Call Paul Wall To Get Your Shine On, Baby.
Words: Leah Rose
From: May XXL 2005
Nothing says, "I'm rich, bitch," like a diamond-encrusted smile. While old-school rappers like Slick Rick and MC Shan kept their mouth-bling simple with a couple of gold caps, today's grill gods sport mouthpieces costing more than your entire wardrobe.
Although decorating choppers is popular from coast to coast, it's most common in the Dirty Dirty. Recognizing the demand for customized fonts in his hometown of Houston, Swisha House MC Paul Wall has set out to become the king of grills. Aside from hooking up both celebrities and common folk with exquisite mouthpieces, the number one White stunna is also an accomplished DJ who's chopped and screwed albums for artists like T.I., Lil' Flip and Trillville. But despite wearing many musical hats, Paul's princess-cut diamond smile still gets the most attention. "Everyone wants to see what my grill looks like," Paul says, flashing his $30,000 matching top and bottom platinum-and-diamond set. "It's on such a different level than anybody's ever seen."
Paul first started out in the grill game at age 17, passing out flyers for a local jewelry store. In exchange for his work, Paul got a wholesale price on his first grill and learned how to make fonts himself. After a couple of months, Paul's crafty work began to attract so much attention that the aspiring MC decided to expand his business. He partnered with local Vietnamese ***eler Johnny Dang, who was already involved in the grill world. "I needed somebody who knew about the Black market and could speak good English," explains Dang.
With Paul designing and promoting their product and Johnny holding down the grill construction, the partners opened TV jewelry in 1998, selling everything from Cuban-linked chains to engagement rings. But even with all the merchandise, grills remain TV jewelry's top seller. Customers can pick out their design from an array of samples in the store or by going to the website, Johnnythe***eler.com.
The first step in building your grill is to make a wax impression of your teeth. TV jewelry will mail you a kit, at which point you make the mold yourself and then mail it back to Johnny and co. They then cover the mold with an investment solution and place it in an oven at 1,600 degrees. Five hours later, the impression is removed and is ready for the casting process, when the precious metal is poured into the hardened tooth mold. In 15 minutes the metal solidifies, and a rough version of the fronts is ready to be filed and shined. If the buyer has decided to add gemstones, holes are drilled into the gold and the gems are handset. At that point, the grill is finished and shipped back to the purchaser.
Since opening seven years ago, TV jewelry has seen its grill business boom. The most requested item is the "invisible set," where diamonds cover each tooth with no metal frame. Styles rang in price, depending on the clarity of the stones and the preciousness of the metal. A single gold cap starts at $50, while a grill boasting an invisible canary diamond set can cost up to $7,000.
And while permanent fronts are an option in general, TV jewelry makes only removable pieces. To do permanent work legally, a ***eler must be a certified dental technician. "We always recommend that people don't get them permanent, 'cause then you can clean the diamonds better," explains Paul.
Caring for your grill is simple. The gold can be shined with a regular buff cloth or jewelry cleaning solution--just make sure to take the piece out of your mouth first. And if one of your diamons falls out, you can always ship the purchase back to TV jewelry to get the missing stone replaced. Paul's high-profile customers could care less if they lose a stone. So far, the MC has designed bank-breaking grills for fellow rappers T.I., Master P, David Banner and Chingy, to name a few. "The average person goes to the shop," says Paul. "I'm involved if it's a high-profile client. I'll take the mold and design it, do most of the process."
Lil Jon spared no expense for his $50,000 Paul Wall grill. "I got my first grill from Paul 'cause of the way his grill looked," says Jon. "The design and quality of diamonds was different from what people were doing in ATL."
With such a solid rep, it's no wonder diamonds are this rapper's best friend.