Hip hop artists are known for wearing massive amounts of bling. From gigantic rings on every finger and multi-carat diamond earrings, to layers of massive gold and platinum necklaces and diamond crusted watches. Hip hop artists such as Big Daddy Kane and Kurtis Blow popularized gold necklaces and other such jewelry, while female rappers like Salt-N-Pepa popularize over-sized door-knocker earrings. Their heavy jewelry was designed to suggest prestige and wealth.

 

In the 1990s, platinum replaced gold as the metal of choice for rappers, often studded with diamonds. The artists Juvenile, Jay-Z, and The Hot Boys were seen as promoting this trend. Platinum front teeth, or grills, became popular; Cash Money Records rapper Brian “Baby” Williams sported an entire mouth of permanent platinum teeth, while others had removable metal tooth coverings. Luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton entered the hip hop market, appearing in films and videos. Both artists and fans competed to see who could wear the most bling, usually platinum set with a dazzling array of diamonds. Performers used their platinum jewelry as a form of bragging rights to show who was the richest and most successful.

These days, however, many hip hop artists are scaling back on the bling. Of course they aren’t totally eliminating the bling, but the days of conspicuous consumption may be over. A few hip hop artists like Public Enemy have made a choice to not wear expensive jewelry, making a statement against materialism. Others have toned down out of fear for personal safety, as there have been a few highly publicized robberies. A member of Gang Starr was robbed of his Rolex watch at gunpoint, Queen Latifah was car-jacked, and Prodigy was robbed of $300,000 in jewelry at gunpoint. Still others have toned down out of respect for the current economic conditions.

 

Instead of multiple diamond necklaces, a rapper might tone down to just a diamond bracelet. As renowned hip hop artists are growing older, many such as Jay-Z and Sean “Diddy” Combs are turning instead to high-end fashion such as custom tailored suits. Some of these stars, most notably Combs and Russell Simmons, have started their own line of clothing, while other rappers have set aside the heavy jewelry in favor of classic gangster attire like bowler hats, double-breasted suits, and alligator shoes.