The sky’s always been the limit when it comes to keeping up with the hip hop Joneses: partying, expensive cars and jewelry has got to outdo the competition. So when it wasn’t enough to be dripping head-to-toe in diamond-studded earrings, medallions and watches, rap stars moved on up to adorning their own teeth.
Grills 101: Also known as “fronts” or “grillz,” these high-priced urban accessories are literally jewelry for the teeth. They can be temporary fixtures that slide over existing teeth like a retainer, or they can be made into permanent caps. Grills can be made from precious metals and studded with gemstones. Although there are universal-sized grills sold on the market, your standard hip hop baller will wear only customized pieces, which need to be made from a dental mold upon which the metal and stones are then mounted.
Grills History: Grills have been around for over 20 years. It started in New York, at Eddie’s Gold Teeth, owned by dentist Eddie Plein. Eddie came up with the idea and proceeded to hook up the NY original hip hop set like Flava Flav and Big Daddy Kane. Eddie then took the trend to the Dirty South when he moved to Atlanta in order to service clients like Nelly,OutKast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris and Lil Jon. Today, Eddie is known as the “Iceman” and charges a minimum of $100 a tooth.
The controversial dental accessory quickly gained itself lovers and haters. Presently, school districts in Alabama and Georgia ban students from wearing grills in the classroom.
Paul Wall. Category: BEST Grills
Texas rapper, Paul Wall is featured in Nelly’s “Grillz” track. He spits “…My teeth are mind blowin givin everybody chillz, call me George Foreman cuz I’m sellin everybody grillz.” Paul has an extensive personal collection as well as a retail line. The particular version he’s wearing in the image below is lavished with diamonds and is said to be worth $30,000.
Slick Rick. Category: WORST Grills
Another grills aficionado is Slick Rick. The old-school rapper is a grills pioneer: he’s had glammed-up smiles since 1985. The veteran emcee performed recently in The Shrine opening in Chicago. Slick Rick was one of the performers in the club’s “Eyes Wide Shut” series, a monthly event that’s expected to bring famous faces to The Shrine’s stage.
Only a few teeth encrusted in diamonds, Slick? For shame. Must’ve ran out when they did the diamond eyepatch.
P. Diddy. Category: WORST Grills
Sean Combs aka P. Diddy also had some gems created for his choppers. Hope he doesn’t break off that toothpick in there. The Rap Mogul has recently expanded his Sean John fragrances line to Europe and is expecting to see his “Unforgivable” perfume displayed on Michael Shank’s racing Ford-Riley in the upcoming one-day race weekend at the “World Center of Racing.” Not digging the bottom-row only look; the gold gives him a strange looking underbite!
Flava Flav. Category: BEST Grills
While Diddy went gold for his bottom front teeth, Flava Flav went all the way. He’s got 22K semi-permanent gold caps top and bottom made by the legendary Eddie Plein. Being the lovable egomaniac that he is, Flav’s teeth spell out his own name… in diamonds of course.
T-Pain. Category: BEST Grills
The prolific songwriter and singer T-Pain’s fronts below are 100% fancy yellow diamonds in a pave setting, reportedly worth $30,000. Last March, however, T-Pain fell and is said to have broken four teeth, suffering several cuts and abrasions inflicted by his grill when his golf cart flipped over. This forced T-Pain to back out of several scheduled projects. Talk about pain and no gain!
But leave it to T-Pain to rebound in style. While his grills were in the shop, he shocked and awed the hip hop world with his newest notorious accessory: The Big A** Chain pendant, overloaded with diamonds and platinum, which he premiered at the recent 2009 BET Awards.
Johnny Depp. Category: WORST Grills
Actor Johnny Depp decided to keep his grill after shooting the first “Pirates of The Caribbean” movie. He joked he won’t take them off until they’re finished with all the sequels, but in reality Johnny has had serious dental trouble over the years. The actor explained: “I’ve had many problems over the years with my teeth; several root canals. Once they found an eight-millimeter tip of the drill bit in one of the canals. That was horrible. That was a six-hour ordeal. The process of taking the gold teeth off can be ugly too. Sometimes it just goes `ding’ and it shoots off, and other times you got to really address the issue a little more intensely… at first I was going to keep them for my kids. But I think they might be disgusted with me giving them my teeth, so I’ll probably just put them on eBay and see what anyone offers.”
Nelly. Category: BEST Grills
Rapper Nelly loves his platinum and diamond grill so much (check the fangs!) he even paid an homage to his favorite accessory through his song, appropriately titled: “Grillz”. Nelly, like many of his hip hop peers has expanded his domain to include apparel and is an owner and spokesperson for Apple Bottoms, a womenswear line that accentuates voluptuous figures.
Lil Jon. Category: BEST Grills
While some opt for the bold gold, Lil Jon chose a pure white ice look with platinum and diamonds. Designed by Paul Wall himself, they cost a cool $50,000. His investment paid off as Lil Jon was crowned “King of da Grillz” in the latest Grillz rankings for 2009.
Kelis. Category: WORST Grills
The ladies were not left out of the grills fever… much to our dismay. Singer Kelis got her gold and diamond fronts, also from Paul Wall, for her “Bossy” video. Kelis has another set in platinum, created especially to commemorate her engagement to rapper Nas, who has a matching pair. Each grill cost $36,000. Nas and Kelis wore their engagement grills up until the wedding ceremony in 2004 because the bride wanted to have a traditional wedding. Update: Kelis has recently filed for divorce from Nas.
Brooke Hogan. Category: WORST Grills
Singer Brooke Hogan, also made the mistake of getting into the grills game. Paul Wall appeared in Brooke’s “About Us” video and afterwards he decided to freshen up Brooke’s mug with an exclusive custom-made diamond grill for her. It was reported that dad Hulk Hogan was so pleased with the look that he ordered a set for himself. Brooke won the 2006 Teen’s Choice Awards for the ‘Best Grillz’ category. Shaking our collective heads.
Lil Wayne. Category: BEST Grills
Rap superstar Lil Wayne told talk show host Jimmy Kimmel that he spent around $150,000 for his diamond-clad teeth. He decided to get a permanent set to guard his deteriorating dentalwork, a result of a teenage addiction to sweets. The rapper said “I like Skittles and Starburst, but I have bad teeth due to too much candy, so I got them covered with a grill. It doesn’t come out.” And how does one care for such precious accessories? “I brush ’em with Colgate everyday.”
Dog Grillz. Category: BEST Grills
Last but not least, when grills for humans are just not enough. You know you’re a true player when your most loyal companion has his own solid gold fronts to impress the bitches:
Asmara Wreksono has a passion for everything related to celebrity, fashion, music (R&B, Hip Hop and Jazz are her favorites) and loves to write about them. In her spare time, she likes watching TV series and movies, sharpening her sketching skills and cooking. Asmara has been published in SoJones.com, CelebrityClothingLine.com, ProHipHop.com, ThatGossipSite.com, Fabcrush.com and many others.