Grammy-winning Fugees founder bringing blockchain to your smartphone

Finance news

Grammy-award winning rapper and founding member of the Fugees Pras Michel is launching a blockchain-enabled smartphone that lets users earn dividends on every purchase.

The phone is part of Michel’s digital platform Blacture, which was announced in a 2018 Super Bowl ad, and celebrates black culture through content and technology. The first retail move for Blacture is the launch of Motif, a $300 smartphone that hits stores this fall.

“When you use the phone you’ll get paid and you can convert it into cash,” Michel told CNBC’S “Squawk Box” on Friday. “Blockchain is the technology.”

Michel said Motif users will earn a percentage on every purchase when they pay using their phone, which unlike airline miles can be redeemed for cash. The phone can also be linked to a Blacture debit card. Motif partnered with tech company Zippie, and Michel said the group is in talks with the top four U.S. phone carriers.

Michel founded the Fugees with Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, and the group went on to win two Grammys for “Killing Me Softly” in 1996. The rapper wouldn’t say whether or not he owns any cryptocurrency. But Michel knew about it well before bitcoin’s meteoric rise to $20,000 last year.

“A friend of mine introduced bitcoin to me when it was at 11 cents,” he said. “I didn’t believe in it then.”

Bitcoin was the first use-case for blockchain but advocates say the technology has the power to disrupt industries from health care to the music business. In a blockchain, transactions are recorded on what’s known as a “distributed ledger,” which can be accessed but not altered by the public.

Michel’s phone is not the only one using blockchain technology. Foxconn is making one for Sirin Labs called the “Finney,” which reportedly ships in October.

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