In celebrating 50 Years of Hip Hop, we of course turn to some of the greatest recording artists and biggest radio hits of our generation. Think: Run D.M.C’s “It’s Tricky,” Eminem’s “Stan,” and Missy Elliott’s “Work It.” Not only have these songs defined the genre but the artists behind them and their iconic style made the genre what it is today.
When discussing hip-hop style and jewellery, diamond chains, blingy pendants, and statement pinky rings come to mind, most often worn by the men of the genre. But we would be remiss to neglect the women of hip-hop whose jewellery is in a league of its own.
But first, a history lesson in honor of hip-hop’s major milestone. In 1973, 18-year-old Clive Campbell, aka DJ Kool Herc, threw a back-to-school party in his neighborhood in the Bronx. He played the classics and favourites of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and The Meters, but using two turntables remixed the sound using percussive beats, and thus, hip-hop was born.
The genre’s jewellery evolved with its sound: Big, bold, and gold jewellery morphed into blinged-out chains and pendants
Over the next five decades, hip-hop proved itself to be much more than a fad, giving us legends like Dr. Dre, Notorious BIG, Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah, 50 Cent, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B and more. The genre’s jewellery evolved with its sound: Big, bold, and gold jewellery morphed eventually into blinged-out chains and pendants, with help from Jacob The Jeweler, Ben Baller, Eliantte and more iconic designers.
Expressing ambition over adversity, these larger-than-life diamond pieces have become synonymous with the genre. When hip-hop solidified itself in the charts in the 1990s, its artists saw unprecedented financial success and the jewellery reflected it. Female artists specifically played into African and ancient Egyptian motifs in their jewellery, leaning into its symbolism of defiance, bravery, beauty, and spiritual protection.
Ahead, take a look at hip-hop biggest female artists and their major natural diamond bling.
Salt n Peppa
In 1985, Salt, Pepa, and DJ Spinderella came together in New York City to form their group, Salt-n-Pepa. Their debut album Hot, Cool & Vicious sold over 1 million copies, making them the first female rap group to achieve gold and platinum status by the RIAA. Their 1993 album Very Necessary featured iconic songs like “Shoop” and “Whatta Man” cementing them in hip hop history. Like most rappers of their time, the ladies of Salt-n-Pepa loved their chunky gold jewels and broke out the natural diamonds for special occasions like the Grammys and other big events.
Considered one of the pioneers of female rap, MC Lyte released her first album, Lyte as a Rock, in 1988 making her the first female rapper to release a solo album. Although she started her career in chunky gold jewellery, as she found success, her collection expanded to more diamond-heavy pieces like this diamond cross necklace and diamond-dotted hoops at the BET Awards Media House in 2023.
Queen Latifah was only 19 years old when she released her debut album All Hail the Queen in 1989 and went on to release 7 albums before pivoting full-time to acting. Queen Latifah pulls out all the stops for her red carpet appearances, like this Bulgari suite from the NAACP image awards, showing off her fashion prowess with plenty of diamonds, a stark contrast to her on-stage tomboy looks. Perhaps this is intentional, with Queen Latifah showing us she really can do it all: From acting to rapping, in ballgowns and basketball shorts. In 2006 she became the first hip-hop artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Another pioneer in the genre, Da Brat’s debut album Funkdafied sold one million copies in 1994, making her the first-ever female solo rap act to receive a platinum certification from RIAA. Da Brat’s love of diamond jewellery is clear; she’s almost never seen without her diamond stud nose piercing, paired with a chain or pendant, like her iconic “BRAT” natural diamond pendant below.
Hill broke onto the hip-hop scene as one of the three members of the hip-hop group Fugees, and struck out on her own in 1998 with her landmark album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. She took home 5 Grammys for the album including Album of the Year, the first hip-hop album ever to do so. Hill wore a major diamond tennis necklace and diamond studs to accept her Grammy awards.
The Philly-born rapper released her debut album in 1999. Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady reached number one on the Billboard 100 and was certified double platinum but the RIAA. She was featured on plenty of hits with other artists like Missy Elliott’s “Hot Boyz” in 1999 and Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl” in 2005. She also has a successful acting career, starring in the Barbershop films and co-hosting The Talk from 2017 to 2020. Eve has had plenty of memorable diamond moments, from her signature “R” diamond pendant to the Gismondi 1754 suite she wore to the 2019 Grammy Awards.
Known for her OTT red carpet outfits and for helping women embrace their sexuality and feminity which was in stark contrast at the time to other female artists. Known as the Queen of Rap or “Queen Bee,” her debut album Hard Core famously went double platinum soon after its release in March 2001. Above, she performs at The Forum in London wearing her iconic diamond “B” necklace.
Big hoops, layers of diamond chains, and statement rings, like her iconic black diamond turntable ring from Jacob and Co, defined Missy Elliott’s diamond style when she first broke onto the scene in 1997 with her debut album Supa Dupa Fly. To this day, her style hasn’t changed much, perhaps only getting more sparkly with each new success, like her famous “ICONIC” pendant covered in natural diamonds.
The millennial generation’s Queen of Rap, once Nicki Minaj released her debut album Pink Friday in 2010, with the lead single “Super Bass” reaching certified diamond by RIAA, there was no stopping her. Minaj is known for her outlandish red carpet ensembles, always dusted with a heavy dose of natural diamonds. Currently, we can’t get enough of her newest “Barbie” necklace made by Ashna Mehta, an homage to her nickname and her fans, the Barbz.
Loud and proud, Cardi B burst onto the hip-hop scene as a regular cast member ofVH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York, while also making a name for herself on Vine and Instagram. Her first album Invasion of Privacy debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and made her the first female artist to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album as a solo artist. Cardi loves her bling, consistently debuting new natural diamond chains, pendants and rings on her Instagram feed. She’s also famous for buying her young daughter Kulture plenty of diamonds to match her mom. She’s also known to wear high jewellery from couture houses on the red carpet, like these Messika moments from the Grammy’s and Paris Fashion Week.
Megan thee Stallion
While we were quarantining during the 2020 pandemic outbreak, Megan thee Stallion was out there breaking records with her debut album Good News. Her single “Savage” was played and danced to by millions and she even released a remix of the song featuring Beyoncé. Since then, her star has only risen with six BET awards, five BET Hip Hop Awards, four American Music Awards, two VMAs, and three Grammy Awards. She was also the second female rapper to win Best New Artist after Lauryn Hill in 1999. Meg does not come to play with her jewellery, wearing icy chains and pendants while performing on stage or in her music videos, like her famous “Hot Girl” necklace by Eliantte. On the red carpet, she also is often seen wearing natural diamond jewellery from brands like Chopard and Jacob and Co.
One of the newest young female rappers on the scene, Ice Spice has already amassed a loyal fan base, even picking up a sponsorship with Dunkin’ (and Ben Affleck) along the way. Known for her collaborations with artists like Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj, we can’t wait to see what’s next from the rapper. For now, we’re mesmerized by her “Munchkins” natural diamond necklace by Eliantte, made in honor of her Dunkin’ collab.