The Hip Hop Grillz Question
Grillz and more grillz. Are they a fashion statement? Or, as some would have you believe, an abomination of culture. Why are grown men running around with gold teeth grillz in their mouths? These are the perpetual questions surrounding hip hop jewelry as it relates to the wearing of grillz. And perhaps, these are the very questions that are part and parcel of the reason which inspires the wearing of teeth grillz.
The history of gold teeth in rap history was established in the 80’s with grass root efforts by the likes of Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, Big Daddy Kane, and Flava Flav. They began the popularization of hip hop music and culture creating the context for hip hop jewelry fashion. The clothing, fashion and hairstyles associated with hip hop represented a fresh edginess and uniqueness. From this sprouted a plethora of fads, some of which died quickly, others, like the wearing of gangsta grillz, which persist still today. One of the earliest figures to sport the gold teeth look prominently was Flavor Flav from Public Enemy. His gold teeth grill enhanced, grinning face was frequently displayed in Public Enemy music videos played frequently on MTV.
Since that time, gangsta grillz jewelry has become prominent in hip hop fashion. Hip hop grillz are now a staple for artist like Nelly, Young Jeezy, and Paul Wall, inheriting the tradition from their predecessors. Nelly and Paul Wall even made a song named “Grillz” showing off their gold teeth. Bling bling has evolved into every category of hip hop ewelry. Hip hop grillz, however, still hold the title as most provocative to hip hop outsiders. The idea that someone would shove gold teeth in their mouth is offensive to some. Maybe it’s too flashy, too different for the offended to absorb. They imagine their children coming home from school with a full set of grillz, wearing baggy pants, grabbing their crotch, yelling,”Yo, wus up bitches!” Worse yet, they imagine the wearing of grillz symbolizes a thugged out, gun totting, drug hazed, gangsta life. Surely, grillz have been banned in many households across America, as young hip hop fans sit down with their families and set their grillz quietly on the table, preparing to eat dinner.
It is partly for these very reasons that grillz remain so popular. The counter culture roots of hip hop promote the values of anti-conformity. This is pervasive in its fashion, music and hip hop jewelry. Gold grillz have become a major symbol of the principal of mainstream avoidance. What could be more provocative than stuffing gold teeth grillz in your mouth to compliment those bling earrings? Artists and fans alike have adopted gold teeth as part of the heritage of hip hop history.
Hip hop grillz, themselves, are usually made with white and yellow gold or sterling silver and feature real diamonds or cubic zirconia stones. Two sets of gold teeth grillz are usually worn for both the top and bottom rows of teeth. They are usually attached by wax. The wax is boiled until soft and eventually fitted on the gold teeth grillz, then attached to the teeth. Some higher end gold and diamond grillz are customized to the teeth of the wearer through a mold. The cz cubic zirconia or diamond stones in grillz can be colored red, yellow, blue or clear and are often mixed together to create a vibrant look. In the end, grillz are not about violence or drugs. Grillz are about making a fashion statement and to a certain extent questions, specifically, WHY? Question the ideas and beliefs that you suspect are unjust. Question conformity, as it seeks to homogenize our society. These questions can only lead to the improvement of our understanding of everything around us. As far reaching as it may seem, this line of thinking can be provoked by asking the question, why are they wearing those hip hop grillz?