create their own blueprints again with music and NFTs.”
On top of giving Latashá her creative freedom back, NFTs have offered her a path to bring other artists up with her.
Zora and Community
As the NFT community began taking notice of her work, Latashá became a guide for other artists looking to do the same. I asked what her secret was for onboarding new artists and convincing them to take advantage of NFTs. As it turns out, there is no secret.
“I’m never one for enforcing, I like when artists organically come into this space. Once you start forcing people, it’s something they don’t want to do. I don’t do anything but tell my story. That is usually the thing that gets people to want to know more and get educated. I use my Twitter a lot for that, just telling the story of how NFTs have evolved my career. I think that is the main way we can grab more artists and bring them into the space.”
Zora, the marketplace where Latashá was minting her work, was also paying attention to her. In August of 2021, Zora reached out to Latashá and offered her the role of Community Lead. It was a perfect fit.
“I felt like there was a gap with education for platforms and the NFT community. I was like alright, I’ll do it. I know it, and I know I can say it in a layman's way so people can really get it. I started Zoratopias every other Wednesday, and it’s been a really great place to onboard artists and get them into NFTs. I’ve already seen a few artists get sales.”
On top of her talent and unique creative approach, Latashá’s success is the result of this emphasis she places on helping her community. A quick scroll through her Twitter feed will show you that she is truly a woman of the people. Latashá is a steward of this new creative world.
Taking this community stewardship a step further, Latashá is a contributor to Herstory - an art collective dedicated to preserving the stories of marginalized crypto creators. HerStory helps foster and support artists from underrepresented communities, with a focus on black women creators.
“Art is such a tricky thing when you’re talking about ownership. And we wanted to make sure black women had collectors that looked like them. We want to create these DAOs to support other black folk and create our own ecosystem.
I’m super grateful to be part of the community, I’ve witnessed so many dynamic things happen out of just having a squad that you could talk to and launch with and watch things happen.”
This positive feedback loop of artists directly supporting artists is a lovely departure from the traditional creative industries, where so much of the value is captured by middleman and businesses who aren’t quite as interested in giving back. Latashá is helping to set the example of how powerful these new creative communities can become.
Latashá Is Just Getting Started
It’s clear that Latashá is just getting started, and that’s great news for the blockchain music space.
“Overall I’m just excited for everything. A lot of epic things are coming up next year - I’m working on an album that I’ll be putting on the blockchain. And that’s where I’m at right now. Building, building, building, connecting, connecting. And making sure the community is safe and growing. That’s my heartwork.”