Gary Littman

OWNER OF THE LANGUAGE HOUSE

Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

Rappers like 'rocks' on their Swiss 'bitches'

Swiss luxury watches, encrusted in ice and rocks (diamonds), are king bling among popular US rappers and hip hop artists.

Artists like Jay-Z sing their praises and also complain, (a show of sympathy for the man please), that he has too many shiny Swiss watches and not enough time to wind them.

One of the most lyrically referenced brands is Rolex, which offers potent rapping possibilities; it rhymes with sex and rolls nicely off the tongue with another favourite hip hop accessoire, the  Rolls Royce; (preferably a triple black: black exterior, black interiors and black wheel trims). There are at least 15 raps songs with the brand name Rolex in the title.

Hublot is also a favourite, but the most lusted-after timepiece is Audemars-Piguet, the prestigious family business of watch makers established in 1875 and based in Le Brassus in the Vallee de Joux.

A highly iced and priced Audemars-Piguet, like this one, is right up there on top of the conspicuous consumption* (bling bling) list, on par with having the best women (bitches and hoes), the best cars, the best drugs and the best chains.

On the track BMF: Blow’in Money Fast (which means to crazily spend your money on decadent pleasure), Rick Ross raps an ode to the cocaine business, crime and guns. After the line, cocaine runn’in in my big vein, Mr Ross salutes his timepiece or perhaps more importantly its price of $100,000 (100 racks).

I think I'm Big Meech, look at my timepiece
It's an Audemars, hundred racks at least

Niggas in Paris performed by Kanye West and Jay-Z includes the line:

Ball so hard, got a broke clock/Rollies that don’t tick-tock/Audemars that’s losing time, hidden behind all these big rocks

Translation: Rollies that don’t tick-tock means that they are authentic Rolexes. Audemars that’s losing time because he hasn’t got time to wind them all. Hidden behind all these diamonds means they have got so much bling it’s hard to see the watch-face.

Rapper Lil Wayne manages to insert an Audemars-Piguet reference in the middle of the sexually explicit Marvin's Room

Pussy taste so good make you smack your lips
I don't know about you, but I'm a beast with mine
She said she wait for the Carter to 69

I told her "Sorry 4 The Wait"
I value her time like an Audemars-Piguet

Nicki Minaj in her song Senile boasts she has an Audemars. But it is not to tell the time. It’s just to show off her wealth.

Yeah, I got an Audemar, I ain't set the time once

The orchestrated liaison between the watch company and hip hop/rap began back in 2005 when Jay-Z and Audemars-Piguet launched a limited edition of 100 timepieces to celebrate Jay-Z’s 10th anniversary in the music business.

In 2006, Beyoncé, soon-to-be wife of Jay-Z, released the song Upgrade U with the first two lines of the chorus:

Partner let me upgrade you
Audemars Piguet you

DJ Drama even released a track called My Audemars peppered with not so subtle references to the brand which he refers to as his bitch:

Yeah It's my time and I'mma shine just like my audemars, my audemars
Bust down, and iced out

Just hit the switch, that bitch be shining when the lights out
Bust down, and iced out
Look at my wrist, that bitch be shining like a lighthouse

More reading:

Best 12 Audemars-Piguet references in hip-hop

Hip-Hop producer Swizz Beatz designs watch for Audemar-Piguet

Swiss watches and the C-word

* Conspicuous consumption was first used by economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899. It refers to people who buy expensive items primarily to display wealth, income and status.  A Veblen good or Veblen service is one in which demand increases when the price increases, which the vast majority of us (the 99 per cent) would condemn as decadence.  

This is well-illustrated in a popular joke about Russia’s nouveau riche:

"Look at my new tie," says a nouveau riche Russian to his friend. "I bought it for 500 dollars in the store over there." "You got yourself conned (Fr. Vous avez été escroqué)" says the other. "You could have paid twice as much for the same one just across the street."

In street vernacular, conspicuous consumption is now popularly known as bling or bling-bling which is literally the imagined sound of light reflecting off gold and diamond encrusted jewellery, watches (many of them Swiss) and teeth caps. It’s the flashy ringtone of the ostentatious; especially those who own a Swiss–made GoldVish ‘le million’ cellphone, which as its name suggests, costs over a million Euros.

Bling bling leapt into hip hop and rap parlance in the 1990s and into Oxford dictionary in 2003. For those logophiles (word lovers) out there, bling is an ideophone, a word that evokes an idea in sound. (You can read about other members of the phone family in an earlier blog: Forget the Fockers. Meet the Homos).

Bling is popularly believed to have come from a toothpaste advertisement in the late 1960s that finished with the line: "Ultrabrite gives your mouth...[bling]...sex appeal!" Before the words "sex appeal", a bell sound was heard as the woman smiled. Black American comedians such as Martin Lawrence parodied the "Ultrabrite smile" by vocalizing the sound effect as "bling-bling."

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