It was 1999 and few black guys were just chilling and having fun doing what they were used to doing: music.
We are in New Orleans (Louisiana,US) and a young Lil Wayne was in the studio with his crew, Hot Boys (B.G., Turk, Juvenile), Birdman and the producer Manny Fresh just trying to record the hit of their career.
They were just writing and recording music all day long.
Those guys were used to speaking in slang and one of their favorite words was “bling” to talk about jewellery.
One day Lil Wayne said “the” word in a different way they were used to do and it was a breakthrough.
They decided that they should have recorded a song called “Bling”.
Producer Manny Fresh during an interview stated:
“(…) I wrote the hook. The whole entire hook. I wrote it to the music. It had to be two words because I put these two stabs in the beat while I was doing it. I wanted to match the kick. That was the reason why I didn’t just say “bling. (…)”
This is exactly what happened that day in 1999 and the hook Manny Fresh was talking about is the following and Lil Wayne was lucky enough to be the one that had the proud of rapping it:
“Bling bling everytime I go around yo city,
Bling bling, pinky ring worth about fifty
Bling bling, everytime I buy a new ride
Bling bling, Lorinsers on Yokahama tires
The song “Bling Bling” was placed into the B.G.’s solo album, Chopper City in the Ghetto, released April 22nd 1999, both because he was the one with the biggest amount of followers and because it was the first that had to release an album at that time.
This song had such a big impact that the period after the release has been called the “Bling Bling era”.
From this time on rappers and not only started calling their jewellery pieces bling bling and after a while this expression went into the US dictionaries and became popular all around the world.
In the Hip Hop world this sentence has been used as a proof of richness and freshness by many rappers that wanted to show off their power and capability of selling songs. The more they sell the more they earn and the more they spend for jewellery.
This brand new movement had a big impact and a battle for the best bling bling started those days.
It has to be said that the “Cash Money Millionaires” (Hot Boys & Big Tymer$) were not the first that have worn ostentatious jewellery during their career. In fact, many rappers have chosen these types of accessories to appear on stage and on the cover of their albums.
One of the most iconic bling bling chains is for sure the Jesus one worn by Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. on the cover his posthumous album “Born Again” of 1999.
Three years before of Biggie was Tupac Shakur in 1996 who wore another piece of high jewellery for the cover of his most sold album “All Eyez On Me”.
Nowadays most rappers alive desire to purchase unique pieces of jewellery and so they directly contact the jewellery makers in order to ask to produce fully customized products according to their preferences.
One of the first that has done something similar is 50 Cent with his spinning G Unit’s chain.
Then is turn of Jay Z with the “Roc A Fella” chain, a tribute to his label.
By the way probably the most customized chain in the history of bling bling could be the one that Rick Ross asked to be made representing his own face.
In 2010 Kanye West stressed “a bit” the concept of bling bling wearing a golden chain depicting the ancient Egyptian divinity Horus in the video of his song “Power”. He was also spotted wearing it during a visit at Tutankhamon’s sarcophagus.
The “other side of the bling bling moon” is of course represented by rings and grillz.
Talking about rings, there is a funny story that is strictly linked to the creation of the term bling bling.
It was 1999 and Lil Wayne & friends were shooting the video of their hit “Bling bling”. During it there was a scene in which they were performing on a boat and at a certain point something very sad happened. The director of the video Ron Mohrhoof declared that:
“(…) while Juvenile was performing on the boat, he was gesticulating and really giving a performance and because it was a wide shot on a boat he had to move around a lot. He had a brand-new diamond pinky ring on and it literally flung off while he was performing and it went in the bay. Kerplunk! And, gone. There was this look on his face like, -Oh my God, my $30,000 ring just flew off my hand. –(…)”
This was just a quick example of the richness of those guys at that time and their willingness to show it off.
Fortunately this is a happy ending story.
The ring was found and brought back to the owner by the police officers.
Talking about Grillz, instead, are now considered the brand new way of perceiving bling bling.
A lot of rappers started using them back in the ‘80s and they reached popularity during the ‘90s due to the rise of the southern Hip Hop.
Grillz are basically a type of jewellery worn over the teeth and or in substitution of them.
This new wave of jewels has become so popular that has started to be used also by celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and many more.
Being a Kardashian is not enough, she is Tyga’s girlfriend and I can clearly say that he is somehow addicted to grillz.
In fact, Tyga, who’s a famous rapper from Compton, has commissioned Ben Baller, a well-known celebrity jeweller, a custom set of mouth bling.
In particular, it’s a grill encrusted with a total of 1.400 diamonds.
With its 18-carat and a price of $45,000 is the most expensive piece that Ben Baller has ever commissioned to design.
Once the product was finished Ben posted a video on of the final result on Instagram that can give you an idea of what I am talking about. You can see the video at this link:
Here you can have also a look at Tyga wearing that master piece.
Now that I have provided you an historical brief of the evolution of bling bling I would like to conclude using an example that perfectly fits as bridge between Hip Hop jewellery and fashion.
Once again Ben Baller made a unique piece.
This time a master piece that worth $100,000. It’s a Stone Island logo gold and diamond-encrusted chain that Mr. Baller gave to the worldwide known Hip Hop Star Drake.
The pendant features black, green and canary yellow diamonds with 880 grams of gold.
Not bad at all.
Have a look.
I don’t really know where this “Bling Bling era” will lead us but for sure it is leading in the same direction as where luxury is going.
High quality and high level of customization are mandatory.
At least the future will be somehow shiny.