What’s your favorite type of bling? Are you the diamond-encrusted Crayola crayon type? Do you miss the diamond-encrusted cassette tape days? Perhaps you’re more into diamond-encrusted gaming. No matter what you enjoy, chances are a rapper somewhere is wearing a diamond-encrusted version of it somewhere in the world. Bling has become such a common aspect of hip-hop culture (remember kids, ‘bling-bling’ is sooo 2003!) that we’ve stopped asking the most interesting questions: how is this stuff made? How do they get all those diamonds on that piece of gold? How long would I have to work to pay for this stuff?
Luckily, celebrity jeweler Ben Baller (nee Yang) is here to answer all your questions. Baller is the ‘Jeweler to the Stars’, and he makes extravagant accessories for big name rappers such as Kanye West, Drake, and Nas. Baller recently began hosting a web series on Electus‘ LOUD channel titled Ben Baller’s Insane Bling, where he takes viewers on a bling-making journey that starts with an celebrity request and ends with a shining symbol of wealth and extravagance.
In the first episode of Baller’s web series, he receives a request from Pusha T for a piece of Mercedes-Benz bling that pays homage to the old school. What’s most amazing to me about Baller’s job is not the wax molds and precise diamond-setting instruments required to make each piece of bling, the exorbitant price tags his work fetches (this piece sold for $20,000), or the specific terminology used in the industry (thanks to Pusha T, I now know that a piece of bling that is ‘iced out’ is covered in diamonds.)
Instead, what I find fascinating is that Baller is required to have an encyclopedic knowledge of rap history and culture in order to make a fitting piece of jewelry. For Pusha T’s ‘old school’ request, Baller must instinctively know that this means a shorter-chained piece of bling, as seen in this drawing of Slick Rick. Here, Baller’s past helps make him a better jeweler; before he entered his current profession, he was a record label exec who worked with rappers such as Tupac and Jay Z.
Ben Baller’s Insane Bling succeeds in part because of the uniqueness of its subject, but the personality of its central figure certainly doesn’t hurt. LOUD recently made headlines by announcing an upcoming Eminem-produced web series, but it looks like Em isn’t the only celebrity balla who the channel is dealing with.