Bling, also known as bling bling, is a term that was coined in the late 90s, firstly associated with hip hop culture, and refers to flashy or ostentatious jewelry or accessories. Now, almost any large or shiny piece of jewelry, no matter how tasteful or tacky, can be called bling. Hip-hop in the 80s really popularized the heavy jewelry including chains and necklaces for men and large earrings for women.
Big Daddy Kane and Salt-N-Peppa were among the first music stars to really sport the jewelry now known as bling. Going farther back, Flava Flav may have started the bling phase with the giant clock around his neck. Jewelry is only part of the bling bling equation. Stars can be blinged out in chains, grillz, buckles, watches, pendants, sunglasses, and even dog tags. If you can wear it, you can bling it.
In the past, flashy bling was a sign of wealth and prestige. Now, however, the message may be changing. Rapper Kanye West, who has actually denounced the term bling as “white people slang”, has encouraged folks to bling responsibly. This was said in response to more recent attention given to poverty and wars caused over digging for diamonds. In other words, display your diamonds, but know where they came from and make sure that no lives were destroyed to make yourself sparkle. Many other hip-hop stars have made similar statements such as Missy Elliott who holds that stars should be role models. Ego Calderón has gone so far as to not even wear expensive jewelry.
Still, even with the growing awareness of conflict diamonds and an economic recession, bling lives on. While artists like Jay Z and Kanye West are speaking out against excessive bling, artists like Lil Jon are showing of the golden grill. Lil Jon is also renown for possessing the largest diamond pendant in the world. Beyoncé Knowles has some pretty serious gold bling dangling from her ear lobes. Rihanna’s necklaces might cause neck cramps. Nelly is well known for his gold, diamond, and platinum pieces. Busta Rhymes has to keep his biceps pumped up to support his bling. Chamillionaire has his lizard pendant, Nas has his Tutankhamen necklace, but these are just a few of the many stars owning diamond encrusted rings, watches, earrings, belt buckles, and cell phone covers. The blinged out list could easily include Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, and Soulja Boy, to name a few. Leave it to suburbia to keep up with the Jones’s and the rock stars to keep up the Blingers.