10K80 by Kyle Nguyen November 22, 2021
To one ascendant artist in the NFT and digital art space, the world is a classroom and healing is on the agenda. Stonez the Organic is that artist in every sense of the word. The Philadelphia native plies his trade as a full-time digital artist, rapper, curator, and founder.
Though his artistry manifests itself in many forms, the driving intention remains constant: to help others improve themselves and heal.
His opus magnum SPECTRUM is the culmination of his life experience and creative identity. Last month, Stonez the Organic debuted a three-part study guiding viewers through a process of self-exploration via various mediums of art featured in each phase of the experience.
Ahead of the project’s finale, Stonez sat down to talk about SPECTRUM and how his own story of self-healing borne out of unprecedented circumstances fueled a creative journey where he could make his intention a reality.
“I like to heal through my art. I just like to bring a positive vibe while creating in as many facets as I can.”$tonez the Organic
The SPECTRUM series featured a different concept or medium of art in each of its three studies. Study one explored light and movement. Study two showcased color, while study three was an exhibition of sound.
The first study was an immersive in-person event held at local Philadelphia studio Fidget space on Oct 16. Stonez the Organic enlisted the help of long-time partner Tyspective, a classically trained dancer, to model movement in the interactive experience.
The venue was dimmed to allow a variety of gradient lights to pop out in the darkness. Loosely draped in white cloth, Tyspective performed under ceiling installations of blacklight, with just her gown illuminated as she moved.
The end result was an ethereal light show in which spectators could visualize a progression of movement mimicking the journey of self-acceptance before their eyes.
“The whole point of it was just to focus on the figure to build a connection to the movement through the darkness,” Stonez said.
“In each corner in the building, I had lights radiating to express lighting up the corners of your life and searching through the dark parts of your life and being okay with that.”
The next part of the series was an exploration of color through an NFT drop of 333 handmade orbs designed by Stonez himself.
The collection made waves as soon as it dropped, garnering hundreds of buyers and earning a feature on the homepage of opensea.io.
In a storm of calming gradients and provocatively lapping colors, Stonez the Organic handcrafted each sphere at points where he felt vulnerable and connected with himself, seeking to draw out others’ own propensities for self-awareness.
However, the success of the NFT drop proved to be an eye-opening experience. With the project featured on the front page of opensea.io, Stonez acknowledged that the transactional component of the mint was a bigger aspect of the experience than he expected.
“People were just like, buying my art to like flip it, which I didn’t mind. I love it, like people making money off of what I created is a beautiful thing, being able to sustain themselves,” he said.
It added another dimension to what he had hoped to achieve with the study. Regardless, Stonez is glad that he was able to bring positivity to those who received his art in earnest.
“My intention for it was for people to heal and spend time and really observe what they were receiving. A lot of people did love the art. I have people who contacted me just feeling inspired. It was just such an experience for me.”
Pieces from the visual study are still available can be found here.
For Stonez, a study of sound was the perfect epilogue to his vision. The final piece anchoring the SPECTRUM experience dropped on Oct. 29 as a multimedia EP tying together stunning visuals with nine tracks of original music.
“I gave people something to see and digest in a real-life experience. Then, to see, digest, and feel with spectrum part two through color — the sound aspect is the final part, tying it all together. “
If it was that motif of cohesiveness that Stonez wanted to convey to the broader community, he achieved it. The SPECTRUM finale was a collaborative effort, consisting of nine tracks featuring other prominent names in the NFT and music space such as Pat Dimitri, Black Dave, Weinbagz, and FuzzMack.
Each track is also paired with visuals from featured artists to garnish the passages of beauty, art & love communicated in each song.
The SPECTRUM part three EP can be found here.
“It’s just healing, uplifting, pushing forward. Not letting things get to you because it’s so easy to let all of that stuff just beat you down and keep beating you down.”
Stonez swears by this mantra, citing his creative journey as a wide-eyed youngster to weathering the storm of the pandemic and finding his northern star in the mirror.
I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember. I find joy in turning thoughts into reality, connecting people and making things happen. I’ve always appreciated the art of process and admired those who consistently work on their craft. Everything else in life is a bonus.$tonez the Organic
Stonez has been creating his entire life, owing to a pedigree of creativity spanning generations in his family. His grandfather, a career law enforcement officer, was a lead musician for church and three different bands. Uncles on his maternal side ran a rock hip-hop group throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.
He recounts being in awe listening to his father’s Walkman. “Growing up, I would listen to their album, and I’m like, whoa, that’s my uncle. Like, that was my uncles doing it — that’s crazy.”
Other albums, such as A Tribe Called Quest’s The Lower End Theory, kindled a fascination with visual design. “You know, flipping through an album booklet is, like rare now,” Stonez admitted.
“But that that first experience, being able to connect at such a young age, it really inspired me.”– Stonez the Organic
Music and digital art became the bread and butter of his adolescence. He drew and doodled whenever he could. In seventh grade, he began writing his own music. By the end of his senior year in high school, Stonez added Adobe Photoshop to his repertoire.
Stonez the Organic fondly recounts being able to share out his talents to bring others along his creative journey. Attending Temple University, he and his friends frequented his apartment to hop on the mic and freestyle whenever they didn’t have classes.
“I was always like that friend who was editing our pictures and stuff like that growing up for like MySpace page… I would make our covers when we were making music and do all the branding and create our logos and all that type of stuff,” Stonez said.
