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Hip-hop culture has been a driving force in reshaping the American cultural landscape, introducing new trends and styles that redefine the world of adornment, luxury, and fashion. From iconic sneakers to dazzling jewelry, the evolution of hip-hop has created a new vision of cool. In line with this cultural phenomenon, The 92nd Street Y, New York, with the support of De Beers Group and as a part of young talent development programme, Teen Gems, hosted a captivating panel discussion coinciding with the release of Vikki Tobak’s book, “Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History,” which offers a definitive photographic exploration of hip-hop’s influence on jewelry, luxury, and style.This event brought together renowned individuals from the hip-hop and fashion industries, including rapper Slick Rick, historian Vikki Tobak, designer June Ambrose, and Vogue’s Janelle Okwodu. 

“Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History” is a remarkable book that chronicles the evolution of hip-hop jewelry from the 1980s to the present day. Authored by Vikki Tobak, a renowned cultural writer and curator, the book provides an immersive experience through storytelling and captivating visuals. It showcases hundreds of extraordinary images featuring hip-hop’s biggest stars, each adorned with their signature jewelry pieces. From the gold Adidas pendants of Run-DMC and the ostentatious dookie rope chains of Eric B. & Rakim to the extravagant creations of modern artists like Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z, Gucci Mane, and Cardi B, the book highlights how jewelry has become a proclamation of identity and self-expression within hip-hop culture.

Created by Tito the Jeweler of Manny’s New York, the Biggie Jesus piece mentioned repeatedly during the panel discussion stands as an exemplary jewelry piece. It sparked a trend in hip-hop that has become a timeless staple for artists. Jay-Z sheds light on the significance of Biggie’s pendant in his book Decoded, where he reveals how it became a cherished symbol of good luck for him personally: “The chain was a Jesus piece—the Jesus piece that Biggie used to wear, in fact. It’s part of my ritual when I record an album: I wear the Jesus piece and let my hair grow till I’m done.”

The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls by Michael Lavine, Queens, NY 1997

“When we rocked house pieces and puffy Gucci links/Now we buy homes in unfamiliar places/Tito smile everytime he see our faces.”

– “I Love the Dough” The Notorious B.I.G.


“So I just speak my piece, keep my peace Cubans with the Jesus piece, with my peeps…”

— The Notorious B.I.G., “Hypnotize”

Tobak’s book goes beyond the surface-level glamor and delves into the work of pioneering jewelers such as Tito Caicedo, Eddie Plein, Jacob the Jeweler, as well as newer artisans like Avianne & Co., Ben Baller/IF & Co., Greg Yuna, Johnny Dang, Eliantte, and many more. Through in-depth details and captivating essays by hip-hop icons like A$AP Ferg, LL COOL J, Kevin “Coach K” Lee, and Pierre “P” Thomas of Quality Control Music, “Ice Cold” offers personal insights and journeys into the jewelry universe of these influential figures. The book also features the work of leading photographers who have captured the essence of hip-hop jewelry, including Wolfgang Tillmans, Janette Beckman, Jamel Shabazz, Timothy White, Gillian Laub, David LaChapelle, and many others.

About The 92nd Street Y, New York:  The 92nd Street Y, New York (92NY) is a world-class center for the arts and innovation, a convener of ideas, and an incubator for creativity. 92NY offers extensive classes, courses and events online including live concerts, talks and master classes; fitness classes for all ages; 250+ art classes, and parenting workshops for new moms and dads. The 92nd Street Y, New York is transforming the way people share ideas and translate them into action all over the world. All of 92NY’s programming is built on a foundation of Jewish values, including the capacity of civil dialogue to change minds; the potential of education and the arts to change lives; and a commitment to welcoming and serving people of all ages, races, religions, and ethnicities. For more information, visit


About De Beers Group 

Established in 1888, De Beers Group is the world’s leading diamond company with expertise in the exploration, mining and marketing of diamonds. Together with its joint venture partners, De Beers Group employs more than 20,000 people across the diamond pipeline and is the world’s largest diamond producer by value, with diamond mining operations in Botswana, Canada, Namibia and South Africa. Innovation sits at the heart of the De Beers Group strategy as it develops a portfolio of offers, including its jewellery houses, De Beers Jewellers and De Beers Forevermark, and other pioneering solutions, such as diamond sourcing and traceability initiatives GemFair and Tracr. De Beers Group is committed to ‘Building Forever,’ a holistic and integrated approach for creating a better future – where safety, human rights and ethical integrity continue to be paramount; where communities thrive and the environment is protected; and where there are equal opportunities for all. De Beers Group is a member of the Anglo American plc group. For further information, visit


Teen Gems is conducted in collaboration with New York City Jewelry Week.


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