Pras Michél’s New Blockchain Smartphone, Blacture, Empowers Black Consumers To ‘Be Their Own IP’

Written by Dana Sanchez

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Pras Michél, the Grammy-winning hip-hop artist and visionary entrepreneur, is getting closer to launching the first blockchain-enabled smartphone in the U.S. mass market.

The Blacture M1 phone is expected to debut later this year, Michél and co-founder Alpesh Patel said Wednesday at an Adweek event.

The phone was built in partnership with Qualcomm and Intel.

Michél wants smartphone users to start controlling—and monetizing—their own data, Adweek reported. Eventually, Blacture users will get paid for sharing data with marketers and internet companies while also earning money for engaging with advertisers and buying from brands.

“The Blacture M1 mobile device will be the first mass market Blockchain Smartphone in the USA and the first phone that pays the user back.” Blacture

The Blacture M1 Android OS smartphone will provide access to exclusive content. The device also features NFC capability, wireless charging, will be pre-embedded with a digital e-wallet and comes equipped with a prepaid card backed by Mastercard.

The platform as a whole will include a website offering news articles, education, healthcare services, financial services, job creation and urban development. Users will be able to transfer money to friends and family inside and outside the U.S.

A new era of Black renaissance is the inspiration for the Blackture digital platform as a whole, Michél said in a press release.

“(W)e’re about to see that individuals are now becoming their own IP,” Michél said Wednesday at the Adweek event. “The fact that someone is taking your data and selling it is technically your IP. You are what I call your ‘personal intellectual property and equity’, and so we figure that in the future, you’re going to be able to monetize that yourself. The ones that are monetizing the data need to share some of that revenue back to the consumer.”

Michél ran a commercial during the 2018 Super Bowl in February as a teaser for the initiative. It was seen by nearly 1.2 billion people. In the ad, directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”), Michél appears blindfolded on a stage with his mouth covered. Music plays in an empty theater as he uncovers his mouth, looks at the audience and a message plays onscreen: “Be celebrated. Not tolerated.”

In September, Michél announced plans for the Blacture M1 during a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles — the largest exhibition for the mobile industry. During the speech, Michél highlighted contributions that African Americans make in creating trends and influencing mainstream lifestyles. African American buying power reached $1.2 trillion in 2017, according to a Nielsen report.

It’s “the first time anyone has debuted a product created for “the Culture,” targeting Black consumers first – not as a postscript – and solidifies his place as a thought-leader in this ever-changing industry,” according to a Blacture press release:

“We want to ensure our culture is represented well on digital platforms. Our entry into this space is a way for our voices to be heard and recognized. Blacture was formed to address the lack of diversity that exists within the tech industry. We are not trying to compete with anyone, rather we want to educate and empower our people so that they have the necessary tools to take on the challenges of tomorrow.” — Pras Michél, co-founder of Blacture

A founding member of The Fugees, Michél, 45, performed alongside Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. He grew up in Irvington, New Jersey. In 1996, he won two Grammys — for best R&B performance (“Killing Me Softly”) and best rap album (“The Score”). He was also nominated for a Grammy, alongside Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Mya, in 1998 for best rap performance by a duo or group for the song “Ghetto Supastar” off his debut solo album.

Two-time Grammy award winning rapper and a founding member of the Fugees, Pras Michel, arrives for a pro wrestling event, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. The American rapper and documentary filmmaker said he wanted to join in the immensely popular charity challenge and thought of Pyongyang where the ice bucket craze is unknown, would be the perfect place to do it. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

As data ownership and blockchain technology become more prominent, Michél said Blacture wants to be ahead of the trend. Blacture may be among the first to debut a blockchain-enabled smartphone, but it’s not the only company thinking about giving users ownership of their data, Adweek reported:

  • HTC is developing a Blockchain-enabled smartphone, the HTC Exodus, which will come with a way for cryptocurrency owners to secure their digital wallet.
  • Sirin Labs is developing a Blockchain-enabled phone — the Finney — with dual screens and multi-layered cybersecurity measures.
  • The Kin Foundation, which created the cryptocurrency Kin in 2017 alongside the Canadian messaging app, Kik, is partnering with brands and rewards companies to build an ecosystem that it hopes will let users earn discounts and prizes for engaging with ads.
  • Datawallet plans to roll out a beta version of a platform that lets users take their data from platforms like Facebook and Amazon and store it all in one place.

New Apple, Samsung and Google phones cost between $700 and $1,200-plus. Blacture’s price will be geared to the mid-range market, Adweek reported.

Will people be willing to switch to the Blacture phone?

“The minute people start to feel marginalized, they start to move,” Michél said. “You saw what happened with BlackBerry, for example. They weren’t able to go through innovation and keep up with the rest … the reason why cryptocurrency came alive is because you had a group of people who wanted to cut the middle-man out.”

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About Dana Sanchez
Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubail Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.