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Thursday, June 04, 2009

I guess we can say it's better later than never. Rappers finally get the economic memo.

Pinched by economy, rappers tone down the 'bling'
by Elizabeth Strott Rating:

What's a rapper to do?

The recession has now taking its toll on bling. The jewel-encrusted "grillz," diamond earrings, gold necklaces and even the glitzy spinners that have become part of rap stars' wardrobes and rides are being put on hold as rappers are now trying to save cash, according to The Wall Street Journal.

With gold prices soaring nearly 10% in May (gold is currently trading at about $980 an ounce) and CD sales plunging, it's no wonder rap stars are cutting back on the bling.

Buyers like cash4gold.com have been cashing in as Americans have been trading in everything from gold chains to signet rings. So it's not a huge surprise that Lil John wannabes are taking out their gold teeth and selling them. There's even a site, sellyourgoldteeth.com, that is designed solely for people who want their good old pearly whites back -- and some cash, to boot.

Diamonds not a rapper's best friend anymore

High-end jewelry retailers like Tiffany (TIF), and even the more mall-friendly Zale (ZLC), have gotten whacked as Americans stopped spending during the recession. Tiffany said sales of its items that cost $50,000 or more were exceptionally weak in the first quarter of the year. The rap-star slowdown may have started earlier this year -- some rappers' gold chains go upwards of $30,000 . . . all the way to $100,000.

Houston-based jeweler Johnny Dang, the self-proclaimed "King of Bling," (who helped make grillz -- a gold or diamond plate molded for your teeth -- popular a few years ago) said his sales have plunged 60% during the recession, according to the Journal. Meanwhile, U.S. Gold Buyers in New York's diamond district has seen its walk-in business jump 40% in recent months.

Demand for gold rose 38% in the first quarter of 2009, according to the World Gold Council, with a "substantial" surge in jewelry and gold recycling. "Consumers have been motivated by the need to raise funds during difficult economic conditions. Furthermore, consumers have become more aware of the ease with which recycling can be done, and this has been particularly apparent in the U.S. Advertising has become commonplace in newspapers, websites, billboards, radio and TV," the WGC said in its quarterly Gold Demand Trends report.

(Mr. T would likely become a millionaire with all of his gold chains.)

Toning down the bling

Some rappers are taking cues from Ruth Madoff, however, and toning down their ostentatious spending or disguising their authentic ice with -- gasp -- cubic zirconia. Dang said he's even been making less-expensive custom pieces -- at his customers' requests, of course.

But the cost of downgrading might not be worth it, as far as street cred goes.

"It is every rapper's fear to be exposed as a fraud," Gregory Lewis of Brooklyn, who posts conversations with artists on the Internet under the alias "Doggie Diamonds, the interview king," told The Wall Street Journal. "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 Mr. Starks

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