Why Apl.de.Ap from Black Eyed Peas thinks NFTs Are an Opportunity for Filipino Artists

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Allan “Apl.de.Ap” Pineda Lindo, a member of the hip-hop and pop collective Black Eyed Peas, originated from his hometown of the Philippines and has toured the globe, performing on some of the biggest hits of the last two decades and selling 80 million albums in the process.

He is aware, however, that the ability to meet such a large, foreign audience is uncommon for many Southeast Asian musicians. Apl.de.Ap said that he has learned several stories from Filipino creatives about suffering inside a framework where global, well-known clients often take advantage of artists from the country.

“The talent of Filipino (Pinoy) artists is well known in film—especially in illustration and graphic design,” he said. “It is also well-known that Western corporations hire our talented individuals at well below market rates, and in some cases pass this work off as their own, creating a cycle of limited distribution and no marketing for the artist.”

Despite his own success as a recording artist, Apl.de.Ap has provided back to the Philippines through initiatives to create schools and provide opportunities for students, as well as a scholarship programme that enabled creatives to receive a business degree at the Thames International Business School in Manila.

With the recent surge in popularity in digital artwork tokenized as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on a blockchainblockchain, he sees an opening for Filipino creatives to reach a far larger audience—and will assist some of those artists in taking the first steps into the room.

Today, Apl.de.Ap announced the launch of four single-edition NFT sales via the marketplace Portion.io, in collaboration with artists AJ Dimarucot and Tom Coben. Each NFT takes the form of a short, one-of-a-kind video clip featuring Apl.de.Ap’s as-yet-unreleased music. All of the auctions, which begin next week on May 24, have a charitable component that is near and dear to his mission, with a portion of proceeds benefiting First Mint Fund and the aforementioned Thames International scholarship program.

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Although Apl.de.Ap may ordinarily have spent the past year touring in support of the Black Eyed Peas’ most recent album, Translation, the COVID-19 pandemic caused him to spend a lot more time away from the road. That’s how he ended up delving into NFTs, which act as a deed of possession for virtually every kind of digital object, and creating his own launches.

A still image from one of Apl.de.Ap’s NFTs.

“During lockdown, touring slowed down and it allowed me to pay attention to the world in a different way. I couldn’t visit cities, so my phone became my access point to the world,” Apl.de.Ap tells Decrypt. “I’ve always been a collector [of] art [and] limited edition toys, and I love fashion. So when I heard there was a way for me to carry my collection with me, I got interested.”

Dimarucot, a graphic designer who has collaborated with Nike and Adidas, was awarded one of the aforementioned scholarships by Apl.de.Ap and Thames International. He also manages activities for the First Mint Fund, an organisation established by NFT collectors Gabby Dizon and Colin Goltra—who run the digital Narra Gallery inside the crypto game Decentraland—with the aim of paying the Ethereum gasgas fees for minting NFTs launched by emerging artists all over Southeast Asia. (“Gas” fees on Ethereum are the contingent expense of completing transactions on the network, and are currently at an all-time high.)

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“Working with Portion.io and the artists AJ Dimarucot and Tom Coben is an opportunity to disrupt this conversation, and raise funds for gas fees for those Filipino artists who want to sell their NFTs but cannot afford to do so,” says Apl.de.Ap. “My goal is to change the narrative and lower the barrier to entry.”

Dimarucot claims that he was granted “free rein” in developing the two NFTs he created with Apl.de.Ap. With a portion of the proceeds from this drop going to the First Mint Fund, which will allow NFT debuts for other artists in the city, the artists hope to extend their popularity even further and make it possible for local creatives to find new eyes and make a living from their work.

“Apl has always pushed for global recognition for the Philippines. From ‘Bebot’ to ‘Apl Song,’ he has worn his nationalism on his sleeve for the international market,” Dimarucot tells Decrypt. “From those songs, I think a whole new generation of proud Pinoys were brave to release their art. I have the same mission of spotlighting more Filipino artists on the global stage. That’s why it’s such an honor to work with him on this. I’m hoping that our collaboration will bring more interest not only in my own work but in the Philippines as an oasis for creative talent.”

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Apl.de.Ap is the newest influential rapper to make waves in the NFT industry, following in the footsteps of musicians such as The Weeknd, Snoop Dogg, and Grimes, as well as Kings of Leon, who released their latest album as a limited edition NFT. Some see the opportunity for NFTs to transform the music business as we know it, but Apl.de.Ap sees revolution as more of growth than reform.

“NFTs allow musicians and even those who write music to bring the listener closer in a way that they become partners in our collective journey,” he explains. “I think NFTs allow the listeners to appreciate the amount of thought that goes into the music, the video, and the world that we try to create for our records. I also think that NFT’s have the ability to create a level of ownership for the listeners, which creates an extra relationship between artist and audience.”

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