Home Arts & Culture Nicki Minaj’s Barbie pendant, A$AP Rocky’s LEGO pendant and other iconic hip-hop jewellery features in a new exhibition in NYC

Nicki Minaj’s Barbie pendant, A$AP Rocky’s LEGO pendant and other iconic hip-hop jewellery features in a new exhibition in NYC

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Bling has always been an integral part of hip-hop culture. A status symbol, a cultural symbol, a fashion statement, a marker of success – this is an accessory with roots far deeper and more varied than one might imagine. And now, a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is exploring how the genre evolved through stunning jewellery pieces that dotted and graced some of hip-hop’s biggest stars. ‘Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry’ chronicles the evolution of hip-hop jewellery across five decades, starting with the oversized gold chains that were embraced by rap’s pioneers in the late-1970s and moving through the 1990s, when hip-hop’s popularity exploded and artists sported record-label pendants sparkling with diamonds and platinum. With hip-hop’s exponential growth in the new millennium, the genre’s most influential artists turned to multi-coloured jewelry with inventive designs that reference high fashion, pop culture, rap history and more.

All of this is chronicled in Ice Cold, where visitors can see cultural gems like Slick Rick’s gem-encrusted crown (Slick Rick pioneered the royal motif in hip-hop); the Adidas necklace from Jam Master Jay of Run D.M.C., made in honour of the hit 1986 song My Adidas; Notorious B.I.G.’s legendary gold ‘Jesus piece’; a large plastic clock worn by Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav(clock pendants became his calling card); Nicki Minaj’s sparkling ‘Barbie’ pendant; a multi-colored, fully-articulated LEGO mini-figure pendant commissioned by A$AP Rocky; and pieces from Erykah Badu, A Joey Bada$$, FERG and Tyler, the Creator, among others.

“Bringing the Ice Cold exhibit to the American Museum of Natural History is a testament to the cultural significance of this art form and culture,” said guest curator Vikki Tobak. “It’s time to celebrate the artists, jewellers, craftsmen and everyday people who contributed to the storied history of hip-hop jewellery. This exhibit not only pays homage to hip-hop’s roots with pieces from Biz Markie and Jam Master Jay [of Run D.M.C], for example, but also highlights its enduring impact on style and society with pieces from contemporary artists like Tyler, the Creator, A$AP Rocky, and FERG.”

The exhibition will run in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery within the museum until January 5, 2025.

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