When you close your eyes at night and dream of being a rap star, it usually pans out like this: You meet a rap god (not Eminem), he tells you your rap mission, you accept and he ends the brief by crowning you. The skies open up, the ground shakes beneath you and there it lays around your neck; The Jesus piece.
It’s the holy grail of “We Made It-ness.” The rap equivalent of a Ballon D’or. In fact, at one time it was so omnipresent, it sparked a wooden jewellery comeback that sadly lasted a few years. The Jesus Piece didn’t always rule hip hop but it became solidified in time as one of the most iconic pieces of rap-jewellery, defining an era in the process. It was hanging right up there with the rope chain and the Rolex. Who was responsible for such a trend? Jesus? Not this time.
Like many trends in hip hop, the Jesus piece pendant trickled up from the hood. Wearing such a piece in the seventies was normal due to the influx of gold shops in urban inner cities. Basically the religious dudes that still kept it G wore a gold Jesus piece to ward off demons and crackheads. The rope chain era took over soon after and we stepped into the Mafioso Rap era where the likes of Wu Tang and Biggie began bringing the piece back.
When rappers stopped acting like Scarface and started dressing like Liberace, it was about 1998. Rap money was booming and with diamond records came diamonds. The heavy-hitters like Puff and Jay Z would set the tone for a business covered in platinum, diamonds, furs and Snowmobiles (shout out to Silkk the Shocker). Jacobs were the new Rolexes and spinning chains were the new Jesus pieces.
The second coming (see what I did there?) happened close to 2003. Polo got hot again, and even until now, rap is recycling its own trends. I’m not going to sit here and say Kanye West resurrected the Jesus Piece but I kinda am. ‘Ye being an extremist with everything he does, probably felt it was necessary to don the chain because of his song ‘Jesus Walks’ and his already “retro- style.” The point is; it’s back. And I’ll leave you with this…
What if when Jesus returns, he’s wearing a chain with YOUR face on it… *Hits blunt*
This is an extract from the Spring Summer 15 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Words by Chris Mendez
Illustration by JC Adams