The First Female Rapper on Blockchain now Leading Artists
ZORA’s new Community Lead, LATASHÁ
Before the pandemic, multimedia artist and lyricist Latashá was opening for the likes of Q-Tip and Kanye West but still struggling to make ends meet. “I would consider myself like, middle class, and figuring it out every day,” she says. “I did a lot of different things in music, but it was soul burnout; it was a lot of work for less than my worth.”
When she put her first NFT up on ZORA three months ago, it was a turning point in her life. Within six minutes she had an offer of 1000 DAI ($999). “I swear, me and my squad, we made NFTs in our minds,” Latashá laughs. “We were all thinking the same thing: how can we bring value back to art, and how can we work and be okay in the pandemic? I really think a collective consciousness built this up.”
Inspired by Frida Kahlo’s personal artwork, Lil’ Kim/Lauryn Hill raw vibrations and Lisa Frank’s kitschy technicolor children’s products, Latasha’s videos give us a vivid window into her life. We see a younger Latashá stretching her arms back into sunny Brooklyn or performing poems about navigating Black womanhood in America. Now, Latashá experiments with beat videos and meditation tracks from her home in LA. She poses in front of psychedelic backgrounds, celebrating Black femininity and emanating a message of self-love.
“Although the metaverse is generally defined as the digital shared plane of existence we are cultivating on the Internet, I define the metaverse as the subconscious reality coming to life,” Latashá says. The metaverse is a dimension where Latashá can express her fullest self and bring marginalized narratives to the forefront. “If we can use art to tap into our subconscious, we can make a better metaverse and in turn make a better universe,” she says. “This is a whole new frontier, where we decide our reality and I’m humbled to lead in this journey.”
When did you start making art?
I feel like I've been an artist since I was a child, but I grew up in Brooklyn so like, the walls were super thin, so you can't really be singing out loud. But whenever I could find a mic, I was going off on it, I used to dress up with my mom's clothes and pretend to be in TLC. My boyfriend passed away right before I went to college — he wanted to be a rapper, and he always pushed me to do poetry. So in college, to heal, I started writing poetry and plays, and I just became a rapper out of the blue. I was doing poetry ciphers and people were like, yo, you can rap. I started doing mixtapes, and before I knew it I was opening for a lot of crazy artists like a young Big Sean, Q-Tip and Princess Nokia, Ghostface Killah, and Kanye West.
What about visual art?
Doing graphic design actually came about because I was broke when I started rapping and I needed to figure out how to make flyers and stuff, but then it became a passion. I’m big on just flowing between the arts. I feel like sometimes as artists we are caught up in this idea that we have to be one identity, but we're all multidimensional beings — I'm going to give you all of me.
What has your journey with spirituality been like?
I grew up in very spiritual spaces. My grandma is a botanical woman, she’s Haitian and she practices Santeria and Vodou, but not the way Hollywood interprets Vodou — she does spiritual healing for people and supports them in their journeys. My spiritualism is really a mix of all the things that speak to me. I have spaces for my deities like Oshun and Yemanja, but then I also have Buddhas and Jesus everywhere. I quietly use to do workshops helping people learn to manifest and practice tarot reading.
Your spirituality comes through so strongly in your work. Why is it important for you to share that through your art?
I think it’s what keeps us connected to our ancestors. I feel like, as a Woman of Color, a lot of this work has been shamed or labeled as bad or evil. And I feel often that’s the same story about Blackness — Black people being told they’re savage and being shamed, and so these meet in that space of activism. Telling these stories opens up people’s minds about who we truly are. I remember women coming to me at times when I was down and helping me with ritual and how that shifted everything for me, so I want to be that for women out there who are listening to my music.
Tell me about some of the work you’ve put up on ZORA.
I decided a lot of my work on ZORA based on the fact that I want to bring a standard to NFTs that is beyond this retro idea of futurism. I also want to set a standard for Black women and musicians to feel like they can find a new home through this. A lot of my pieces are focused on music or poetry, and also my own reality. I’m bringing people into my home, into my space, and into my true being, because I feel like that's an art. I love intertwining spiritualism, dancehall, and Brooklyn — the hood shit that I lived off of — and seeing the intellectualism of the block. Not the blockchain, but the actual block: realizing the depth of Black women in the hood and in every space.
I read in the caption of “INTRO TO LATASHÁ: POEM” that you wondered if Black womanhood has become a form of escapism for America. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
I feel oftentimes Black womanhood and Black women culture is appropriated to create these alternate realities for people of what they deem cool or deep. I’ve been a part of a lot of conversations with White women who are like, Heyyy guuurl, and giving me that energy, which is cool, but I wonder if I wasn’t here, who would you be? I wonder if I wasn't a Black woman and Black women weren't on this planet, who would you be? I often think about Blackness as a way for other people not to stay in touch with themselves because everybody likes to be Black until they got to be Black. Everybody likes Blackness until shit gets real.
When you described watching your white friends skip over the N-word in songs and sometimes hearing their ancestors slip up, it was a really good illustration of why that word is painful and problematic to hear.
I've had conversations with my white friends about ancestry, and a lot of them are like, I don't know who my ancestors are, or, I'm trying to be in the present. And I'm like, yeah cool, but we're the present with the past and with the future, right? So we have to be mindful of our privilege and our ancestors’ privilege. I think that's where that line came from, hearing their ancestors say it instead of them, because sometimes we forget that we embody so much more than what we see here.
What impact has selling NFTs had on your life?
Oh my god, it's completely shifted my whole existence thus far. It's insane. I've only been doing NFTs for about 6 months, and I don’t even know how to explain the impact it has had on my wellness. I feel like my art has the value that I've been wanting it to have. I feel supported and connected to something beyond me. It’s allowed me to reconnect with pieces that I just had stored, and remind me of myself, and I love it. I’ve become a member of a DAO and I’ve had insane bidding wars and I'm just so grateful for it. There's a lot of problems of course, but I feel like it's still so young.
What do you think the problems are?
There's a lot of talk about decentralization, but not really talk about supporting women and marginalized communities. Not from ZORA, but from other spaces. It’s a performative kind of talk, but it’s not enough. I know so many incredible artists who want to get into NFTs but they don't have the resources, and I want us to find a way to really change that.
How have NFTs changed your relationship with the value of your work?
I always knew my work deserved big bucks; that’s why I was always pissed with the music industry. I was like, this does not speak to my worth. Value can be monetary, but it’s also soul-expanding because I don’t feel so shut in by the fact that I don’t have resources or that I can’t support my community.
Why did you choose not to sign with a record label?
I chose to be independent because I knew a day like this would come. I tried a little publishing deal in 2020, just to try it, and I hated it so much. I was so upset with myself for taking this crumb of money and I felt like my creativity was kept by someone else.
Who would you like to see on ZORA next?
Honestly, my goal is getting women on this heavy and starting something for music. I would love more DJs on ZORA, I think that's the next frontier. I would love to see a lot more performance art and dance on ZORA.
What advice would you give to artists who want to start getting into NFTs who don’t have a big social media following?
It's the back-to-the-community aspect of it. You have to put yourself out there, you have to do the work and meet people and get to know what we’re building here. I always tell people for your first piece, make it really speak to who you want to be in the metaverse. If you decide to take this road, it’s just another addition to your journey. That’s how I’m seeing it; it’s just another garden for me to keep working at.
What work do you have in the pipeline?
I have a really dope project coming out in June called “Joy Ride” that's going to be an NFT, in real life, and on streaming services. It's a transitional project, it’s got a mixtape vibe, and it's taking you to my next project which is an EP.
Tell me about one of the latest collectors of your work, HerstoryDAO.
With HerstoryDAO, we are creating a community that puts resources together to collect pieces and support each other. One of the big works we’re doing is preserving and bringing forward Black women narratives — that’s what we want to make sure is highlighted in NFTs. Hopefully, we can collect as many of those narratives as possible to have our own little gallery of this kind of work, because it’s necessary.
I hear you’re also creating a music DAO?
A big focus of mine is music and NFTs, because they will shift the value of music. I really hope people can start revaluing music through NFTs and see how transformative it will be for music in general. Artists will have the space to create quality, instead of constantly creating what the world is telling them to create, what the industry has been pumping out over and over again. Now I’ll be able to cultivate my truest Latashá, and she’s a whole different form of a woman artist than what you’ve seen constantly being reinforced. I’m excited to see more musicians have the opportunity to be their full selves.
Let’s talk about your new role as the Community Lead at ZORA. How did you decide to focus your energy on this team? Were you more intrigued as an artist who had already minted with ZORA?
I am and always will be an artist, first and foremost. I just have to say that as a reminder to myself. However, along my crypto journey, I’ve been summoned by various companies to consult or work for them — but I’ve always been a huge advocate for ZORA from day one. I believe in their manifesto of artist/creator autonomy. It is a huge reason I started minting. A main objective of my work as an artist is to inspire more creatives to figure their autonomy and new blueprint of success. So when ZORA asked me about becoming Community Lead, I knew this was an opportunity that was bigger than just a position. This was an opportunity to really highlight the amazing creatives and forces that aren’t always noticed. It’s an opportunity to represent as a Caribbean Afro Latinx Black woman and artist in the Blockchain. It’s an opportunity to have a strong say in how some of our metaverse is being built. So I could not pass that up. I appreciate that ZORA is built by creatives — who better to lead artists than an artist herself? In my mind, I’ve always been a Community Lead...this time it’s just with a company I believe in.
Can you say a bit about your vision for the community here? What new opportunities would you like to see for artists, creators, and other relationships?
I have an extensive vision for the community, but for one, I want to offer easier access to resources and placements that can elevate us. I envision bridging more real-life events to the digital. I envision better quality cross-pollination of traditional art meeting non-traditional art, and elevation and focus on non-traditional art. I hope to give artists more freedom through platforms powered by ZORA, like Artiva, Catalog, and more. I also am working on ZORAfm, a new outlet to shine a light on the metaverse and its community through Twitter Spaces.
But overall, the vision is access, visibility, and vibes… always the flyest vibes.
What would you tell a normie curious about joining the metaverse community?
If you find one really good metabestie in the metaverse, you probably found a winner. So when you do, don’t be afraid to jump into the water, connect with the people on Twitter and Clubhouse. Get involved — and get some air daily.