Monday, January 29, 2007

damn it feels good to be a gangsta

So the topic of the day is: Grills. No, I'm not referring to those metal hunks of junk that your dad inadvertantly singed all of his facial hair off with. I mean the Grillz that were first worn by the likes of Flava Flav and Big Daddy Kane in the 80s and 90s. These sparkly numbers, also called fronts, come in thousands of styles with unlimited metal and stone options, and have even been spotted on such unlikely characters as Marilyn Manson.
Since grills were first brought to the States in the 80s by a guy named Eddie Plein, the trend has been growing among an elite membership of rappers including Outkast, Ludacris, and Lil' Wayne. For the majority of it's life, the grill has been available only to the rich and famous, but has recently become more easily accesible to the rest of us.
Around 2000, more and more rappers from the "Dirty South" began appearing on the hip-hop scene. And if you're familiar with names like Paul Wall and Nelly, you know that in actuality these figures are far from filthy. In fact, they're typically outfitted with enough immaculate bling around their necks to give a grown man scoliosis. And as of recently, many rappers out of the Dirty South also rock a set of mouthguard-esque grills, often jewel-encrusted or fashioned completely from precious metals. Thus with the popularization of Dirty South hip-hop came a huge demand among its fans for grills, and in response came a flood of supply from a growing number of grill dealers across the country.
Many suppliers offer their grills online, but the process of purchasing one isn't as cut and dry as snagging a vintage dress off of eBay. To get a custom grill, one must first have a substantial savings account. If you've got that issue covered, then simply send out for a dental mold kit. Once you've received the kit, follow the instructions to make a plaster mold of your pearlies. Send the mold on back to the company of your choice, and voila! A few weeks later you'll be strutting around blinding people left and right with your untouchable bling.
If you're thinking about copping a grill for yourself, you might want to consider getting your mold made at the dentist rather than using a do-it-yourself kit. That way the fronts will be sure to fit correctly and slip on and off easily. Plus, it is actually illegal in many states for anyone other than a dental professional to make a mold of someone's teeth. Not that we care...come on now, what else am I gonna do with a mold of my teeth? Use it to identify my own body at the morgue?

Ok, so you may be wondering, what the hell does all this have to do with body modification? Well, although many grills sold out there are temporary accessories that allow you to turn your gansta-ness on and off at will, others are quite permanent. They're typically cemented onto teeth in either a set, or one by one like caps. Upon learning that some grill connoisseurs will be chillin' out 50 years from now with the same sparkle sparkle they acquired in their twenties, I couldn't help but think back to some of the...immature...tattoos I've seen over the years. Some people are just in total denial that their Playboy bunny tat won't be so appealing to them 30 years from now.
Grills also have something else in common with modding. If you or a friend have ever gotten a labret piercing, then you may be familiar with the ever-annoying issue of gum recession. The metal disks affixed to the back of labret jewelry constantly rub against the gums, and over time the gum actually begins to wear away. This damage is totally irreversible, causing many labret fans to lay their adornments to rest when recession first becomes apparent.
Just like labrets, grills are a major cause for concern in terms of oral hygeine. The removable kind must be taken out before eating or sleeping, and cleaned often. Otherwise, bacteria can build up on the grill as well as on your teeth, resulting in 24/7 morning breath. Other risks that can be avoided by removing your grill often are cavities, gum disease, tooth decay, and even bone decay.
There's also another danger inherent to copping a grill set. Some companies that claim to have "years of experience" are in fact newbies looking for actual experience. This brought me back to a few conversations I've had with mod artists who are now long-time professionals, but spent their early years in the business under a veil of a 3-4 more years of experience than they actually had. So, the lesson is, get your body altered however you want, but be sure to know a little something about the person who's doing the alterations. You don't want to end up with a botched tat or a snaggletooth, so please, I beg y'all, LOOK AT PORTFOLIOS! What could serve as better insurance that you will receive high quality work than a history of high quality work?
Ok, one more thing. It seems to me that someone who is made uncomfortable by a face full of piercings might also be wary of grillers, looking fierce as they do. I found one article in a Louisiana newspaper that addressed this issue briefly: "Students with grills don’t like being stereotyped as mischievous...people don’t need to fear that people with grills are going to rob or hurt them.
'The average person look at them as a bad thing. They say he got golds, he probably ain’t doing nothing positive, but little do they know. People are going to miss out if they do that,' Harper said."
Although less than eloquent, the message comes through quite clearly. "People are going to miss out" if they have preconceptions about someone's personality based on their appearance. Schools in Alabama, Georgia, and Texas have already taken measures to outlaw the wearing of grills in school because of unfounded negative assumptions about the accessories. School is a fashion contest anywho, with all the expensive jewelry and trendy shoes and labels galore - so why are grills such an issue? People need to open their minds, man. Looks aren't everything, and are often misleading rather than revealing.
So there's my lil' blast from the hip-hop world. I personally enjoy the schtuff of some hip-hop artists, but despise that of others, so finding a connection between my favorite subject (uhhh, mods) and this alien culture was quite intriguing to me. And hopefully to y'all too. School's back in session, so as always I'm busy with all that jazz, but I'm going to try and post a few times this month. Wish me luck :o)

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