An obvious antecedent to today’s so-called “bling,” the ostentatious dookie chain (gold ropes of varying length) emerged as the fashion prop of choice for hip-hop artists — both aspiring and established — in the 80’s, thanks in large part to the growing influence of Yo! MTV Raps (which yours truly watched with some regularity as a teenager from the safety of his parent’s suburban living room). Like other messy historical conundrums, it is difficult to pinpoint or establish the true origins of this phenomenon/trend, but certain figures, long associated with this look, come to mind as possible candidates. Below, I’ve embedded five classic vids from the decade that shine light on this weighty and blinding phenomenon. One last thing, though: this list is by no means exhaustive or even authoritative. Feel free to school me in the comments below.
5. The court jester of 80’s rap, Biz Markie made his mark with lighthearted stories (in comparison to the majority of street-tough peers) about girls, cars, everyday life, b-boys, parties, music, his friends, etc. He was also one of the first to recognize and creatively exploit the allure of the golden chain.
4. With block-rocking beats, matching Adidas jumpsuits that defined the era and an in-your-face attitude more apropos of a touring punk band, Run D.M.C. proved that rap could successfully crossover into the musical mainstream without sacrificing its artistic credibility. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we ever once see them without their beloved chains in the clip below.
You know under all that bling they're probably wearing the Big Trouble Little China tank top
3. Generally considered to be on the short list of the best (read: smoothest) emcees of all time, Rakim is a certified rap legend. His considerable skills on the mic aside, he was also an early proponent of the dookie chain and is thought to be the first to outfit his rope with a customized medallion. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself:
2. Overshadowed by bigger names of the era, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo spun gritty tales of inner city life. This track, easily their best work, still sounds fresh and urgent almost twenty years after its 1989 release. Befitting of the get-yours-and-come-up ethos that powers rap music (and by extension, the American Dream), Kool and co. costume change their way through this vid, transitioning from iced-out thugs to lofty mob bosses with refined tastes. Great stuff.
1. Without doubt, Slick Rick was a dookie chain icon and pioneer. Known to wear up to 32 strands simultaneously (with matching rings and even the occasional crown), he was the original “King of Bling.” How, one asks, could he afford such a lifestyle? That’s a question for another day, but it’s possible that it was all for show. Legend has it that Rick actually
leased“borrowed” a rope from his contemporary, Big Daddy Kane, for the “Teenage Love” clip. Just sayin…
The Real Genius I Heart Toxic Waste shirt is like a dookie chain for movie nerds.
This is still a tee shirt blog, right?
My neck strains under the weight of expectations:
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