Many evenings after LeriQ was done with his work making beats for some of Afrobeat greats, he takes out his notepad and makes sketches. Nothing too serious. Nothing too fancy. Just a habit from childhood that has followed him into this new life he is living. The life that includes a Grammy win and other awards from tracks with WizKid, Wande Coal, Burna Boy etc.
At the close of the last decade like many people, he began to dabble in the crypto world, deeping in, deeping out. Then the pandemic happened and everyone felt nostalgic, reeling from the days in the sun.
On one of those days, he got on a call with Kweku Essien, who he had worked with on a music project years back, just to see how he was doing. Now, almost two years later, the pair have a digital asset-focused startup, African Valuables Collective (AVC), and have launched its first collection of NFTs, Rough Diamonds.
“It’s been conceived even before I got introduced to the NFT space,” LeriQ said of the collection in an interview with Technext.
The NFTs in the collection feature grotesque-looking diamond-shaped heads, ghoulish, monstrous even some will contend, with an equally devious sun smiling in the background.
“It’s born from the fact that we in Africa, we seem raw. Everything seems raw until they apply a little polishing, then you can find the final product,” he said
The arts are as rebellious as the artist who conceived of them. Rough Diamonds underscores as he puts it “the indestructible spirit” of the black continent.
The benefit for collectors of the assets in the Rough Diamonds collection is the prospect of owning what could become the Bored Ape equivalence of the Nigerian NFT space. They will also have access to exclusive premium tracks produced by LeriQ with vocals from another upcoming NFT addict, BNXN if everything goes well.
Plus discounts on future collections from AVC, behind-the-scenes shots, the type of things that make hard-core fans of his music almost go mad with joy.
Even though LeriQ himself is what you can call a 360 artist, painting, drawing, the whole shebang. He worked with a more professional artist to bring the collection to life. “I needed someone who could really bring the idea to life,” he said.
LeriQ’s journey with tech
AVC is not LeriQ’s first rodeo into the world of tech.
Many years ago, he tried to infuse tech with music, building an app that producers who can’t play the piano, could use to make beats, but that wasn’t published. This time he is determined to reach as many audiences as possible.
Already he has partnered with Cent, the young American company that sold Jack Dorsey’s first tweet NFT for $2.9 million, and boasts about its mission to help anyone who will have it “make a creative income.” With this partnership with Cent, LeriQ hopes to be able to create direct access to the collection for those that want to own some of the assets.
Evading the NFT world talk-about-towns like Metamask and Coinbase, with Cent, collectors on AVC can own the digital asset directly by purchasing these collections with their credit cards.
Cent also gives AVC users access to a wider audience of buyers.
“What we are offering AVC is the ability to release a digital asset on our platform and have that go out and be purchasable by anyone in the world using a credit card,” one of the co-founders of Cent, Cameron Hejazi said of the partnership with AVC.
But already, Cent sees great potential in this new world built on the blockchain that is literary a world without borders. “That’s the beauty of being in collaboration with AVC,” Katie Geminder another co-founder of Cent said. “It was very organic to come on board. We can get exposed to other artists and they can start to build out their network.”
Can AVC sell Rough Diamonds though?
While many celebrities have been venturing into the NFT space, banking on their fans and followers on social media to sell their collections, it will be difficult to market “a merch” from the star on whose back the asset is built.
For one, NFTs are very expensive. And secondly, art remains a very niche industry. But Cent is very confident in the purchasing power of LeriQ’s fans. “What really is the power of what LeriQ has is that his fans are fans, and they are passionate,” Katie said.
“At the core is LeriQ’s fans,” Kweku said of who potential collectors will be. “Those will be like the core-core obviously. But that is why we are partnering with Cent. They help us expose this product to a global audience,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of uptick from Brazil. We’re really looking at a global audience here. The target is folks globally with a keen interest in Africa in general. And we’ve seen that that has grown astronomically over a few years,” he said.
Currently, assets in the Rough Diamonds collection are only available for purchase to people on the whitelist. Later this month, it will be open to the general public. The hope is that they sell as much as they can.
What next with AVC?
But LeriQ is building a stairway directly to the heart of the blockchain itself. And he has got the audacity to take the whole world with him.
“The future for AVC is to be a one-stop shop for all African creatives, for African NFT enthusiasts, for ordinary people who want to own digital assets,” he said.
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