The Jesus piece, a spiritual or religious piece of jewelry, has become a significant symbol in the hip hop community. This unique piece of jewelry depicts the face of Jesus, often crowned with thorns, and is frequently adorned with precious gems.
It has been embraced by many hip hop artists and celebrities, including The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Kanye West, Big Pun, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, and Meek Mill, among others, who have adopted the Jesus piece as a common fashion accessory.
While the more luxurious versions are often made from gold and decorated with precious gems, more affordable Jesus pieces have also been produced using materials such as wood and inexpensive metals. This reflects the broad appeal of the Jesus piece, transcending economic boundaries within the hip hop community.
The Jesus piece’s significance in hip hop culture is underscored by quotes from The Boombox and Highsnobiety, which respectively described it as “arguably one of the most iconic pieces of jewelry in hip-hop” and “the most popular pendant of all time”.
History of the Jesus Piece
The history of the Jesus piece in the hip hop community is rich and varied, with several influential artists playing key roles in its popularization and evolution.
Ghostface Killah: The First Rapper to Wear the Jesus Piece
Ghostface Killah, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, was the first rapper to wear the Jesus piece. His adoption of the piece in the video for “Incarcerated Scarfaces” marked the beginning of its journey into hip hop culture.
The Notorious B.I.G.: Influence and Popularity
The Notorious B.I.G., also known as Christopher Wallace, played a significant role in popularizing the Jesus piece. He collaborated with his jeweler, Tito Caicedo, to create multiple Jesus pieces, each costing approximately $10,000. These pieces were decorated with precious gems, specifically on the hair of Jesus, adding a touch of luxury and uniqueness to each piece. Wallace would give these pieces to those he worked with, further spreading their influence.
Jay-Z: Legacy and Tradition
After Wallace’s death in 1997, his Jesus piece was given to his son, Christopher Wallace, Jr. “CJ”. Jay-Z, a close associate of Wallace, would then wear the Jesus piece multiple times whenever he recorded a new album. This tradition was so significant to Jay-Z that he mentioned it in his book, “Decoded”, stating, “It’s part of my ritual when I record an album: I wear the Jesus piece and let my hair grow till I’m done”.
Kanye West: Innovation and Personalization
Kanye West brought a new level of personalization and innovation to the Jesus piece. In 2004, he partnered with Jacob Arabo, a jeweler known for outfitting many hip-hop artists. West’s personal Jesus piece, created by Jacob, cost $25,000 and was the size of a man’s palm. It featured clear diamonds for Jesus’ crown of thorns, yellow and light-brown diamonds as Jesus’ blond hair, aquamarines for blue eyes, and small rubies for the tears of blood on his face.
In 2007, West collaborated with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to create another unique version of the Jesus piece, estimated to cost approximately $200,000. This piece further demonstrated West’s commitment to innovation and personal expression in his adoption of the Jesus piece.
The Jesus Piece in Popular Culture
The Jesus piece has not only been a personal symbol for hip hop artists but has also made its way into various aspects of popular culture, particularly in music and album art.
Kanye West’s Graduation Album
In Kanye West’s 2007 album “Graduation”, the cover features “Dropout Bear” wearing a Jesus piece similar to the one designed by Takashi Murakami. This further solidified the Jesus piece’s place in hip hop culture and its association with West.
The Game’s Jesus Piece Album
The Game’s 2012 album, aptly named “Jesus Piece”, features a deluxe edition cover that showcases a stained glass Jesus wearing a Jesus piece. This artistic representation of the Jesus piece underscores its spiritual significance and its role in hip hop culture.
Rick Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t Album
Rick Ross’ 2012 album “God Forgives, I Don’t” features Ross wearing multiple Jesus pieces on both the standard and deluxe edition covers. This display of multiple Jesus pieces highlights the piece’s status as a symbol of wealth and success in the hip hop community.
Big Sean’s Story About the Jesus Piece
In a Power 106 interview, Big Sean shared a story about losing the Jesus piece that Kanye West had given him. His former label mate Kid Cudi then gave his personal Jesus piece to Big Sean, demonstrating the camaraderie and shared symbolism of the Jesus piece among artists.
Boosie Badazz’s Touch Down 2 Cause Hell Album
The album cover of Boosie Badazz’s 2015 album, “Touch Down 2 Cause Hell”, features Boosie Badazz wearing multiple Jesus pieces. This further emphasizes the Jesus piece’s status as a symbol of wealth and prestige in the hip hop community.
