Master of All Trades: A Conversation With the Enigmatic Black Dave.
All children go through a phase where they want to be any and everything. Listen to them talk to each other; they’re going to be Astronauts, world-class athletes, and make a million dollars all before twenty-five. Most people, sadly, grow out of this phase. Tempering their expectations on the side of what society calls “realistic.” Luckily for us, Black Dave never did. Instead, he embarked on a journey (worthy of the anime characters he freely references in his art) to find out if one can truly master everything he touches.
Jupiter Bandit: The first thing I noticed about you was the statement in your IG bio that says you’re a master of all trades, which is a large — and I think great — ambition. Can you talk about the process and work you have done to not only be so good at everything you do?
Black Dave: The popular thing people say these days is “the phrase actually goes Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than master of one,” and I often wonder about the 10,000 hours mastery concept. If you put in those hours toward only being a jack of all trades, then you have to be a master of them too, right? I’ve just been doing whatever I need to do or whatever I think is cool for so long that I feel like I can do anything on a competitive level.
JB: Your music is obviously very influenced by anime; from the Gundam tag on your beats to the lyrics laced with anime references. How did anime become such a central part of your music?
BD: People tell me I’m a good storyteller, and I’m a good writer, but when it comes to writing music I don’t quite use that specific set of skills. I mostly write music about being awesome, but I also believe that the best music is created from the perspective of its writer, so I use everything I’m interested in as a point of reference for my music. I keep folders of video game samples and anime clips and love using them in my music. I’ve been watching anime for over 20 years, so it’s easy to mix that in, as it’s an integral part of my life.
The voice tag is from Gundam Wing, just for anyone wondering
JB: Besides music, you’re a visual artist. How much is your visual style influenced by anime? Do you compartmentalize your artistic disciplines (putting producing in one box, rapping in another, and visual arts in another) or do they all work together in a continuum of artistic expression?
BD: I’m a strong believer that every artist sort of works through a singular voice, and they use different media as the vehicle for their voice in that moment. With that, I’d say none of it is separate. I like to think my photography and my music speak the same language. I like to think that the language of any cover I may design for my music or logo also speaks the same language as my photography, which speaks the same language as my music. I believe everything is one big entity, and we separate the pieces to try to understand the use of the specific discipline when we should be making an effort to understand the person.
JB: Out of all the ways you express yourself artistically, which came first?
BD: Music? I started out making music in 2003–04 playing bass in a band with some of my friends. Prior to that I was just playing video games and skateboarding. Once I started making music, I realized how many other things went into it and also how few people I knew who did those other things…so I just got to learning how to do it.
JB: You’ve been involved with NFTs since 2020. What drew you to the Web3 space? And what was the learning curve like for you?
BD: I had a friend who was trying to get me into NFTs for maybe 9 months before I actually did. We never sat and talked about it; he just said that I could make them and I could make money doing them, so I was hearing about NFTs starting in early 2020, but didn’t get a real crash course on them until December. Once it was explained to me, it made complete sense. I feel like in some ways, Web3 and NFTs have been the things I was waiting on. Things that used tech and music in a really social way. I also needed a re-democratization moment, because I didn’t take advantage back when Instagram launched. That was also a powerful moment for people who created content because you could see all sorts of people who created all sorts of things in one space. Just trying to make sure I don’t miss the wave this time.
JB: You’ve minted 2D and 3D artworks as well as songs and verses as NFTs. Which has been your favorite drop to date?
BD: I think my favorite NFT so far is the verse token. It’s essentially an NFT that allows you to claim a verse from me whenever. I think it’s gonna be the token that most symbolizes my growth through the years I’ll be spending in Web3. Thinking back to it like “this sold for $1000 at the time” but could be worth whatever it costs for a verse from me in the future is so crazy. I’ll always have that as an interesting reference point. I think, as well, it’s just something that’s gonna be part of the history of service-based NFTs, where you’re essentially pre-ordering a service at a hopeful deal in order to support the service provider at that time. The idea of speculating on how far you believe someone will come in their career is quite interesting.
JB: You’ve dropped three NFTs already this year. Anything else in the pipeline?
