See How Hip-Hop’s Flashy Jewelry Defined Its History

Slick Rick is just one of many artists to take this ethos with them and wear it as a badge of honor. “It means something, besides the music, the way you look and present yourself to the world is such a form of communication and who you are,” said Vikki […]

Slick Rick is just one of many artists to take this ethos with them and wear it as a badge of honor.

“It means something, besides the music, the way you look and present yourself to the world is such a form of communication and who you are,” said Vikki Tobak, the book’s author.

Upon putting together her 2018 book Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, Tobak kept noticing jewelry trends that decorated rappers throughout the years in now-historic photos.

“It’s woven into the fabric of the music from day one, from the rappers really looking to street culture,” Tobak said. “[The jewelry] was lockstep with the history of the music and was really something that needed to be explored deeper.”

Hip-hop has come a long way in the past few decades, and like the music, the jewelry has evolved as well. For example, some trends have dictated bigger and bolder pieces with platinum and diamonds, while other styles have resorted to a minimal approach with gold. Necklaces take on many forms, from Cuban links to Dookie ropes. Rings can be customized in unimaginable ways. Folks like Pharrell love their colorful gemstones. Watches are anyone’s game — earlier this year for Valentine’s Day, Offset gifted Cardi B a $375,000 Audemars Piguet. During a certain time, if you wore a Roc-a-Fella chain, you were considered “hip-hop royalty.”

The relationship between a hip-hop artist and their producer is often discussed, but what about a hip-hop artist and their jeweler?

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