The Song “Jesus Piece” by the German Rap Group Genetikk
The German rap group Genetikk also embraced the Jesus piece, naming a song after it on their album “MDNA”. This shows the global influence of the Jesus piece, extending beyond the American hip hop scene.
The Jesus piece has undeniably left a significant mark on hip hop culture. From its humble beginnings to its current status as an iconic symbol of wealth, success, and personal expression, the Jesus piece has been embraced by artists from Ghostface Killah to Kanye West.
Its enduring influence is evident in its frequent appearances in album art and music, as well as in the personal stories of artists like Big Sean. The evolution of the Jesus piece design over time, particularly through collaborations with jewelers and artists, reflects the dynamic nature of hip hop culture and its openness to innovation and personalization.
The Jesus piece is more than just a piece of jewelry. To many artists, it is a symbol of their journey, their beliefs, and their place in the hip hop community. As such, it will likely continue to be a significant part of hip hop culture for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Jesus piece?
A Jesus piece is a type of jewelry, typically a pendant, that depicts the face of Jesus. It is popular in the hip hop community.
Who first popularized the Jesus piece in hip hop culture?
Ghostface Killah from Wu-Tang Clan was the first rapper to wear the Jesus piece, but it was The Notorious B.I.G. who significantly popularized it.
What materials are used to make a Jesus piece?
Jesus pieces can be made from a variety of materials, including gold, other precious metals, wood, and inexpensive metals. They can also be decorated with precious gems.
Why is it called a Jesus piece?
It’s called a Jesus piece because it features the face of Jesus as its main design element.
Who are some celebrities known for wearing a Jesus piece?
Celebrities known for wearing a Jesus piece include The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Kanye West, Big Pun, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, and Meek Mill, among others.
How much does a Jesus piece cost?
The cost of a Jesus piece can vary widely depending on the materials used and the level of detail in the design. They can range from relatively inexpensive to tens of thousands of dollars.
What does the Jesus piece symbolize?
The Jesus piece can symbolize a variety of things, including faith, personal belief, and cultural identity. In the hip hop community, it can also symbolize success and prestige.
Can a Jesus piece be custom-made?
Yes, many jewelers offer custom-made Jesus pieces, allowing you to choose the materials, design details, and gemstones used.
What was unique about Kanye West’s Jesus piece?
Kanye West’s Jesus piece, created in collaboration with jeweler Jacob Arabo, was unique for its detailed design and use of different colored diamonds and gemstones.
Is a Jesus piece the same as a cross necklace?
While both are types of religious jewelry, a Jesus piece specifically depicts the face of Jesus, while a cross necklace features a cross or crucifix.
Can a Jesus piece be worn with other types of jewelry?
Yes, a Jesus piece can be worn with other types of jewelry. It’s often seen worn with other necklaces, chains, or pendants.
Are there Jesus pieces that depict the entire body of Jesus, not just the face?
While the traditional Jesus piece depicts only the face of Jesus, there are other types of religious jewelry that depict the entire body of Jesus.
Can a Jesus piece be made from silver?
Yes, a Jesus piece can be made from any type of metal, including silver.
Is a Jesus piece appropriate to give as a gift?
A Jesus piece can be a thoughtful gift, especially for someone who appreciates its religious symbolism or its cultural significance in the hip hop community.
Can a Jesus piece be worn by people of all ages?
Yes, a Jesus piece can be worn by people of all ages. However, due to its value and significance, it is often worn by adults.
Are there Jesus pieces available in different sizes?
Yes, Jesus pieces come in a variety of sizes, from small and delicate to large and bold.
Can a Jesus piece be worn by both men and women?
Yes, a Jesus piece can be worn by anyone, regardless of gender.
Can a Jesus piece be worn every day?
Yes, a Jesus piece can be worn every day. However, like all jewelry, it should be cared for properly to maintain its appearance and condition.
Are there Jesus pieces set with gemstones other than diamonds?
Yes, while many Jesus pieces are set with diamonds, they can also be set with other types of gemstones or made from colored metals.
Can a Jesus piece be paired with other religious jewelry?
Yes, a Jesus piece can be paired with other religious jewelry, such as cross necklaces or saint medals.
Is a Jesus piece only worn as a necklace?
While the Jesus piece is most commonly worn as a pendant on a necklace, it can also be incorporated into other types of jewelry, such as bracelets or earrings.