DAOs are a means to organize and activate communities around a common goal, and they are launching in a number of industries. One entrepreneur with deep ties to hip hop is launching a DAO to empower and elevate the community at the core of its culture.
In the early 1990s, Anthony Marshall co-founded the groundbreaking MC showcase The Lyricist Lounge with his best friend Danny Castro. The Lounge was an open mic for up-and-coming hip hop artists who ended up becoming legends. A curious explorer and future-thinker, Marshall is bringing that foundational franchise into web3.
You launched The Lyricist Lounge over thirty years ago. What was the catalyst and what were some of your favorite moments?
We had a mentor, Charles Thompson, who was interested in getting young people into the music industry. He had a small rehearsal space on Orchard Street in New York City on the Lower East Side. He said if we wanted to invite a few friends, he would invite some music industry friends to help mentor us and we’ve basically been doing just that for thirty years.
It was amazing having Foxy Brown with us in 1992. She and a bunch of friends showed up to perform with us. We didn’t really know who she was at that time. She wasn’t Foxy Brown yet. Her name was Inga from a group called Rotten Candy. Mos Def was the host at that time, and he introduced her to the stage. She killed it. At the end of the performance, Mos jumped on stage asking her name. She was straight Brooklyn, fourteen years old and played no games. We also had Mos and Kweli’s first performance together. With the help of Lord Jamar of Brand Nubians we brought out Dead Prez for the first time to New York City.
Another really cool moment was the first time we brought Eminem to New York City in 1996. That was an amazing night. It was hosted by Fat Joe with performances by Big Pun, M.O.P. and a gang of other folks. One group, named The Outsiders while performing all of a sudden started shouting “Yo, give it up for the white boy”. This kid out of nowhere begins to destroy the stage. He had everyone shocked at how dope he was, and after that we ended up bringing him on tour with us.
During the tour, there was this one incredible night where he was performing with us at The House of Blues in LA and apparently Busta Rhymes was in the audience losing his mind watching him perform. Apparently, an intern from Interscope was watching Buss lose his shit. That same person got a demo tape from Eminem’s crew and brought it to Interscope.
From what I understand, that was the first time Jimmy Lovine first heard Eminem, and the rest is history. We’ve had some amazing events and moments. We brought Black Eyed Peas on tour in 1998 prior to their explosion. The launch party for Bad Boy in 1993 hosted by Big and Puff…that was yet another groundbreaking night. We’ve literally worked with the majority of MCs that everyone loves. We still have a few more to get to but our history has really been amazing.
How did you find your way into web3 and what sparked your curiosity?
It was an interesting internal conversation. It was like an inner voice spoke to me. I was kind of freaking out about what was going on in the world as it pertains to COVID and quarantine. I built my whole career on live events and film production, and I kind of had a freak out.
The thoughts that followed were how can I get ahead of it. How can I get ahead of what could potentially be the next pandemic. I researched and adopted a futurist mindstate. That inner voice asked how I was going to apply it to my career with everything changing. That’s what pushed me to be more of a futurist.
I had always been early, but I’ve been challenged by that because when you are too early sometimes you aren’t around to reap the benefits when the industry and markets are ready. I wanted to be more “on time” instead of too early. My inner voice pushed me to think even farther into the future, like twenty years ahead, so that you truly understand what is coming.
So you can prepare for it, and so you can prepare your community for it. After one internal meeting to discuss a potential NFT release, I realized that this should be a larger conversation with the community. We started inviting more and more people to this call, and a year and five months later we have the $BARS token and the Lyricist Lounge DAO.
What do you want to accomplish this year with LLDAO? What do the next two years look like?
This year is about finishing our Rap Sheet (whitepaper) and getting at least two collections out. A photo collection celebrating our thirty-year history and our Backpackers NFT collection as a way to bring the community in. Another important focus is getting a liquidity partner for our $BARS token so that we are going about everything the right way.
The next two years are about starting to build up our treasury and figure out what projects we want to release. We’d like to relaunch the Lyricist Lounge TV show, and we’d also like to release the Lyricist Lounge Volume III album. In the future we would love to open a Lyricist Lounge performing arts center surrounded by affordable housing for artists.
Who is the ideal community member for LLDAO? Why?
Someone who thinks about the people first. Someone who is really about the artist first. Someone who wants to make sure the entire hip-hop community is okay…from artists to managers, producers, and everyone who has helped to push this culture along. It’s not someone who is just in it for the money or for the alpha. It’s someone that wants to use the information in alpha to do good for the community.
The other way hasn’t worked. We are coming out of a predatory time period in which people in the music industry were out to make big bucks as quickly as possible. Not making sure the artist is okay. This is why it’s about attracting likeminds so we can accomplish our goals together.
DAOs can be intimidating to the non-web3 native audience. How will LLDAO solve the onboarding and access problem?
This is a challenge for all of us. Your first job as a web3 company is to onboard as many people as possible. Your second job, in a parallel path, is to do the special thing that you do.
A DAO is a co-op and it’s about a collective of friends and family all working toward the same goals. That’s the vibration that we want people to walk into so that it feels approachable and they feel they can do it.
Web3 has an opportunity to reimagine systems, processes and relationships. What will LLDAO do for hip hop culture?
My dream is that we become a self-sustainable and self-sufficient ecosystem, which means I want to design LLDAO and our treasury in a way that hip hop culture as a whole no longer needs to do “deals” with a predatory system.
They can look to us to help directly or onboard them into web3 so they can do it themselves. The idea is to no longer need these companies that have taken so much advantage of us. The bigger dream is to have the ability to do things for ourselves. We have the talent and we are the market, so what do we need again?
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