Related News

Home » Feature

Rappers tone down sparkle but not swagger

THE hip-hop world is a less bling-bling place these days.

The music genre has been defined as much by diamond-encrusted watches and platinum chains as its gritty urban lyrics. But in the last couple of years, it has scaled down its flash, a trend insiders say has become more pronounced during the recent recession.

Make no mistake: the industry that made an urban household name out of New York's Jacob "Jacob the Jeweler" Arabov isn't entirely reversing course. (Case in point - Lil Wayne's "A Milli," one of last year's biggest songs, which had the rapper bragging wildly about being a "young millionaire.")

But "the day of conspicuous consumption is gone," said Tamara Connor, an Atlanta-based stylist who has created looks for chart-topping rappers, including Lil Wayne.

"We're still going to see some bling, but it's just not going to be as much," Connor said. "Instead of four diamond necklaces, it might just be a diamond bracelet - and it's a piece the celebrity wears all the time. They're not changing their jewelry everyday."

Photo shoots, for example, are being done with fewer of the specialized medallions considered a calling card for the likes of Rick Ross, whose chain with a likeness of his head - complete with black diamond beard - has an estimated value of US$30,000.

Instead you might see a rapper in an off-the-shelf diamond cross or wearing lower-quality stones. "You can save US$3,000 a carat if you do non-ring quality diamonds for studs (earrings)," Connor noted.

Ben Baller, head of Los Angeles-based jeweler I.F. & Co, said the shift is most pronounced among up-and-coming rappers, for whom a steady income is seeming like less of a sure thing. Rap sales have declined along with the rest of the music industry.

Before, a new artist might spend US$25,000 of a US$30,000 advance on a chain, according to Baller, who counts Fat Joe as a client.

"Now they would rather try to spend US$5,000 and US$6,000," he said, adding, "they're willing to talk about options by using sapphires, using very, very low quality gold.

"Some people (are) even wanting to mix diamonds with cubics (cubic zirconia) so it would not be completely ungenuine."

Cost cutting is major for the industry in which the carat-weight of one's ring could carry more cache than record sales.

But rappers aren't giving up glamor altogether, they're just not wearing it 24-7. In the past, several chains were de rigueur for a grocery-store run but now they're reserved for a show or nightclub, said Baller, who also is seeing more artists trading in old chains instead of buying new ones.

"Some of those same people who would reach and stretch and do everything they could to get that Louis (Vuitton) will now say, 'I already have these two bags, let me pay the rent'," said rapper T.I.'s A.K.O.O. clothing line creative director Ralph Reynolds.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend