In the entertainment world, looking like a million bucks is the name of the game. A-list names pay stylists upwards of $200,000 to make them look their sharpest for their next red carpet appearance. From designer dresses to luxury tailed suits, stars will go above and beyond to step out looking their best. While any one of these items are enough to break any regular Joe Schmoe’s bank account, there’s one thing that celebs love to throw their money at: jewelry.
You’ll see pop stars like Lady Gaga spend $30 million on items like the 128.54-carat Tiffany Yellow Diamond that was previously worn by Audrey Hepburn while promoting Breakfeast at Tiffany’s. On the other hand, you’ll see country singers like Carrie Underwood splurging on Anne Sisteron that are worth $10k.
But there’s one sole sect of music that has the bling game on lock: Hip-Hop. Rap culture’s admiration for sporting the sickest gold grills and necklaces dates all the way back to the 70’s!
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If you told someone in the 70’s that the then emerging genre of rap would produce some of the biggest stars of our generation, you’d probably get some inquisitive looks. The popularization of hip hop is widely attributed to DJ Kool Herc. The roots of the genre were grown in the legends infamous block parties in the Bronx.
“The parties I gave happened to catch on,” the pioneer says in the introduction to Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, “They became a rite of passage for young people in the Bronx. Then the younger generation came in and started putting their spin on what I had started. I set down the blueprint, and all the architects started adding on this level and that level. Pretty soon, before we even knew it, it had started to evolve.”
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Enter Kurtis Blow.
This New York based rapper became the very first artist to receive critical success in the hip hop industry. He was the first to release a RIAA gold-certified record. His song, The Breaks sold over 500,000 copies, making his Hip-Hops first success story.
Blow pioneered the bling trend, adorning a heap of gold necklaces in his album covers. Rappers after him soon followed suit, spending thousands upon thousands to wear the flashiest pieces around their necks.
Bling of 90’s
Gaudy gold pieces immediately became synonymous with the hip-hop as the genre became more commercialized and more recognized as a music industry cash cow.
A necklace that grew an immense amount of popularity was the Jesus Pieces. This is thanks to one of the world’s beloved hip-hop icons, Biggie Smalls. The $30,000 chain was created by Tito Caicedo. It featured a thorny crown adorning the religious figures head, was made with diamond in the hair and rubies to make up the tears that fell on the prophet’s cheeks.
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“You seen the Jesus, dipped in H-classes/ Ice project off light, chick flashes/ Blind your broke asses/ Even got rocks in the beards and mustaches,” Biggie raps in his record I Love the Dough.
Biggie went on to put one of the flashiest music videos in history with “Hypnotize”. Along with the 1997 Mercedes E-Class convertible, the video featured rapper P. Diddy rocking some stunning 20-carat pinkie rings. Though Diddy, who now goes by Sean LOVE Combs has since denounced his flashy ways.
The whole thing now is the dreams and fantasies were achieved, and you don’t want to make it the focal point,” the rapper tells MTV, “You can’t keep beating that dead horse. That was a time for us — there are different eras in the dynasty. We had our bling-bling era.”
The Bling Game Today
While Combs may have thrown in the towel, today’s generation of rappers are even more iced out then before. According to Statista, hip-hop stands as the country’s most listened to genre, taking up 21.7 percent of album consumption. Last year, rap surpassed rock for the first time. More listens means more money – which means even pricier bling!
Take Drake’s Ovo Owl for example. The owl shape pendant is bedazzled with three pounds of white old and 100 carat diamonds. The piece, which is estimated to be higher than $120,000 was shipped to the rapper in a birdcage.
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Philly based rapper Lil Uzi bought a necklace in the shape of Marylin Manson back in 2017 for a whopping $220,000. The 14k white gold necklace was an homage to the artist who Uzi considers to be huge music inspiration for him.
Though the most expensive piece of chain in hip-hop was adorned by none other than Rick Ross. His legendary necklace which displayed a self portrait in the form of a gold pendant was priced at $1.5 million.
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Sources: Hype Magazine, Chicago Tribune, MTV, Statista
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