In brief

  • Hip Hop artist MF DOOM, in conjunction with digital art platform Illust Space, is auctioning off 11 NFT-based masks.
  • The masks are inspired by the classic pronged one that’s been DOOM’s signature since the early 2000s.
  • Buyers will be able to "wear" the masks in augmented reality using Illust Space's app.

Rapper MF DOOM announced his entry into the world of DeFi today, in a partnership with the digital art platform Illust Space. He’s putting 11 augmented reality “masks” up for auction in the form of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

The masks are inspired by the classic pronged one that’s been DOOM’s signature since the early 2000s (“MF” stands for “Metal Face,”) and Illust Space has said that purchasers will be able to “wear” them in AR, via the company’s web app.

Image via UK HipHop  Blog.

DOOM, whose real name is Daniel Dumile, based his performance persona on  the Marvel Comics villain Dr. Doom.

At first glance, his foray into crypto is a baffling move—the notoriously elusive DOOM has been hinting at new music for some time, and his decision to come out of left field with a move into blockchain tech, rather than, say, a follow-up to Madvillainy, is already aggravating some hip-hop critics.

But it makes some sense that an artist fixated on privacy and anonymity would be attracted to the idea of decentralization.

A 'perfect use case'

Illust Space’s CCO, Tim Prochak, told Decrypt that from his perspective, the DOOM-inspired AR tokens represent the “perfect first use case” for their own AR platform thanks to the mask’s iconic status within hip-hop, and its potential for collectability, along with what Prochak called “the actual this is genuinely art” factor. The AR DOOM masks are being auctioned off in two rounds, the first of which is set for this Friday.

Prochak suggested that the potential for this tech extends far beyond MF DOOM, and feeds into broader questions of how the decisions creators and technologists make today will shape the metaverse of tomorrow—an interactive digital layer, resting on top of the real world, accessible via platforms like the one Illust Space has developed for these masks.

“COVID has put us at a crossroads in culture,” he said. “In Europe, you’re seeing major institutions stop, you’re seeing live music venues transform into other things. I want to see AR monoliths popping up around, so we can do social distanced shared experiences again. It should allow musicians to take back control, it should allow artists to create in this new zone and actually be able to illustrate upon the world.”

Non-fungible tokens’ 15 minutes of fame

NFTs are having something of a moment right now—Christie’s put one up for auction earlier this month, as part of an artwork that sold for a record $131,250. And DOOM isn’t the only improbable blockchain evangelist to make news this year, either: Paris Hilton sold a digital painting of her cat, Munchkin, as an NFT back in August.

As NFTs proliferate, virtual reality communities such as Decentraland are looking to capitalize on the promise of the metaverse by offering a place to show off unique digital assets. “We are living in this ubiquitous digital layer now,” said Prochak. “We don’t quite realize it, but if you look at the numbers of people using augmented reality everyday, this is happening.”