“I just had to capture it," said Edwards, a King of Prussia-based artist. Edwards was among the hundred thousand or so social distancing to the glorious old school beats at D-Nice’s “Homeschoolin’ Social Distancing Dance Party.”
He turned that photo into a now-much-loved digital painting (more than 420,000 likes so far) that captures a twinkle of gaiety in what is shaping up to be one of America’s darkest times. Edwards gives us D-Nice in his signature fedora with his left hand extended in pure joy while the deejay rocks a turntable Edwards transformed into a globe, wearing a face mask. Edwards sprinkled tiny hearts around D-Nice like confetti, just like the ones that poured out on Insta during D-Nice’s killer performance on the live feed.
Edwards completed Live Healing on Sunday and posted it to his Instagram page Sunday evening. By Monday, when D-Nice posted the photo, it started receiving hundreds of thousands of likes. Edwards is planning to give D-Nice a rendition of the artwork.
“I just wanted to make a dope image,” said Edwards, a husband and father of three little girls.
Derrick “D-Nice” Jones kicked off the “Homeschoolin’” series on March 18, and from the jump it attracted thousands who live, breathe, and bleed old school hip-hop. D-Nice spun hits from Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, and Jay-Z. And it wasn’t just hip-hop. The R&B jams made Gen Xers’ hearts jump with joy. We are talking Michael, Madonna, and Prince. There was a little bit of Earth, Wind & Fire. A lot of Stevie Wonder, a dose of Féla and Patti LaBelle, whose music D-Nice played when the Bluebelle joined the party.
By Saturday night, however, the word was out that “Homeschoolin'’” wasn’t just a good old-fashioned dance-it-out-in your living room good time, it was a way to connect with others stuck at home doing our part to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Because of that, the jammy jam attracted dozens of celebrities, like Tracee Ellis Ross, Gabrielle Union, and Janet Jackson. Will Smith and the Roots Crew, including Questlove and Black Thought, were in the house. Lenny Kravitz showed up. Jimmy Fallon was on the scene. Grey’s Anatomy actor and former Philadelphia public school teacher Jesse Williams graced us with his beautiful presence. Even Mark Zuckerberg stopped by. Presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both came through for a minute. And when Michelle Obama logged on, the virtual house came down.
“Oh my God, Michelle Obama is in here,” D-Nice said live. “Diddy is in here, but Michelle Obama is in here.”
On Sunday, 156K people were at “Homeschoolin’.” On Wednesday, D-Nice hosted a special edition with Obama as part of the former first lady’s Get Out the Vote campaign. During the show, Live Healing was featured on Obama’s “When We All Vote.”
Edwards’ painting honored the electricity and excitement of a truly unique moment in time that would inspire other artists like Questlove, 9th Wonder, and Dee “Spinderella” Roper, formally of Salt-N-Pepa, to create similar events. And while these other deejays are extremely talented in their own right, none of them has been able to do what D-Nice has.
Edwards grew up in Upper Darby. He paid for his Art Institute education by working in West Philly as a master barber. (He was the guy who cut images of Jay-Z and Allen Iverson into guys’ hair.) While at the Institute, Edwards honed his skills as an acrylic-on-canvas artist.
Edwards’ work has been commissioned by the 76ers organization. He’s working on a piece for the Eagles’ Rodney McLeod. And now-former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins is a fan. Edwards has been a featured artist in Jenkins’ Center City menswear showroom, Damari Savile. He’s sold work at shows at Miami’s annual art fest, Art Basel. Last month, his work was featured at the Washington premiere of director Lena Waithe’s drama, Twenties.
In 2019, Edwards started making digital paintings because it’s faster, there is no cleanup, and he doesn’t need as many supplies. This also makes his work more affordable to his audience. “When I was doing acrylic paintings, I had to sell them for north of five or 10 grand, and my core supporters couldn’t afford my work."
Live Healing is the third in a series Edwards is doing to chronicle the effect of social distancing on our everyday lives. The first piece, Good Morning Class, shows a little boy doing his schoolwork wearing a mask.
The second piece, Social Distancing, is an image of a little girl wearing a mask and gloves as she plays patty cake while on FaceTime. Perhaps Edwards will put together a show when it’s safe for all of us to get together. But for now it’s Live Healing that has people talking.
“This was D-Nice’s moment,” Edwards said, “I’m just glad to be part of the journey.”