RareAF Talks: DJ Pepe

DJ Pepe. Photo by: Christian Hewett

DJ Pepe is the OG blockchain artist.

Over the past few years, his fascination with the blockchain has led to him to become one of the first early adopters in the art world. From executing a contract for physical prints to allowing exclusive key access for his Soundcloud, DJ Pepe’s found a solution, utilizing any and all the tools the blockchain community has provided. However, it’s the potential he sees in the future of this stuff that has him the most excited.

As an artist that’s been using blockchain to sell his work for years, we sat down with DJ Pepe to learn a little bit more about his origins, as well as why he feels this relationship between art and the blockchain is only going to grow stronger. And with interests spread between Pepes, Hip-Hop, crypto-collectibles, and painting, his foresight could provide a blueprint for other artists to learn from.

DJ Pepe. Photo by: Christian Hewett

Talk to me a little bit about your initial interest in blockchain and the potential you’ve seen in music with it.

Well, I guess the potential I see with music is with rare music, like limited edition releases. Taken from how records are, you know, something tangible that you put out that’s a limited edition.

So, if you have an artist you know has a following then you might release music a bunch of different ways. But one cool thing for fans is to release a limited edition where you can use a token. By giving them the token, you’ve proven that they have that release. Also, it could give access on their website and stuff like that.

It’s kind of how I do my DJ Pepe token. I use a Soundcloud player and it’s a private page. You can’t access it any other way than using the DJ Pepe token. And when you click the trading card, it grants you access. Kind of like what Joe (Looney) was showing on there, it has bonus content. I have like a playlist of probably like thirty songs on there, and some of them I have out and about in the general world; and for the others there are probably like 10 that are exclusive to you if you own DJ Pepe. I think there’s like 50 or 60 owners of DJ Pepe right now.

I’ve only made 169 of the cards, and those people are the only ones that have access to it. So, I’m just kind of playing with that, but I think if a major artist were to do that, I think it could be real beneficial for the fans because it’s giving them something nobody else will have. Artists as well, because they’re reaching a new audience too.

Yeah, I mean that’s something we sort of saw with the Wu-Tang album.

Exactly.

I think that was a good use case regarding the model of an auction, but if somebody that wasn’t Martin Shkreli bought it, then the question then becomes: would that person be willing to pay a million dollars for an album and then release it for free so every fan can hear it?

Yeah, and you can set terms like that if you use smart contracts. You can say in the contract that you can’t let anybody else hear this. The Shkreli thing didn’t use a blockchain, but I think the rules they had in the contract were that you couldn’t throw a party or play it for people, or something. There were rules and stuff in it, you know what I mean? So, you could do that on blockchain, and hopefully the smart contracts get smarter, so you can have real access without any person controlling that. You know?

Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time In Shaolin Photo Credit: Highsnobiety

So, what initially got you into blockchain?

Um, (sigh) I was interested in the Silk Road. Just, that as a story…so me and two of my producer friends made an album that was kind of like a journalistic musical journey through media coverage of the Silk Road. And as I got into that, I learned about Bitcoin. I knew a little bit about it from the hype before, but I never really got into it, but, that’s how I learned about it. When the album was done I wanted to know how I could get into that community and sell it for Bitcoin and crypto. I just fell down the rabbit hole from there.

Okay, cool. So, how’d you get started with yourArt On The Blockchain podcast?

Me and Cynthia spoke at a DC government meet up a year ago, almost to the day.

It was about assets and art, funny enough. I told her I was going to the meetup and I broke out the Rare Pepe Wallet, and everybody was just crazy about it because they hadn’t seen any use cases for blockchain. Like, everybody was speculating, you know, doing Bitcoin, talking about Etherium and everything like that, but, I just showed a couple people the wallet and they went crazy.

They invited me to talk in January and Cynthia also spoke, so then we got together. She used to own an art gallery, so she’s into art. She’s a lawyer, so she had some cool copyright ideas. She had law ideas with art and I was a user, so we branded that together and were like, “let’s put this to a podcast”.

I accepted cryptocurrency for a drawing about a year and a half ago and the cryptocurrency went up like 100 times. So, if you’re an artist, you can hedge by accepting different cryptos, and have a little bit of risk management in how you accept money. That paid off for me.

The DJ Pepe Card. Photo Credit: DJ Pepe

Makes sense, and what does this ownership of art mean to you?

Well, I come from more of a collector, standpoint, I’ve been collecting things all my life. I think in terms of art, I’m into the rarities, the prints, the dope artists that would have an underground release or something, whether it’s physical art or music. I think combining those rarities with the blockchain, you can prove that everything is rare. Those technologies are where things could go into the future.

Blockchain proves a chain of custody and providence. Starting from here on, you’ll know how it changed hands, and did this fall into somebody’s hands that it shouldn’t have been in. I think there would be less of that.

Final question: what do you think about the future of rare digital art? Do you think this relationship between art and the blockchain is going to grow?

Well, I’m one of the people that’s hoping it grows. I’ve seen a lot of growth so far and a lot of interest. I don’t think we’re near mainstream for it yet, but I think it’s just going to exponentially grow, because it proves things. Like, Topp baseball cards could be on it. Art prints could be on it. You don’t even have to own the token. But if I just make a token and a hundred copies of it, and sell 100 prints, I can just burn the token each time I sell it. And you can look on the blockchain and see how many are left.

You’re saying that this could make a big difference in the physical world as well?

Yeah, I guess that’s how I look at it. I look at the tokens as a bonus.

So, you’re looking at it as a currency we exchange art on no matter if it’s physical or digital.

Yeah that’s it.

That’s actually an interesting concept, I haven’t heard anyone talk about the physical aspect.

Yeah, like we were exploring RFIDs, and how you could do a hash embedding. There’s a lot of different stuff. I don’t think anybody’s perfected it yet, because at the end of the day, the owner has to make the private key. But Opendime , and some others…everybody’s working on that. I think something is going to come of it this year, I see it happening. Something can be tested this year.

Awesome. Well is there anything else you’d like to add?

Nah, just buy DJ Pepe and the Silk Road album. Holla.