Flash Mints: Connecting Iconic Hip Hop Photography and Collectors Through NFTs

MOBILE 2022 01 05T153351.558
ODB by T. Eric Monroe

NFTs offer an unprecedented opportunity for artists to directly monetize their work with their collectors and fan base. Similarly, the tech also offers an unprecedented opportunity for collectors to connect with artists and own authentic pieces that are meaningful to them in a much more scalable way. 

It’s hard to believe, but NFTs have been “mainstream” for less than a year. The market focus so far has been on PFP (profile picture) projects, but photography is gaining more exposure, notably with a record 850 ETH sale of Justin Aversano’s ‘Twin Flames #49. Alyson & Courtney Aliano’ photograph. 

America is a visual culture. Photography was used to boost morale during World War 2, affected the civil war, captivated America with the moon-landing, inspired civil rights movements and photography was used as a medium for social reform

Today, photography is used in our everyday lives to capture day-to-day events (think Instagram), which may have reduced our appreciation for the impact photography has had on shaping and documenting our history. 

I had the pleasure of chatting with Enrico Moses, Jamil GS, and T. Eric Monroe to discuss Flash Mints, the platform that’s preserving and curating iconic 90s hip hop photography through an NFT platform. Flash Mints aims to connect with collectors who appreciate the impact photography—and those behind the lens—had during the golden age of Hip-Hop. 

Flash Mints is currently live, with curated collections from T. Eric Monroe, Jamil GS, and Ricky Powell starting at 0.1 ETH. You can also join their Discord group to engage directly with the photographers and collectors who appreciate the work and learn about upcoming drops. 

The Inspiration for Flash Mints

Our goal is to bring everybody together. When I think about hip hop and how special it is to me, these photos have to be out in the marketplace.

- Enrico Moses

In the 1990s, photographing Hip-Hop artists was something that needed to be handled quickly, and oftentimes, the photographers would get the copyright for their work because the perceived value was in the music copyrights, not the photography. 

This created a unique situation for the photographers 30 years later: they were sitting on a vault of American visual culture from a defining time period that they owned the rights to. 

Back in 2012, the launch of Instagram offered a platform to share this work, but there was hesitation for these photographers: what happens if people steal the work and call it their own? 

T. Eric Monroe told me about his hesitation with Instagram, but said that legendary hip hop photographer Chi Modu encouraged him to share his work with the world. Over the next decade, Chi trailblazed a path for his fellow photographers, with a philosophy of lifting others up and working together. 

This past May, shortly before Chi Modu passed away, he minted his photography as an NFT collection on Rarible. Chi wanted to break down the barriers of the traditional art world and saw NFTs as an opportunity to share his authenticated work with collectors, which inspired other artists to take a similar path. 

I’m getting chills, Chi has been with us this whole time.

- Enrico Moses

Enrico Moses, the founder of Flash Mints, had gotten into NFTs himself in 2020 minting some of his work, purchasing digital real estate, and took it on as his personal mission to reach out to other artists to figure out a platform to share hip hop photography NFT with collectors. One of those artists was Chi Modu. 

Modu didn’t keep the idea for himself to maximize his opportunity. Instead, he inspired Enrico, who later got connected with Jamil GS in a Clubhouse group, and T. Eric Monroe, through a mutual friend. 

When asked, Jamil GS said that his “gut reaction to NFTs was ‘finally’ because protecting the work and still being able to share it has been a struggle.”

He continued and said that he’s “been sharing fine art prints for 20 years and one of my biggest challenges is authenticity. It’s something I’ve been doing not as the main focus and in recent years exhibitions. This is a sure-shot way for a certificate of authenticity in the blockchain”.

Enrico added that he remembered that the proposal for Flash Mints was sent to Chi after he was sick. Chi’s wife, Sophia, found it and wanted to keep working with the team to turn the vision into a reality. It was a serendipitous moment for all those involved. 

How Flash Mints Works and Where You Can Buy The Photography

The idea of Flash Mints is based on our love of the process for minting and having the opportunity to get something special, which connected with our childhood memory of collecting sports cards.

- Enrico Moses 

When Chi Modu released his NFT collection, there were varying levels of supply for each photograph. Two of the photographs were released as one of ones (meaning only 1 copy available) and fifteen others had a supply of 100. 

Flash Mints is leveraging the same idea, but expanding on it to allow users the chance to receive a randomized asset with the number of copies ranging from 1 to 100: 

The platform is also rewarding early minters by offering .1 ETH for the first 500 mints, then it progressively increases as more assets are minted:

In theory, an early adopter could pay .1 ETH for a mint and randomly receive a 1/1 photo from the collection. A user can connect their wallet on the site, mint, and receive a random NFT from the selected collection. 

Curation is also a critical component of maintaining the integrity of the platform and the interest of collectors. Modu photographed artists like Biggie, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and Eazy-E early in their careers and had a unique style that captured those rappers in moments of vulnerability. 

T. Eric Monroe, Jamil GS, Ricky Powell are all recognized photographers with a deep history in music culture, and at the end of December, Chi Modu’s second collection launched, as well as a collection from Yaasmyn Fula. Fula’s collection features photos from “The Untold Story of Tupac Amaru Shakur & Yaki ‘Kadafi’ Fula”. 

This group photographed many of the rappers and music artists we’ve come to know and love today. 

Enrico said that this talented group is an amazing start to Flash Mints, but they are actively talking to other artists and rappers in the hip-hop community. Their current vision is to spread awareness for the quality of the work, the artists, and the community to bring more people into the space. 

The group had been approached by other platforms looking to curate their work, but they were so bought into Chi’s vision that doing anything but creating Flash Mints felt inauthentic. 

The main thing is motivating people to learn about what we are doing. Going to the Discord, look at each collection learn about each of these artists. Pushing people to be a part of the community. This isn’t some cash grab project. This has taken years to create and curate. These collections are going to stand the test of time.

- T. Eric Monroe 

What struck me the most about this founding group, is that they are committed to this project in a much deeper, profound way through their commitment to carry on the legacy of their mentor. They’ve done photography for 30+ years before NFTs existed, and are committed to making the investment from their collectors worthwhile over the next 30+ years. 

A demonstrated track record and level of personal investment is a rare find in NFT projects — spotting the creators who have a lot riding on their project and see themselves doing it for the rest of their lives does not come along often. 

What’s Next for Photography NFTs?

No one can say for certain, but photography NFTs present a whole new medium to share, collect and identify with cultural icons. Flash Mints aims to build that trusted platform, rich with history and authentic direction to make collectors of the work happy. 

One of the most exciting aspects of web3 is that it is so new. 2021 brought a rapid evolution of created IP through characters, but photography draws from real-life moments. 

The reality is that we don’t know what this could become, but Enrico and his team are determined to continually deliver value to those who invest in them, especially at this phase of their launch. 

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