IDK: "The future of our existence depends on the knowledge we spread amongst one another"
IDK writes on the relationship between hip-hop, money and race in America.
This story originally appeared in Up + Rising, a celebration of extraordinary Black voices, and is the first chapter of i-D's 40th anniversary issue (1980-2020).
i-D chronicled over 100 activists and artists, musicians and writers, photographers and creatives, in Atlanta, Baltimore, Minneapolis, LA, London, New York, Paris and Toronto.
“Say what you want, Cash Money is probably hands down the most influential rap collective of the early 2000s. I remember being seven years old with a blue bandana on my head chanting “give me a project chick, give me a hoodrat chick!”. Of course, the explicit version was slightly different, but I wouldn’t have even known that because I only heard the song when it played on BET/MTV. In fact, at that time the only way I experienced music was on the radio or on TV. Luckily my imagination made up for the long rides back from summer school where my mom would play 95.5 WPGC while complaining about me being in yet another year of summer school. You see, my parents had high expectations for my academic success but at that time I just wanted to hear Lil Wayne, Baby and Juvenile all day long. That was my motivation! It’s no surprise that I was more influenced by Cash Money than Julia Lynch, Martin Thomas and even my mom and stepfather.
In just a few months, it went from bandanas on my head to putting silver foil in my mouth in-order to mimic the platinum jewellery Manny Fresh and Baby flaunted in the Number One Stunner music video. Right before going to school at Calverton Elementary, I’d make sure my teeth were shining. I felt like I was a young god, and to be honest everyone else treated me that way once my aluminium fronts were in. Perhaps this is what sparked the blunt that I call ego and created a high that I continued to chase endlessly. Maybe this is the high most Black men are programmed to chase at an early age. Influence can make or break your future; influence can control your path.
Maybe this is why we spend thousands of dollars on jewellery instead of owning a piece of America in Joshua Tree, an area with acres of affordable land. An area that’s property value has grown over 10% in the past year. Imagine if the people that influenced us as kids spoke of these things and it was cool to bring a picture of the land you own into class. Imagine if things like that warranted praise?
Which brings me to cars. Dating back to the start of the car industry there has been an interesting fluctuation between the price of platinum and palladium. Both metals are used to make catalytic converters on cars. It’s safe to say you won’t be passing emissions or making a good impression on Greta Thunberg and her environmentally conscious supporters without them. A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device that reduces toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas. Every car has one, and every car company invests in the metal used to make them.
This is the reason why if you get on as a rapper and you feel the urge to invest in a chain, making it in platinum is the best way to make it closer to an actual investment. Platinum, at roughly $800 per troy ounce, is currently less than half the price of Gold which is $1900 per troy ounce. Palladium is $2100 per troy ounce, making it even more expensive than gold. With these types of numbers, the auto industry is bound to convert back to platinum and when that happens, people who possess platinum will see an increase in its value.
When I decided to make my Nefertiti pendant, I already owned property, had a 750+ credit score and made a few million dollars with some money to the side for when the real estate market finally gives in; financial advice I got from my friend and mentor Rudy Cline-Thomas — a very calculated investor who made his way in the tech industry. Luckily, the subconscious urge that stemmed from the “Bling” era didn’t cause me to make impulsive decisions when the money started coming in. At least not too many. I did my research and decided to make my Egyptian Queen out of platinum. Since the purchase, its value after labour has already gone up $120 per troy ounce in just one week. It’s expected to double eventually and even if anything happened and it didn’t increase, I’m still in a good position with fine metal that’s 95% pure. I don’t plan on buying too much more jewellery but at least I can finally say I’ve fulfilled my want for a “rapper chain” in the smartest possible way and something that’s actually an investment in my future. I decided to ask my friend Lil Yachty who’s spent millions on jewellery what he thinks about the importance of chains.
What was your first experience with jewellery where you thought when I grow up I wanna have this shit.
Dog tags. My mom for my birthday or Christmas got me some like fake dog tags and it turned my neck green. My neck broke out. That’s when I found out I had sensitive skin and couldn’t wear fake jewelry. My neck was fucked up and then I got to high school and I had a little Jesus piece. I spent ninety dollars on that.
90 dollars! That’s expensive for a middle of the mall chain! haha.
It was very expensive; I spent my last ninety on it. I loved it to death. I wore it everyday. All day everyday. Damn near till I signed to QC and they bought me my first QC chain and my boat chain and then I bought my own first gold chain. I spent sixty racks on that Gucci chain. The Gucci link and this big ass icy boat and I was so happy.
What have you spent so far in total?
I know for a fact I spent over two million. And the only reason I know this is because I’m in a lawsuit right now with a jeweller so I had to find all my receipts that I had spent with this person, so then I started going through all my receipts cause I don’t use cash, I just check and credit. So I started going through all my bank statements, all my American Express statements and added it all up and it was over two million dollars. Which I’m not too proud of. I don’t want it to sound like I’m flexing, I’m definitely not proud of it. I think it's cause I don’t wear it anymore. I wear my watch, I wear my earrings, but I lose so many things bro, cause I don’t value jewellery. You know what I’m saying. I think it’s cool but I don’t really value it. I’ve lost so many bracelets. I lost a hundred-thousand-dollar watch and that hurt me and that’s not like a brag but it’s just like I’m just not connected to it. I’ve got no emotional connection to it. Therefore, I think back to when I was purchasing it, I think damn man I could’ve done so much more with two million dollars. So so many more things and you know I don’t sit and regret it and be like “oh man I’ll never do it again”, I should’ve done that but if someone was to ask me like oh are you happy or would you do it again, I’d say fuck no. and if I was to talk to a younger brother which of course they don’t want to hear it and I’m saying this because I was once a younger brother so I get it, you’re not trying to hear that but I’m still gonna say it. I’m still gonna tell a younger brother like “yo man I want you to know this ain’t everything and you’ll grow out of it”. But it's something you gotta go through especially as an artist because it’s just a part of the culture. So, I would never tell anybody don’t get a chain, don’t do that. I would never say that, because you want to experience it and it’s a good feeling. It boosts your confidence, you feel better you know, you look better, so I feel that but at the same time, the way I went man, it was different I’m telling you.
So to close up and to all my young niggas: I want us to strongly consider what we put our money into and what we teach each other. This is much bigger than me or you, the future of our existence depends on the knowledge we spread amongst one another. We are a minority but we cannot let that cripple us.”
Photography Steven Traylor
Hair Uriel Buenrostro and Rasheeda Ialsingh
Make-up Ashley Lee
Photography assistance Ben Tan and Kubi.
Production coordinator Parker Vaughn.
Styling assistance Debbie G to IDK
Casting director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCASTING.
Casting assistance Alexandra Antonova.