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Lancelot meets Sir Mix-A-Lot in artist Rashaad Newsome’s fantastically bejeweled coat of arms.
Long before rappers were swaggering about in industrial-size gold chains, medieval knights were putting on their own bombastic shows with ornately emblazoned armor and shields. “What’s interesting about heraldry is that it functions as a portrait, with a system of symbols proclaiming one’s position in society,” says Rashaad Newsome, whose fascination with its history began during an art residency in Paris. The New York artist has since riffed on the traditional craft by replacing its lions, griffins, and coronets with signature hip-hop totems like cars, video vixens, and dookie chains, all layered into coat-of-arms collages worthy of Kanye West. Here, using fine jewelry from Tiffany, Dior, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Cartier, Newsome has created a resplendent artwork for W. “People talk about rappers being bling,” he says. “Uptown ladies crush them.”