Where Do Rappers Buy Their Chains – ATLANTA – The windows of the Icebox jewelry store in Atlanta are filled with Cuban chains, destructive watches, edge-to-edge diamonds and gold pendants in dozens of designs. This is the ne plus ultra of modern hip-hop luxury. And for the past three years, Icebox has built a secondary business on the phenomenon, launching a YouTube channel filled with videos of rappers coming to drool and shop.
But often the most striking features of these lavish 10-minute videos aren’t the ostentatious jewelry, or even the artists themselves. The music videos are some of the most relaxing places on the hip-hop internet, radiating a strong sense of calm and relaxation. They capture the safe spaces of the rich and otherwise luxurious – watching Icebox videos is like being let in on a secret. More than a million people subscribe to the store’s YouTube channel.
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In one video, Lil Baby sits down and discusses his recent arrest in Paris. In other cases, Winnie the Pooh will ask Sheisty to see where the jewelry is being cleaned and then do it herself. NLE Choppa gets a haircut as he is presented with a series of breakdowns and talks about revitalizing his hometown. Swae Lee takes a long look in the mirror, making sure his various chains are just dangling around his neck. Lil Durk looks wide-eyed into one of the store’s huge safes.
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There is perhaps no greater luxury than time, and Icebox’s weekly videos showcase the country’s most successful rappers at their most relaxed. The transactions are big, sometimes in the mid-six figures, and the bigger they get, the hotter they get. The videos are documents of men in love, their faces softening slightly at the sight of a new toy that they – and perhaps only they – can afford.
“It’s a place where you buy what you will eventually adapt to, but the shop is cosy, friendly and comfortable,” said Rafi Jooma, 35, who owns and runs the shop with his brothers Mo, 37, and Zahir, 32. their parents. “You see their opinion, their personality, you see their emotions.”
On a Thursday afternoon in June, about 10 members of Icebox’s video and social media crew were in a nondescript media room toward the back of the store, finishing up a video of the hilarious postal clerk flipping BFB rapper Da Packman, who was ordering donuts into the store, and working. about designing a unique donut pendant. On the wall was a whiteboard with an editorial calendar of upcoming videos, done and in progress.
Down the next aisle, Lil Yachty, who had just arrived at the store, curled up on the small steps talking about his first Icebox trips before sneaking into a private room with Zahir to discuss the new custom pendant he wanted. Ready.
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“I go all over town,” said Lil Yachty, who estimates he’s spent about $3 million on Icebox over the past five years. “I probably have more access than some of the workers.”
The videos arriving at the same time every Thursday afternoon have a familiar rhythm. The artist is looking for a new game, often working together with one of the Joom brothers. Then they linger more often.
Icebox’s custom 4PF necklace for Lil Baby features a pair of four-pocket shorts with money falling from each.
Bobby Shmurda purchased this diamond-encrusted Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore watch from Icebox in February, shortly after his release from prison.
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Mo said that when she tries on a piece, Lil Baby “goes to a different room, looks at it in a different light, adjusts it, goes back to the original room it was in, wants to see what it looks like everywhere, coat goes up, coat on.” Shot in a vérité style and thoughtfully timed, the videos immerse themselves in the scene, documenting the homeliness and comfort of hip-hop’s merciless self-mythologizing.
While many jewelry stores now specialize in serving the needs of hip-hop shoppers, and many others have filled that role over the years—think Jacob Araba (aka Jacob the Jeweler) or Johnny Dang (aka TV Johnny), Icebox. a store optimized for the social media moment.
The Jooma family jewelry business began in the early 1970s when Mike, the patriarch, emigrated from Pakistan and began selling Native American jewelry at a flea market in Florida. A few years later, his wife Dinar joined him and they eventually moved their business from flea markets to shopping malls. At their peak in the 1990s, they had five stores, mostly in Texas.
In 2003, the family and business moved to Atlanta and opened a single store in Gwinnett County, north of the city, in a strip mall. By then, the children were old enough to help the financially stagnant business in a more formal way. Even hip-hop fans saw an opportunity in the city’s burgeoning music scene. The brothers, who had dropped out of college to join the family business, began advertising at town radio stations, recording studios and after-hours spots, handing out business cards at the 112 club and trying to befriend interns and assistants who could introduce them. . to managers who could introduce them to rappers.
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(Their parents are now divorced, but both still work in the business — the father as a diamond buyer and the mother overseeing the day-to-day finances — and share ownership with their sons.)
The brothers had some success: After meeting Zahir, Atlanta radio D.J. Greg Street began directing customers to the store. At the brothers’ urging, the family founded Icebox in 2006 as a hip-hop-focused sub-line. When the store moved to a prime corner location in the toned Buckhead neighborhood in 2009, where it remains, it was renamed Icebox.
The new venue quickly attracted the city’s class of rising hip-hop superstars and became a regular stop for artists touring through the city or the city’s athletes for the Games. It was closer to the luxury malls that had become the center of the city’s entertainment elite and represented a more accessible proposition than the rigidity of Atlanta’s jewelry district.
In the late 2000s, T-Pain began wearing custom Icebox jewelry. “Having someone so iconic, so world-changing, wearing our product was the highest compliment possible,” said Rafi. – He changed music, but also Icebox.
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Rafi, Mo and Zahir Jooma, brothers who own and operate Icebox with their parents. Credit … Wulf Bradley for The New York Times
A huge hip-hop clientele followed, many of whom found Icebox friendlier than the city’s other jewels. “You think of a guy from Atlanta who has a bunch of tattoos, smells a little weed, and has been dreading it for a long time — nine out of ten places don’t respect him,” Zahir said. “We’re here to respect them from the moment they walk into the store.”
Icebox started to become a safe space and playground for rappers. Soulja Boy and Wiz Khalifa were filmed robbing a store due to videos posted online. In the mid-2010s, when Instagram became ubiquitous as a social documentation tool, “we saw celebrities posting pictures of themselves with other celebrities on Icebox,” Mo said. The store served several celebrities each week, many of whom included their own videos. to create the content.
The business started posting short videos on Instagram and in 2018 began posting the long YouTube videos it is now known for. It is typical for one or more brothers to appear in the recordings, but originally “none of us wanted to be in the picture, we always fought about who would be in it,” said Zahir. – The legacy of the family business is more important to us than our personal name.
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Now they’re regulars, whether it’s selling expensive pieces, haggling to make customers feel good, or even sometimes cleaning the jewelry themselves: “Most of the time, you don’t see the owner of a car dealership describing a car,” he said. Rafi. “Everyone should be able to do anything.”
The videos are mostly unscripted, though there are usually themes or set pieces, especially with rappers who have had multiple appearances. Among them are lavish, glamorous shots of necklaces, rings and watches. For some rappers, the Icebox video has become a semi-official part of their media presence, hitting stores weeks before the album’s release to shop and film the extravaganza. On YouTube, Icebox’s videos typically get between 500,000 and 2 million views, depending on the popularity of the guest.
Artists receive informal approval for videos. “It’s our responsibility to make sure they feel comfortable with the content they post,” Mo said.
“We both have something to offer each other,” he continued. “We respect their time and what they certainly give us. yes we are
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