There are few things more synonymous with Hip-Hop than “bling” – meaning shiny, expensive, diamond-encrusted jewelry. If you think about it, this association actually makes a lot of sense. Rappers are always talking about how much money they have, how many expensive cars they own, and how they live the uber-luxury life. What better to way to show how rich and successful you are than by wearing a chain or pinky ring that could pay for someone’s college tuition or annual NYC rent? For this article, we are going to look at the 5 jewelers that provide the biggest Hip-Hop stars with their extravagant “bling’d-out” jewelry.
4 Jacob Arobo aka Jacob the Jeweler
Any follower of rap music’s evolution knows that the materialism in the Hip-Hop culture really reached its zenith in the 1990’s era. This is when mainstream America really latched on to Hip-Hop, and it was not just a genre of music that lived in the inner-city. Helmed by the mainstream success of rappers like Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg and TuPac Shakur, there was a huge influx of cash into the culture. Rap videos were getting more extravagant, the budgets were bigger for promoting artists, and rappers were making tons more money. The diamonds got bigger too, and in NYC, the man providing the shiny baubles for stars like Jay-Z, Nas and Puff Daddy was Jacob Arobo. Nicknamed Jacob the Jeweler, he held the sole reputation of creating the finest and most unique jewel encrusted gold and diamond chains, watches and rings for rich rap stars. A watch or chain from Jacob the jeweler might seem a little gaudy to most, but for rappers, that “iced-out” look is exactly what they were going for. Jacob actually got into trouble with the law in 2008 over a money-laundering case and had to spend two years in jail. But he was released in 2010, and his chic family-owned shop in midtown Manhattan still caters to those who love diamonds and gold and have the means to acquire exorbitant, custom pieces.
Johnny Dang aka Tv Johnny
Houston based Johnny Dang is a jeweler who happened to have the perfect timing with regards to his ascendancy in the rap industry. Dang rose to fame as a result of the 2010 rap song by Nelly called “Grillz” featuring a Texas rapper named Paul Wall. The song was a mega hit and it also spurred a cultural phenomenon. You see, a “grill” in rap lingo refers to a diamond encrusted mouth piece, and Johnny Dang was the mastermind creator of these unique jewelry pieces.
Ever since that song, his popularity sky-rocketed and he has been called on to design jewelry for several rappers (Lil Jon, David Banner, Rick Ross, Paul Wall) and appeared in several rap videos and reality shows. He also has freestanding shops spread around Houston where his clientele can come and shop for the finest bling in Texas. Sometimes, all you have to do is be at the right place at the right time – and everything else takes care of itself.
3 Ben Baller
Ben Baller is the only jeweler on this list who has actually participated in making Hip-Hop music. Before he entered the jewelry game, he was actually a DJ for Dr. Dre and was reportedly a major music industry executive who was instrumental in getting Jay-Z signed for his first solo LP release Reasonable Doubt. Ben Baller is based in Los Angeles and he lives a truly celebrity lifestyle. He drives luxury cars, lives in an amazing house, wears designer clothes and his client list includes some of the biggest stars on the planet: Kanye West, Drake, Nas, Odd Future, the late great Michael Jackson, Frank Ocean and Kim Kardashian. His jewelry company is called IF & Co and he’s been written up in well-read publications like the LA Times, Hypebeast and The Wall Street Journal.
2 Greg Yuna aka Mr. Flawless
For an individual who deals with precious and sparkling diamonds every day, Greg Yuna couldn’t have picked a better nickname. Born and raised in Queens NYC, he was working as a mortgage broker before he decided to switch lanes and become a jeweler. One of his first celebrity clients was the flashy boxing champion Floyd Mayweather – he was the one who actually encouraged him to adopt the nickname Mr. Flawless. Since then, his clients have gone to include Rick Ross, 50 Cent and Raekwon. What really sets Yuna apart from other popular jewelers is the creative designs he makes that are inspired by his urban NYC upbringing. Greg Yuna also has a clothing brand under the same name through which he sells some very cool, downtown-style t-shirts.
1 Gabriel Jacobs / Rafaello & Co
If Jacob the Jeweler was the go-to jeweler in the 90’s era for rappers, that title in the present era belongs to Gabriel Jacobs and his well-renowned NYC jewelry shop, Rafaello & Co. Together with his uncle Eric Aranbayev, their shop caters to some of the biggest Hip-Hop stars ruling the music waves right now: DJ Khaled, Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz, Nick Cannon, Busta Rhymes and Rick Ross, to name a few. When DJ Khaled was promoting his most recent album titled Suffering from Success, he pulled a publicity stunt on MTV by proposing to Nicki Minaj with a diamond ring from Gabriel Jacobs valued at $500,000.
And also, have you ever seen huge golden Cuban Link chain that Jay-Z sometimes wears? It supposedly weighs about 11lb and that was created by Rafaello & Co too. They have even made pieces for the lovely and very sexy Kate Upton and created jewelry for Saudi Royalty as well. These jewelers are certainly on the top of their game.