Covering pearly whites in gleams of gold, platinum and diamond encrusted grillz was a prominent hip hop accessory in the mid-2000s.
Covering pearly whites in gleams of gold, platinum and diamond encrusted grillz was a prominent hip hop accessory in the mid-2000s. My memory immediately flashes back to being a tween and seeing Nelly on MTV, rapping rather enthusiastically about the dental apparatuses, while rocking grillz inlaid in multiple precious stones.
‘Got thirty down at the bottom, thirty mo’ at the top, all invisible set in little ice cube blocks,’ raps the St Louis native while describing his current favourite set in his hit song ‘Grillz.’ The dental jewellery can manifest in an array of styles and stones, from emeralds, canary yellows, rubies and sapphires.
A deeper meaning behind the accessory
No stone has ever been exempt from being moulded and plastered over rappers’ teeth, and has been a popular trend since the 1980s (thanks to Flavor Flav), while peaking during the 2000s with the likes of Lil Wayne & Paul Wall (who also owns a grillz business might I add) popularizing the ‘it trend’ which coincided with the ‘bling bling’ movement I’m sure we all fondly remember.
Although grillz were a staple trend in hip hop culture, some found a deeper meaning behind the garish accessory, and what it meant to own grillz. For some, grillz was a form of self-expression for those to show ‘they’ve made it,’ a feeling of self-validation as they stood amongst their peers with a flashier smile than most, a rite of passage if you will. To have grillz in certain social circumstances meant to have money and status, and was a symbol of a rags to riches story. However, those days are well and truly over.
Back by popular demand
Grillz are back by an apparent popular demand, and are just as controversial as ever, but for very different reasons. Our favourite pop starlets from Rihanna and Katy Perry-to some of our lesser faves like Madonna & Miley Cyrus have forcefully brought grillz to mainstream media attention and have caught the eyes of many with their dazzling, yet rather random mouthpieces. As we embark on a revived trend which is being appropriated for the mainstream audience, we come to realise the semblance of meaning has evolved.
Wearing grillz will no longer represent some sort of triumphant and success for the predominately black male, but will be worn as a source of rebellion, to gain a ‘look at me, I’m cool’ reaction from most. This is evident by many singers from Beyoncé to Miley Cyrus’s constant display of her personal collection of grillz, where she proudly shows off her ‘cool’, new accessory. Same could be said for Madonna.
Not complimentary for Madonna
The Queen of Pop, just turning 55, has been regularly seen wearing grillz, which aren’t exactly complimentary for the material girl. Could her explanation for rocking the new trend be a sign of also trying to remain ‘cool,’ as her youth dwindles? Well, I think we can all pretty much agree that’s a possibility.
However, there is also an element of female empowerment regarding the popular trend. As grillz are known to be worn predominately by male rappers, this resurgence of the mouth wear worn by young – and older women further aids to the rebellion aspect of the mouthpiece, and embracing the naughty associations that come with wearing grillz.
Embrace the bling
What was once reserved for tough, cool, mostly African American males is now being taken over by the cool leading ladies of pop, and their eagerness to embrace the freedom and inhibitions that are explored in the rap persona. The ability to dress, wear, and be as taboo as they want is now surfacing in a time where female singers no longer need to be cookie cutter all American girls, who pretend they are innocent and are still virgins àla Britney Spears circa 1999. These girls are loud, brass, and do what they want, all with a tricked out diamond set of teeth.
Whatever your opinion is of the unconventional jewellery piece, it’s slowly making a comeback, and your favourite starlets are welcoming grillz with open arms.
Time to embrace the bling folks. I’ll be popping down to my local dentistry to enquire about getting a set myself.