It's No Longer All About The Bling: Recession Melts Rappers' Ice As Homeys Economize
Miguel Bustillo, Wall Street Journal
Bus this def article, homeys!

After years of starring in rap-music lyrics and videos, "bling" is losing its ring.

The recession is cramping the style of hip-hop artists and wannabes -- many of whom are finding it difficult to afford the diamond-encrusted pendants and heavy gold chains they have long used to project an aura of outsized wealth. In an attempt to keep up appearances, celebrity jewelers say rappers are asking them to make medallions with less-precious stones and metals. Some even whisper that the artists have begun requesting cubic zirconia, the synthetic diamond stand-in and QVC staple.

Hip-hop luminaries with the cash to keep it real are appalled. Bling aficionados fret that the art of "ice" is being watered down. Rapper 50 Cent has relished the chance to accuse his musical adversaries of not glittering like gold. During a radio interview, the artist, whose real name is Curtis James Jackson III, taunted rapper Rick Ross for wearing faux and rented jewelry. "Everything that you see has to absolutely be fake," said Mr. Jackson. Rick Ross, whose real name is William Leonard Roberts II, has denied the claims. Mr. Jackson didn't return requests for comment....

From the dawn of rap music three decades ago, hip-hop artists have festooned themselves with gaudy ornaments to signify that they have more money than sense risen above humble origins to become ghetto royalty.

English-American trailblazer Slick Rick sported a diamond-studded eye patch, portraying himself as the "Black Liberace," while the three members of Queens, N.Y.-based Run-D.M.C. rocked gold rope chains that seemed thick enough to hold a real anchor.

To be sure, phony or inferior ice has been around as long as rappers' traditional standard gear of two-turntables-and-a-microphone. But with Internet piracy cutting into musicians' record sales and the recession shrinking attendance for live shows, jewelers say the ersatz stuff has never been more widespread. "Times are hard, ain't nobody rocking it like that anymore," says rapper and record executive Bryan "Birdman" Williams, who co-founded Cash Money Records in New Orleans in the early 1990s with his brother, Ronald "Slim" Williams...."People think these big pieces are blindin' but they be like D-quality diamonds, and when you try and sell them you learn they ain't worth a thing," says Slim Williams. "You can't be doing it like we did it no more."
"But what about their carbon signature? Diamonds are fused carbon, and so less diamonds means less carbon and that stops global warming!"
"Shut it, tree-hugger, 'fore I take my nine an' put a cap in yo' ass!"
"Please, please, sir, don't hurt me. (Oh, where, oh where is gun control when you really need it?) I'll just--I'll just get in my Prius here and drive away and..."
"Prius! What kinda lame-ass ride is a Prius?"
"I dunno, Slick, pimp it with some twenty-inch Dubs an' underbody lights an' a subwoofer, an', y'know, it could be pretty fly for a white guy."
"Subwoofer? That's word."

Hip-hop artists aren't eager to admit to thrift, and numerous rappers rumored to be trading down declined to talk about the trend.

"You gotta understand, it is every rapper's fear to be exposed as a fraud," said Gregory Lewis of Brooklyn, who posts conversations with artists on the Internet under the alias "Doggie Diamonds, the interview king." "If you admit you wear fake jewelry, it is over for you. It's like bragging you drive a Lamborghini when you really drive a Toyota."
Posted by: Mike 2009-05-27