Ed Balloon’s Mission to Bring Black Hair Culture to the Blockchain

BY Matt Medved

July 22, 2023

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 it’s time to add generative art to the list.

His new project, Beauty Supply Is Out of Du-Rags, released this week on the newly-launched Prohibition platform, explores the complex cultural legacy of Black hairstyles through algorithmic code. Billed as “the first on-chain generative 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 and accept you for who you are,” he explains. “That is the statement that I’m making.”

In a conversational nft now podcast interview, Ed Balloon dives into his vision for the project, the state of music NFTs, and the importance of uplifting artists of color.

Matt Medved: You’re a multidisciplinary creator who thinks in terms of moving images, art, and music. How did NFTs change the creative canvas for you?

Ed Balloon: It gave me so much more flexibility. I think outside of Web3 as artists you’re like: okay, do a video, do a song, then cover art— it’s very linear. When I came into Web3, it was like, no. It allowed me to see it as a place where I can create, be honest, and disrupt. I never really looked at making stuff like that when it came to music until I came to this space. Having conversations and just seeing other people create helped me visually to see “maybe I would wanna tap into that.”

I always wanted to make sure that in the Web3 space, people knew that I was a musician and performer. People didn’t really know. They knew about the puppet, and they knew about the visual stop motion thing, but they didn’t know that I also was a musician, even though I would say, “Hey, I’m a musician, but I also do this, right?” So I felt like I had to do something.

As a musician yourself, what’s your take on the state of Web3 music? What do you think it’ll take to bring this ecosystem to the next level?

It’s weird because I feel like it’s right there and it’s always dismissed. IRL concerts, ticketing — easy. But there is this thing about making sure that folks understand what’s happening in the culture. For me, I came into music with the idea of a bunch of us disrupting what we knew, what we saw, what we thought we knew, the patterns, and stuff like that.

Coming into Web3, I’m seeing the difficulties of just people not really understanding music as an entity and having to teach that. It is something where I’m like, “How do I find ways to have conversations and just be like you like music? Dope. You like visual art? Cool. Maybe we need to blend it too sometimes.”

Maybe that’s a way to have those who are here understand getting a collectible, but also see it as something like fine art as well. Music hasn’t even been looked at, to me, to my knowledge, as something that’s fine art. So I feel like even being in Web3 allows us the flexibility to be able to not only be this one thing.

Tell us the vision behind your newest project on Prohibition.

It’s going to be one of the first projects that is actually going to display box braids and locs on the chain.

I had done a drop on SuperRare called, Trap Balls on a Loc Tree. It was a music piece and I was using my locs, and I manipulated it in a way where it was like a tree branch and I had these balls on it, and it was really cool. I loved it. I had a few people asking me questions regarding that. It was in a way where there was a disconnect there. That kind of triggered me. But I didn’t really want to talk about it.

I’m afraid to talk about it because I’m not sure how it’s gonna be looked at. As a Black artist, it’s always a very difficult fine line between what you can talk about and what you can’t. I was afraid, and I wasn’t too sure why. But I did know from these conversations, I found myself kind of triggered.

“As a Black artist, it’s always a very difficult fine line between what you can talk about and what you can’t.”

Ed balloon

It brings me back to a lot of times growing up people said “Hey, you need to shave your hair, or you can’t have your locs, or you’re not going to get that job, or you’re not going to be able to do this, you’re not going to be able to do that.” What I found so odd was that hearing these things brought me back to that place from these conversations in this ecosystem. We have PFPs of animals wearing durags and I’m like, “Oh did we not know that durags are actually here for hair protection?” There’s a disconnect there.

So this project, I was like, “How do I talk about this now?’ I said, “We’re going to code box braids and locs and we’re gonna put these bad boys on the blockchain.” My goal is to make sure that we’re showcasing the beauty when it comes to our hair, the art that goes through it, the process, and the time. Sometimes when we get our hair done, it hurts. People don’t understand that. I wanna showcase the colors, but also how you feel dope and fresh when it’s done. It’s these beautiful things that I was trying to bring to life through this project. This is art to us as well. We love the designs that we make with them. We love how they sway in the wind. This is us and accept us for us.

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, specifically Black artists in this space, because unfortunately, it’s still very difficult for artists of color to sell their art. So I [decided] I need to find a way where I can have this fund that goes to support that.

I felt like this was a way also to be an example for other projects that want to incorporate this because I wasn’t seeing that. It’s something that I still champion and try to do as much as I can with it. I also still try to give visibility to the artists that we do collect as much as I can with my platform.

“A lot of platforms don’t know how to move in this space currently.”

Ed Balloon

What’s your spicy take on the NFT space?

Maybe it’s not that spicy, but I still think a lot of platforms don’t know how to move in this space currently. They’re doing things that have already been done, assuming that it’s going to help them. But, that only traps them, because the space is always changing. If you’re not able to have your own vision, then you’re not gonna be able to move with this space. My goal is to help but I feel like a lot of times they’re not trying to go to artists, which is weird because we are the voices of reasoning and we have a lot of the vision.

This interview transcript has been edited for concision and clarity.

For the full and uncut interview, listen to our podcast episode with Ed Balloon.

Dive Deep

Features & Guides