By Maurice Bobb
You can call rapper/jeweler, Paul Wall, "George Foreman" because he’s selling everybody grills—even recent Team USA gold medalist Ryan Lochte. The New York native set the world on fire Sunday when he followed up his gold medal-winning performance in the 400-meter Individual Medley in London with his own flash of patriotism: a $25, 000 custom red, white and blue diamond-encrusted American flag grill custom made by the rapper known for keeping other rappers’ mouths shining like disco balls. Paul Wall gave RapFix the scoop on designing the accessory.
“Me and TV Johnny did a grill for him before that he wore at the podium last year,” Wall told RapFix. “If you Google Ryan Lochte, Google will finish your search entry with ‘grill.’ There was already pictures of him on the Internet with the other grill we made for him, so we didn’t think the American flag grill was going to be as big of a deal as it is," Wall said, of the diamond and ruby-studded piece that cost approximately $1,000 per tooth.
"But I guess since he beat out Michael Phelps in such tremendous fashion and add to that the fact that it’s the Olympics and it was an American flag, it added to all the hype around it. But it’s exciting. Ryan represents a part of American culture. He represents anybody who has ever worn a grill or is a fan of hip-hop. It was a tremendous honor for us to make his grill. It just makes us feel like we’re a part of team USA.”
Although Lochte was banned from wearing the grill during the actual medal ceremony, he quickly popped in his celebratory ice for his signature “chomp” of the gold medal for international photographers.
"For those who don't know what a grill is, it's basically a retainer filled with diamonds," Lochte said in a 2011 interview. "I wear it when I go on the podium. It's just a unique way of showing personality out to everyone."
The 27-year old swimmer’s post-podium bejeweled mouthpiece may not have been part of the standard Olympic uniform for Team USA, but back when The People’s Champ was featured on the 2005 monster hit, "Grillz", from Nelly’s compilation album, Sweatsuit, grills were a must have amongst hip-hop artists with copious amounts of disposable income and a penchant for blinged-out trinkets. But like flat tops, Hammer pants and Ed Hardy tees, grills fell out of favor in mainstream pop culture.
“For mainstream America, grills went out of style,” Wall told RapFix “But for the hood, grills have always been in style. So grills have come around full circle, they back in style now. We just did grills for Meek Mill, Big Sean, Chris Brown, 2 Chainz, B.o.B., Ludacris and French Montana. A lot of people been getting grills again, especially bottom grills. Most people want the bottom grills.”
The Lochtenator’s grill, which features fiery VVS diamonds and special order custom rubies set by hand, costs about $1000 per tooth or about $25k. Usually, since the diamonds are set by hand on an invisible setting, it takes about two weeks to complete. And while Wall’s laundry list of clients keeps growing, he has something special for other members of Team USA that bring home the gold.
“What TV Johnny and I agreed to is this: any member of Team USA that wins a gold medal, we’re gonna make them a free gold grill on the house,” Wall said. “This is our way of supporting Team USA. Anybody that win a gold medal, we gonna give them a free gold grill to commemorate their gold medal. I don’t even know how to reach out to the gold medalists, but we just putting it out there. Anybody that wins a gold medal for Team USA, they are entitled to a free gold grill on us.”
And for those that won’t be bringing home the gold, but still want to join in on the thrills of diamond grillz, you can find and purchase your own mouth bling here: www.tvjohnny.net.