Diamondology: Where did Grillz originate?

A wise man once said, “Take care of your teeth, it is the first thing that people will notice!” Now, we cannot control the smile God gives us, but we can control our hygiene. A great smile is catchy, captivating, and contagious. And grillz only accentuate all three of these factors!

For those residing in the same place as Patrick Star, a grill is a teeth decoration that covers the bottom half, top half, or the entirety of one’s teeth.

“We like them boys that be in the ‘Lac’s leanin – Open their mouth they grill gleamin'”

Soldier – Destiny’s Child

Nelly made the term extremely popular in 2005 with his bouncy song, “Grillz” feat. Paul Wall that sampled Destiny’s Child and MC Shan. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the originators of rocking Grillz – Slick Rick and Flava Flav. 

With that, let’s get into some of the most notorious jewelers and creatives behind grillz of all time.


Eddie Plein’s gold grillz

Eddie Plein‘s gold grillz fit like a glove. If it ain’t 22’s, it ain’t worth a damn, son.

And that’s word to Christopher “Big Black” Boykin!

Gold Teeth Eddie (Credit: Patta)

Plein’s humble beginnings saw him open up shop on 169th Street in Hillside, Queens. Eddie was a man of many talents and got his first grill after breaking a tooth on the Surinam Trie fish back in ‘83.

This man flipped the script on the grillz game over in money-making Queens. He served the most fly clientele such as 50 Cent, Andre 3000, Flava Flav, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane.

Plein’s disdain for the “mail-order gold” jewelers and business-savvy decisions ultimately drove him away from the game after garnering significant funds in the process.

His thoughts on permanents were that they had to be 22 carats or more. Anything less is unacceptable.

“Mouth shining, Eddie gold caps all up in the dental.”

(Nas, A Queens Story)

Johnny Dang

The name Johnny Dang is synonymous with grillz fashion. He conducted business with Paul Wall and skyrocketed to become the integral grill master that he is today.

It is impossible to discuss the grillz industry without bringing up the name Johnny Dang.

At a young age, he took notice of the disparity between the amount and size of jewelry in America versus his home country, Vietnam.

He fine-tuned his process by utilizing the advancements in technology and strong technical skills that America had to offer.

Johnny Dang flashes Rose Gold grillz (Credit: TvJohnny.Net)

He changed the game by innovating grillz that could be inserted without filing or affecting the teeth in any permanent way.

He linked up with Paul Wall and took off from there as both entrepreneurs had a very strategic gameplan on how to get every American mouth shining.

His main takeaway from the industry is compassion, as he treats every person just how they deserve to be – as a person, not as an opportunity to make a quick buck. 


Other creatives who sparked the flame

Not everyone makes it to the main stage, but if they sparked the flame that blossomed the trend, they deserve flowers too.

It is always a good idea to trace any trend back to its roots. This brings us to Houston artist Thurston Slaughter, who made his debut into the rap game on 8Ball & MJG’s album, “Outside Looking In,” back in 1994.

His career did not see nearly the amount of success that Mike Jones, Paul Wall, or Nelly saw. Regardless, it is clear that his “Suave House Records” style influenced “Swisher House Records” artists such as Paul Wall and OG Ron C.

Thurston helped Paul Wall learn how to design and mold grills and set up his first temporary Grillz shop in Houston [1996]. Shortly thereafter, Paul Wall launched his own grillz enterprise in Houston’s Sharpstown Mall.

Nowadays, grillz are surging in popularity, once again. Along with tooth gems, any dental decoration can be seen as a way to look more “edgy and extravagant.”

No matter what you do, please do not try to DIY with grillz or tooth gem. Make sure you put your molars in the trusted hands of a dentist professional to ensure prosperous flossing.

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