Hip-Hop Fashion 101: What Are Grillz?



Photo from the "Originator and Godfather Of The Grill", Eddie "Grillz" Plein @IAMEDDIEGRILLZ

Grillz have popular in hip-hop since the 80s with Slick Rick and were revitalized in Oakland in the 90s and further popularized in 2000s with the rise of Dirty South rap music into the mainstream. And with the current trap generation embracing grillz like never before, it’s safe to say that diamond flooded, gold slugs aren’t going anywhere soon.

The Characteristics Of Grillz & Who Wears Them

Grillz are made from either precious (expensive) or non-precious metals that are sometimes inlaid with precious stones (expensive) or a diamond simulant like rhinestone. Usually, Grillz are removable but sometimes they can be attached permanently to the teeth. Grillz can cost anywhere from about one hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, or as low under $50 but you’ll only find that price in our shop. Check out the Accessories > Jewelry section of Retro Hip Hop Shop.

RZA's "fangz" - courtesy of @rza

 A 2006 report found that grillz were predominantly worn by 18-to-35-year-old African-American males who listen to hip-hop music. One commentator at the time stated that grillz will never become mainstream. In 2012 this was about to change Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte posed with a grill with a design of the American flag on national television. Previously Lochte had worn regular diamond grillz at earlier competitions, but when he adorned the American flag grillz it became a media story highlighting the trend.

The History of Grillz

During the early 80s in Atlanta rappers, Raheem The Dream and Kilo Ali began wearing grillz. The phenomena was located in the south until Eddie’s Gold Teeth in New York brought the trend to the big apple and rappers like Slick Rick and Afrika Bambaataa started wearing grillz too. Jeweler Eddie Plein (owner of Eddie’s Gold Teeth) made gold caps for Flavor Flav, Big Daddy Kane, and Kool G Rap, but it wasn’t until Plein moved to Atlanta that he started to develop the grillz design further. Once in Atlanta Plein started to design ever more elaborate and intricate designs for Dirty South rappers like OutKast and Goodie Mob.

Flavor Flav with his "FLAVOR" grillz - courtesy of @flavorflavofficial

In the following years grillz remained popular in Houston and Memphis while the trend died out most elsewhere, but then the explosion of Dirty South rap sparked a nationwide grill trend. Rappers like Lil’ Jon and Ludacris who were really hot at the time started to frequently rock grillz in their music videos. The most notable grill themed song of the time was Paul Wall’s 2005 mega-hit “Grillz” which featured Nelly, Big Gipp, and Ali. Also known as a rapper, Paul Wall has his own grill business and his famous clientele includes Cam’Ron and Kanye West.

Rita Ora sporting her grillz - courtesy of @ritaora

Through the 2010s grillz remained popular and became increasingly mainstream with female singers, models and actresses like Rihanna, Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora jumping on the trend. In 2015 DJ Khaled cemented the popularity of grillz in the modern day with the grill themed song “Golden Slugs” featuring megastar Chris Brown, as well as August Alsina and Fetty Wap.

Gold Diamond Grillz available here

Like many other hip-hop fashions, grillz have been criticized for being expensive, ostentatious, superficial displays that put a heavy toll on the young youths. This is where we come in: You can buy a beautiful, fully functioning grill set for a fraction of the price at our shop. Go to Accessories > Jewelry where you can any of our great deals. The grill sets come with extra re-usable silicone molding.

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