Migos explores hip-hop jewelry in YouTube ‘Ice Cold’ series

Migos are executive producers of a new YouTube series exploring the history and import of jewelry in hip hop called "Ice Cold" out July 8. YOUTUBE ORIGINALS
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Migos are executive producers of a new YouTube series exploring the history and import of jewelry in hip hop called "Ice Cold" out July 8. YOUTUBE ORIGINALS

Credit: YOUTUBE ORIGINALS

Credit: YOUTUBE ORIGINALS

The Atlanta trio were executive producers for the four-part docuseries.

Atlanta rap trio Migos have executive produced a new YouTube Original series “Ice Cold” which explores the world of hip-hop jewelry.

Hip-hop stars from the past four decades, jewelers and historians provide a blend of bling and contextual history to the series, which runs a tight four episodes. Besides Migos, you’ll see A$AP Ferg, Lil Yachty, French Montana, Talib Kweli, Eric B & Rakim and Slick Rick, to name a few.

“It speaks so much about our society and everything going on in the world now,” said Karam Gill, the Los Angeles-based film director for “Ice Cold,” which took four years to research, film and finally make it to the web. “Jewelry is the entry point of that conversation. It speaks of the American dream and race and the conversation around societal perceptions and socioeconomics.”

Black Americans, due to historical impediments such as slavery, Jim Crow and redlining, on average have far less generational wealth built up than white Americans. “The playing field was never even,” the narrator said early in episode one. “So when you’re already behind, you’re going to create your own symbols of success.”

Gill, as a visual construct, built what looks like a museum for hip-hop jewelry, a way to simulate how it would be celebrated if it were part of white culture.

“Hip-hop is aspirational,” he said. “If you look at the lyrics, it’s about perseverance that turns into success. Jewelry commemorates that success. They represent trophies for artists.”

The early hip-hop pioneers grew up with blaxploitation films and wanted to emulate the characters from “Superfly” and “Shaft,” as well as the drug dealers of the 1980s. The 1980s was also the Reagan “Wall Street” era of ostentatious wealth and “greed is good.” Jewelry, for some in the Black culture, symbolized conspicuous consumption.

Slick Rick is featured, with his gold ropes, gold teeth and layers of jewelry. “Jewelry is an enhancer,” he said during the program. “We started taking the best of white society and enhancing it.”

Imani Perry, a professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, in “Ice Cold” noted how many in mainstream white America criticized this type of flashy hip-hop jewelry as a sign of moral decay when they had no issue with Elizabeth Taylor and Liberace adorning themselves with comparably excessive amounts of sparkly gems.

“We have these unfortunate double standards,” Gill said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all for the American Dream.”

Gill said he enjoyed working with Migos on this project. (Quavo, during one of the interviews shows off a watch worth $300,000 and admitted to spending millions on jewelry.)

“They are such major icons when it comes to style and jewelry,” Gill said. “They’re rock stars in their own right. They’ve used jewelry in such a unique and flamboyantly excessive and creative way. They were just natural partners. They give the series authenticity.”

He said YouTube is the perfect home for this series given its a primary place people go for music. “YouTube provides global accessibility,” Gill said.

After ten days on YouTube, the series has collected about 2 million views.

Gill is thrilled that the documentary art form is so much more accessible than it was a few years ago thanks to streaming services.

“I love pushing the medium stylistically, pushing the boundaries” he said.

WHERE TO WATCH

“Ice Cold,” available for free on YouTube

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