A famous photo of the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. is currently being auctioned off as part of a series of NFTs, with the physical photo tied to an Ethereum NFT as well.

The image of the rapper, born Christopher Wallace, was originally taken in 1997 by photographer Barron Claiborne and dubbed "The King Of New York." The photo was taken three days before the rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting. 

“The King of New York” photo—picturing the lyricist with a tilted crown on his head—is one of the most instantly recognizable images in hip-hop history, serving as a “symbol of greatness” according to culture journalist and author, Vikki Tobak.


A cutout from the original contact sheet measuring 6 x 7 centimeters will be made available via auction, alongside a one-of-one Ethereum NFT or “digital twin” that proves provenance and ownership on the blockchain.

The auction launched earlier today via the Kairos platform and will last for 30 days. Bids start at 50 ETH ($93,500), and the winning bidder will also receive a phone call with Claiborne to discuss the legendary image.

Along with the original contact cutout, The King Of New York (KONY) series will also include a limited edition run of NFTs featuring an animated digital version of the Biggie portrait. Nine editions of the artwork are available for 1 ETH ($1,865) apiece.

Furthermore, a digital collectible inspired by the crown worn in the photo sells for 0.03 ETH (about $55) in an open edition drop, which means an unlimited number of the NFTs are available. Fans can also bid on a digital bust of Notorious B.I.G. in a separate auction.


Furthermore, beginning on July 26, Claiborne will sell 100 editions of a digital version of the original still photo paired with a physical print, at 1 ETH each. In August, he’ll also auction off one of the limited edition Notorious B.I.G. New York City MetroCard that were given away last year at select subway stations. The card is signed and paired with an NFT, as well.

The original physical crown, signed by the rapper, sold for nearly $595,000 at a Sotheby's auction in 2020.

“In 1997, I had the honor of photographing the Notorious B.I.G. as The King Of New York just three days before his death. I could never have envisioned how iconic the portrait would become,” said Claiborne in a statement, noting the timing alongside the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

Ultimately, 35% of the proceeds from the KONY collection will be given to the Keiyo Art association, an organization dedicated to bringing art experiences to the public. Another 5% will be given to Charity: Water, an organization that provides clean water access to those in need.

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