It takes massive stones to make it in hip-hop.
That’s the premise of “Ice Chilly,” a brand new four-part documentary on YouTube, premiering Thursday. The sequence — which was additionally featured in final month’s Tribeca Movie Pageant — examines why outrageous jewels have change into such an important a part of hip-hop tradition.
“I believe lots of people don’t notice how these items and inventive expression by means of jewellery — whether or not it’s a bracelet, or a pendant or no matter — they’re seen as trophies,” director Karam Gill advised The Put up.
Gill, who spent 4 years on this mission, mentioned that the custom of rappers sporting lavish, eye-catching baubles — from monumental diamond stud earrings to gem-speckled chain necklaces — is all about stars discovering methods to acknowledge, and talk, their successes.
“Hip-hop tradition isn’t like a sport,” Gill mentioned. “There’s no Tremendous Bowl trophy . . . or ring, like should you win an NBA championship, once you launch an album.”
Gill mentioned that’s why the top-tier rappers he interviewed — together with the trio from Migos (who additionally executive-produced the movie), Lil Yachty and A$AP Ferg — had been so desirous to dish about their multimillion-dollar collections on digital camera. “Everybody was excited,” Gill mentioned of his high-profile topics. “The identical means as should you went to some rich household within the South and so they had an expansive, multigeneration wine assortment . . . [when] individuals obtain large ranges of success and accumulate materials gadgets, they oftentimes like speaking about it.”
Beneath, some highlights from the story of hip-hop jewellery, and the varieties of items which have sparkled — and sparked criticism — alongside the best way.
Rappers wore hefty gold chains within the Nineteen Eighties, when MTV took hip-hop mainstream and performers similar to Slick Rick, Run-DMC and LL Cool J began making extra money. The necklaces — from easy hyperlinks to chunky box-chains — had been used as a means for artists, who usually got here from low-income neighborhoods, to indicate they had been getting access to wealth. “Hip-hop was youngsters who got here from the ’hood and had nothing, who had been making an attempt their finest to indicate the world that they’d worth,” rapper and activist Talib Kweli says within the movie.
Report label pendants
As hip-hop turned a thriving, multimillion-dollar business and competitors between performers grew fiercer, labels created their very own pendants as a method to honor — and mark — their signees. Probably the most infamous of the bunch was the one put out by the West Coast’s Loss of life Row Information, dwelling to ’90s-era chart-toppers similar to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Hanging from a sequence, the outsized allure spelled out “Loss of life Row” over the macabre picture of a person strapped to an electrical chair.
It doesn’t matter what the pendant seemed like, it was at all times a privilege to obtain one. In “Ice Chilly,” music journalist Rob Marriott describes how an up-and-coming producer-turned-emcee named Kanye West acquired his chain from Roc-A-Fella Information co-founder Damon “Dame” Sprint: a second that West included within the music video for his 2003 single “By means of the Wire.”
“It was like he was being knighted or one thing,” Marriott says.
Grills — customized molds constructed from valuable metals that match over the enamel — had been popularized within the early 2000s by Southern rappers, together with Nelly, Birdman and Lil Wayne. The truth is, director Gill mentioned they turned such a recognizable touchstone in hip-hop that most of the topics he interviewed “talked about how at lunch [in school] they’d put aluminum foil on their enamel.” Now, he mentioned, the grills seen on teams similar to Migos are extra eye-popping than ever, constructed from platinum as an alternative of yellow gold and fitted with the very best high quality diamonds. “The value of their grills are over $100,000,” Gill mentioned of those worn by Migos’ Quavo, Offset and Takeoff.
Multi-platinum hip-hop artists usually have fun profession milestones by commissioning playful customized pendants, which might price over six figures for a single treasure. Favourite cartoon characters and even emojis are widespread inspirations, with Quavo proudly owning an outsized Crash Bandicoot necklace (impressed by the online game) and Lil Yachty displaying off his gem-studded Bart Simpson.
Reggaeton star J. Balvin owns a large smiley face pendant, replete with dazzling pink lightning bolt eyes. Within the sequence, he describes how a lot he enjoys “the entire course of” of working with a jeweler. “From the casting, from selecting … what colour stones, the scale … the chain, how we wish it to look, what sort of vibe I need to present. I’m like a child in that means.”
For some hip-hop stars, investing in luxurious watches is a means to make sure that their jewellery collections maintain — and even generate — worth. Gill mentioned that whereas customized pendants can excite artists and impress followers, in the case of resale, they’re normally value rather a lot lower than the unique worth. That’s as a result of they’re too distinctive: “If an artist had been to get a customized piece made, like their album cowl that went platinum . . . that’s gonna be arduous to promote sooner or later. How many individuals are gonna search for that?”
Restricted-editions watches, then again — from manufacturers similar to Patek Philippe and Rolex — will truly recognize as time goes on, very like different types of high quality artwork. In “Ice Chilly,” High quality Management document label head Pierre “Pee” Thomas talks about intentionally rising his watch assortment to depart one thing behind for his youngsters and grandchildren.
“To see [Thomas], who actually made it from nothing and has constructed an empire for himself, and collects these watches and has accomplished it to create generational wealth . . . was a extremely highly effective expertise,” Gill mentioned.
For a very long time in hip-hop, the wildest jewels had been reserved for male stars — however that’s altering, mentioned Gill. At present, feminine rappers similar to Cardi B, Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion are outperforming the fellows in additional methods than one. “Girls [rappers] have truly taken jewellery to a different degree,” Gill mentioned. “The items they’ve are sometimes a lot dearer, bigger and flat-out cooler than what a few of the male rappers in hip-hop now have. And it’s a testomony to how far girls have come, and the way far girls emcees have come.”