Don't put Ed Balloon in a box.
The multidisciplinary artist has never lent himself well to labels, exploring his quirky creative vision through the lenses of music, film and stop-motion animation with projects like Run Ed. Now is the time to add generative art to the list.
Her new project, Beauty Supply Is Out of Du-Rags, released this week on the new platform Prohibition, explores the complex cultural heritage of black hairstyles through algorithmic code. Billed as "the first generative warp art project featuring braids and locs," the collection represents a deeply personal and cathartic moment of expression based on Balloon's own experiences.
"The du-rag is a way of hiding, but you don't have it, so you have to let the world see you and accept you for who you are," he explains. "That's the statement I make."
In a conversational nft now podcast interview, Ed Balloon dives into his vision for the project, the state of musical NFTs, and the importance of uplifting artists of color.
Matt Medved: You are a multidisciplinary creator who thinks in terms of moving images, art and music. How have NFTs changed the creative canvas for you?
Ed's Balloon: It gave me so much more flexibility. I think outside of Web3 as artists, you're like, okay, make a video, make a song, then cover art – it's very linear. When I got to Web3 it was like, no. It allowed me to see it as a place where I can create, be honest and disrupt. I had never really considered doing stuff like that when it came to music until I came into this space. Having conversations and just seeing other people creating helped me visually to see "maybe I would like to exploit this".
I always wanted to make sure that in the Web3 space people knew that I was a musician and a performer. People didn't really know. They knew about puppetry, and they knew about the visual stop motion thing, but they didn't know that I was also a musician, even though I was like, "Hey, I'm a musician, but I do that too, don't I?" So I felt I had to do something.
To finish the day “Fuck Around And Find Out”… I decided to deposit my genesis on superare. it's an nft music that pays homage to black hair. This piece was also inspired by the legend @yatreda who was one of the first space artists to beautifully illuminate African hairstyle pic.twitter.com/4llag7Xp0X
— Ed Balloon.eth (@Ed_Balloon) January 3, 2023
As a musician yourself, what is your opinion on the state of Web3 music? What do you think it will take to take this ecosystem to the next level?
It's weird because I feel like it's just there and it's always being rejected. IRL gigs, ticketing - easy. But you have to make sure that people understand what's going on in the culture. For me, I came into music with the idea that a bunch of us would disrupt what we knew, what we saw, what we thought we knew, patterns and stuff like that.
Going into Web3, I see the difficulties of people who don't really understand music as an entity and have to teach it. It's something where I'm like, "How can I find ways to have conversations and be like you, I like music?" Dope. Do you like the visual arts? Cool. Maybe sometimes we have to mix it up too.
It's maybe a way to make those here understand that it needs to be a collectible, but also to see it as something like fine art. Music was not even considered, for me, to my knowledge, as something that comes under art. So I feel like even being in Web3 gives us the flexibility to not just be that one thing.
Gm if you haven't knocked yet - parts are still available
Getting a piece from the collection will also give you the option to claim a vinyl for FREE
Let's go 🔥
115- one of my favorite rides so far pic.twitter.com/16KZPbdCWm
— Ed Balloon.eth (@Ed_Balloon) July 21, 2023
Tell us what is the vision behind your new project on prohibition.
This will be one of the first projects to feature braids and locs on the chain.
I did a drop on SuperRare called, Trap Balls on a Loc Tree. It was a piece of music and I was using my locs, and I handled it in a way where it was like a tree branch and I had these balls on it, and that was really cool. I liked it. A few people have asked me about this. That was kind of where there was a disconnect. This kind of me triggered me. But I didn't really want to talk about it.
I'm afraid to talk about it because I don't know how it's going to be watched. As a black artist, it's always a very difficult line between what you can talk about and what you can't talk about. I was scared, and I didn't quite know why. But I knew from those conversations that I found myself kind of triggered.
It takes me back to many times when, growing up, people were like, "Hey, you gotta shave your hair, or you can't have your hair, or you won't get this job, or you can't do this, you can't do that." What I found so strange was that hearing these things brought me back to this place of these conversations in this ecosystem. We have PFPs of animals wearing durags and I'm like, "Oh, didn't we know durags are actually there to protect the hair?" There is a disconnect there.
So this project, I was like, "How can I talk about it now?" I said, "We're going to code the box braids and locs and we're going to put these bad boys on the blockchain." My goal is to make sure we showcase the beauty of our hair, the art that goes through it, the process and the time. Sometimes when you get your hair done, it hurts. People don't understand that. I want to highlight the colors, but also how pumped up and fresh you feel when it's done. These are the beautiful things that I was trying to bring to life through this project. It is also art for us. We love the designs we make with them. We love the way they sway in the wind. This is us and accept us for us.
Oh my God!! the ED RUN COLLECTION TAKES OFF!! Oh my God ! Welcome new members of the family!!! FYI - 50% of secondary sales go towards buying underrepresented artists in the space!
— Ed Balloon.eth (@Ed_Balloon) July 29, 2022
What is the mission of The Ed Balloon Generational Wealth Fund?
I really want to be able to be in a position where I can buy art from artists of color, especially black artists in this space, because unfortunately it's still very difficult for artists of color to sell their art. So I [decided] I have to find a way to have this fund that will support this.
I felt like it was also a way to be an example for other projects that want to incorporate that because I didn't see that. It's something I always stand for and try to do everything I can with it. I also always try to give visibility to the artists we collect as much as possible with my platform.
What's your spicy take on the NFT space?
It might not be that spicy, but I still think a lot of rigs don't know how to move around in this space right now. They do things that have already been done, assuming it will help them. But that only traps them, because space is constantly changing. If you are not able to have your own vision, then you will not be able to move with this space. My goal is to help but I often feel like they don't try to reach out to the artists, which is weird because we're the voices of reasoning and we have a lot of the vision.
This interview transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
For the full, uncut interview, listen to our podcast episode with Ed Balloon.