But that intention to help others began manifesting itself in other forms, and Stonez didn’t always have the bandwidth to maintain everything at once. “I kind of stepped away from the creative side of like me,” he admitted. “Like, I don’t know, it is weird, like trying to do both.”
The Philadelphia native knew early on that he had a voice to give to just cause. Attending high school at an all-white private school, he ventured into social activism to channel his voice as the president of the black and Latino culture club.
He continued along similar roads after graduating from college, working in several nonprofits, teaching K-12 at GESU school, and working with disengaged high schoolers via the Community College of Philadelphia’s Gateway to College Program.
The time Stonez spent teaching and coordinating community initiatives was some of the most meaningful of his life. “It was a really good experience — it was a beautiful experience.”
The pandemic, however, presented an inflection point that forced the educator into one of the darkest chapters of his life when school administrators pushed to return to in-person learning.
Stonez, teaching a classroom of third-grade boys remotely midway through the year, dissented the decision.
“They were talking about bringing the boys back and I didn’t agree with how it was going down,” Stonez said. “They asked people like, ‘hey, how do you feel about it?’ I just told him I would be more comfortable teaching at home and continue the way we had it.”
What the administration did next blindsided Stonez the Organic and his students.
“They literally email me on Thursday saying, ‘Hey, tomorrow’s your last day. We found a replacement for Monday.’ Bro, I’m at work! This is right after lunch. I get the email after lunch. And then all my students are coming back, logging back on and I got like a frog in my throat.”
Stonez recounts the shockwaves that rippled throughout his classroom community when he mustered the will to tell them the next day. “They didn’t believe me. Mad emails from parents. Mad phone calls, it was just like, disbelief from everyone.”
The ordeal left him drained and devoid of a sense of purpose. “I was in a dark place for like a while because I’ve always been teaching, being able to put myself in a position to just show people how to do better,” Stonez said. “But then like that being taken from me, it made me think because I felt really good doing what I was doing.”
Stonez vowed to never let himself get into a similar predicament.
The next thing that I invest that much time in, or the next thing that I force myself to create, I’m just going to make sure that no one can take it from me.$tonez the Organic
The harrowing experience did, however, lay the groundwork for a new venture. Andre O’Shea, another successful artist in the NFT space and friend, pointed Stonez toward the crypto-verse.
It was exactly what Stonez needed to regain his footing. “He kind of just like, threw me in the pool, and then just left me to swim. And then I came back a couple of weeks later, like bruh I’m loving it — like this is dope.”
The result was a journey of rediscovery. “I already always had like concepts in my head. But I was just always so busy helping other people and doing all this stuff. And then like losing my job actually, like losing my job during the pandemic like forced me to sit down, you know?”
“I’m just so grateful. Like, and people have been telling me like, yo, I’m happy you lost your job, bro. Like, you wouldn’t be here,” he said.
The artist agrees with the sentiment but noted the trials and tribulations of overcoming the spectrum of turmoil that he experienced over the course of the pandemic.
“Having something like being such a high point and being at such a low point so quickly… it really did suck but I can’t let these feelings consume me and change the type of person that I am or how I see the world,” he said.
To Stonez, that mantra is the foundation of all of his work, including SPECTRUM. “It was really about pushing through with that,” he said.
Since then, he has had no shortage of opportunities since arriving in the NFT space, featuring alongside the likes of Gabe Weis under Mark Cuban’s @NFT and Electric Token NFT drop funding the Jamaica Boblsed team’s qualification run for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
And now, Stonez is back to the core tenets of his trade: passing on knowledge as he lifts others up with him.
“It’s just been so much going on like auctions, bids, opportunities. Like I helped Goodie Mob with a drop, I helped Erika Alexander with a drop like these things just happened like week by week is just so fast.”
“Things have just been like, rolling, rolling, rolling, rolling, rolling. And it’s been amazing, like, I’m so grateful for all of it because I just didn’t expect this, you know? I’m just happy to be here.”
“I was like, a nobody six months ago, and it’s just crazy to think about how you can have the intention and just be pure and just create and just be present, and just show up and have good ideas and execute and people appreciate you in this space,” Stonez said.
“It’s just beautiful. I’m completely in awe constantly like every day I wake up.”
Stonez the Organic says that being able to grind and hone a creative edge has been indispensable not just as a catalyst for success but a testament to the personal character as well.
“No matter what, keep creating and stay humble. I’ve been witnessing the other side of people gaining success and it’s like they change and start switching up. It’s really hard because I’ve had just a little taste of it.”
Breaks are by no means off-limits. Stonez emphasizes that mental health breaks are part of the process, as a ‘see you later rather than a goodbye.
“You could take a break, but always come back because I think that there’s just something special about it. I don’t know if it’s an escape, or if it’s a fulfillment, or if it’s just the essence of his magic. It’s just all of that, you know, combined, wrapped up in one and I think it’s beautiful to be able to tap into that.”
Stonez the Organic hopes that the next creatives on the come up will find reverence in the process and continue to hone their edge on what he believes to be the distinguishing factor powering the human experience.
“I think that’s our one power: to create, you know? Just create things. Whether it be a tin foil man, a beautiful painting, this conversation… Just keep creating — that’s what I got.”– Stonez the Organic