Jay-Z and Sotheby’s to sell debut album NFT

Heir to the Throne NFT

Static image of 'Heir to the Throne' by Derrick Adams


Non-fungible tokens, similar to cryptocurrencies and digital assets such as Bitcoin, are all the rage and auction house Sotheby’s has been embracing them with several landmark auctions since the start of the year. Just this week they announced the sale of the original source code of the World Wide Web, engineered by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, as an NFT. Bidding for the sale, which ends on 30 June, has so far reached $2.8 million.

Joining the wave of brands and celebrities that are hoping to take advantage of the booming market is the 23-time Grammy award-winner and hip-hop artist Jay-Z. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his pioneering and landmark debut album, Reasonable Doubt, that was originally released on 25 June 1996, he’s commissioned critically admired multi-disciplinary artist Derrick Adams to create a one-of-one animated digital artwork.

For the special single-lot auction, which will be sold by Sotheby’s and titled Heir to the Throne, which was the original title of the album, Adams has created a single animated digital image of a fresh and contemporary visual representation of Reasonable Doubt.


Artist Derrick Adams

Derrick Adams with 'Heir to the Throne'


Emphasising the symbolic relationship between success and a cigar, Adams makes the work come to life through animated glowing red embers and a stream of smoke that rises from the end of Jay’s iconic cigar, and transforms into the number 25 in honour of the album’s anniversary.

Derrick Adams commented: “Over the years Jay has collected and supported my work, and so this collaboration is particularly fulfilling. With this NFT project, we jointly embrace the opportunity to further the conversation about how artists of different mediums contribute to a more inclusive society. Jay’s album Reasonable Doubt changed the game 25 years ago, and continues to influence so many of us. It tells the story of someone from Brooklyn occupying the urban space — a place that is as central to my own work as it is to his. My portraits aim to capture the sensibility, optimism and beauty of urban life, and in Jay’s work I’ve found tremendous kinship.”

Bidding for the NFT is currently at $24,000 and is open online through 2 July at 10am ET. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will benefit The Shawn Carter Foundation, and support its mission of helping individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at postsecondary institutions.


Portrait of Jay-Z

Portrait of JAY-Z by Raven B. Varona