When grillz went mainstream in the Eighties and Nineties, there was one place to go to get the most original, flashiest, most inspired pieces. You traveled to Queens, New York, to seek out the grill daddy, Eddie Plein. The Surinamese immigrant jumped on the burgeoning trend and became a powerhouse jeweler in the music industry. Lyle Lindgreen, a filmmaker and writer who’s been documenting the rise of grillz since the late Eighties, told Huck magazine that “Eddie was like the king of New York.”
After making a pair for rapper Just-Ice, which appeared on the cover of his album Kool & Deadly, Plein’s popularity became rampant, and rappers quickly lined the block to get a pair from his family’s shop. “All of sudden, you’ve got teens trying to emulate what they’re seeing, and all these rappers — like Flava Flav, Kool G. Rap, Jay Z — coming to him, trying to keep on trend,” Lindgren adds in the Huck interview. But even Plein would show some respect to the grill makers of today, who now span the globe as the digital age has brought their work mass-market.
That’s because grillz are back — and, maybe, bigger than they ever were. Lil Nas X and A$AP Rocky are flaunting them in their new videos. Robert Pattinson is showing off his own custom-made set on magazine covers, and Madonna — who is never one to miss out on a trend — is touting hers on The Tonight Show.
From the heart of Japan’s hip-hop scene to sunny Los Angeles, meet the most sought-after jewelers who are shaking things up and crafting pieces that the old school could hardly imagine.