Worn by hip-hop musicians and athletes for several years now, custom grills have gained increased attention since this past September, when The Peoples Champ, an album by rapper and grill champion Paul Wall, quickly climbed the music charts.
Grills (also called fronts) are cosmetic, bejeweled dental fixtures made to fit over the top or bottom teeth. Upscale versions, like those sold at Wall’s Houston hip-hop jewelry store, TV Jewelry, are made with 14k or 18k gold (yellow, white, or red), platinum, silver, and diamonds. The flashy accessory retails for $50 to $30,000.
More famous men (and some women, too) are sporting grills, and TV Jewelry, which opened in 1998, provides custom-made pieces for many of them. Kevin Dang, general manager and CEO of the store, says, “We have [made grills] for most of the rappers in the nation, like … Master P, Lil’ Romeo, Kanye West.” The store has also customized grills for athletes from local Texas and national teams.
These loyal, big-name buyers have helped popularize grills, but the recent increase in TV Jewelry’s grill sales is most likely the result of Wall’s own music success and increasingly recognizable public persona. “We [were] already very busy and even more … since The Peoples Champ,” Dang said. Ever on marketing duty, Wall is rarely seen without his signature grills: one on his upper teeth and another on his lower—spelling in precious stones “Paul” and “Wall” respectively.