BD: Yeah! I’m working most directly on Koodos, which is part of a larger project I’m working on with my partner in crime, Monday. We’ve put together what — at this phase — I call a “Web3 music packaging company,” but will grow to be much more. Koodos is album packaging for Monday’s album Candy Paint Playgrounds which is an NFT that allows you to claim a physical box of popcorn, which also comes with a comic. Also, the physical popcorn box has an evolving AR experience. We’ll be dropping that at the end of April. I have more music coming — on Catalog, Sound, and hopefully some other music surprises for you guys. I’m part of a creative collective called The Worst Generation which I like to call a “music-focused audiovisual collective,” and we’ll have our first drop in the coming months. There’s of course more coming. I’m working actively on Kindred Hearts (kindredhearts.io) which is a 7,777 piece generated art collectible that is focused on giving through different social impact organizations. It was also a mass collaboration between about 60 different artists. Good project. Good cause.
JB: What advice would you give creators just entering this Web3 space?
BD: Don’t rush. Do what you want. Get good at storytelling. Be yourself. Innovate if you can, but don’t worry if you can’t. Don’t compare your journey to the journey of others. The one thing I truly know about Web3 and NFTs is that a lot of the time, what’s happening doesn’t make sense. Just do your thing.
JB: I’d like to talk about Charleston Hype for a moment. What inspired you to flip these classic moments with Charleston as the focal point?
BD: It’s all a reference back to streetwear. Back in the earlier days of the culture or whatever, brands would flip logos of high fashion brands, and it was just a thing we did. Sometimes you’d get a cease and desist letter, and that was low-key like a trophy proving that you had the eyes of the larger companies on you. I also was really interested in this idea of “tourist clothes for locals” where you kind of had to know about me and Charleston Hype in order to get the shirt. I did a Nike flip and one of my friends who worked at our Nike store said people would come in and ask for the Charleston x Nike tee, but it didn’t actually exist in the store because I was just making flips. It’s cool to have that sort of reach organically and naturally.
JB: Is this something you see ending up on the blockchain as well?
BD: I have a whole collection devoted to that called “Flips!” It’s actually my very first collection of NFTs. It’s kind of that hidden Black Dave collection. There are even still some available. My journey so far in Web3 — and honestly over the last few years — has involved me trying to find ways to merge everything I love and the places I come from into one place. If you look at the two covers for my release on sound.xyz, they’re both actually flips. One is a flip of one of those “thank you” bags, and the other is a flip of the Final Fantasy logo. Hopefully I’ll continue to be able to do stuff like that as time goes on.
(Here’s a link to the flips collection: https://opensea.io/collection/flips )
JB: Do you have a favorite logo flip?
BD: One of my favorite shirts to wear is the Anti-Social Social Club flip. I did like three colorways of that tee, and there was a blue and pink one that I never wore but I appreciated that colorway so much. I’ve gained a bit of weight since making that tee; it’s been like five years. I dropped it in 2017, but when I get right that one is gonna be back in the rotation!
JB: Since you are such a big anime fan: top five of all time, and why is One Piece number one?
BD: I tweeted the other day about how hard it is to make a top anime list because I feel like my preferences change with my moods. Right now, I’d be really excited if people watched — in no ranking order — Perfect Blue, Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū, Re:Zero , Starting Life in Another World, Nichijou, and Berserk. This isn’t meant to be some super obscure list or anything I just wanted to maybe give some things I think people would be excited to watch.
Also on One Piece, there are so many reasons it’s number one. I’ve been reading for years and, of course, watching for years, but when you look into the depth of character and the depth of the world they’re building, it’s kind of insane. I think they created a lot of unforced connections that are really dope. I know there are a lot of theories as well that make for even more interesting plot possibilities. I heard that Ace and Jewelry Bonney are brother and sister and that their dad is actually Akainu! When Bonney was locked up, the reason she got out was apparently because of her dad. I mean, stuff like that … crazy. Also the way they have side stories going through the covers. I love that. Also, Oda said this is gonna be the biggest war in anime history. When you think about like … the Fourth Great Ninja War from Naruto and you think about the One Year War in Gundam, and the scale of those, it’s gonna be a lot. I think of One Piece as one of the greatest shows, whether or not it’s someone’s favorite.
JB: In your own words: ten years from now Black Dave will be…
BD: Top 10 of the era. One of the most influential.
You can learn more about Black Dave in the links below!