MAFO (No Fear) – Jesus Piece
MAFO (No Fear) – Jesus Piece art by Nwambo Zinadum
This painting was made in a malerisch manner and is NOT to be replicated and sold, in which case you infringe on the copyrights attached to the painting.
The tradition of wearing Christian iconography as jewelry goes back for centuries, but the term Jesus piece specifically names a type of necklace, usually made from a precious metal such as gold or silver, and with Christ’s head as a pendant, sometimes with his crown of thorns adorned with gems like diamonds. Jesus, here, refers to the Christian religion’s central figure and piece, an example of fine workmanship or jewelry.
A Jesus piece is not something worn by a particular Christian denomination, but rather, as a symbol, fashion statement, or bling within the hip-hop community. One early and influential Jesus piece was worn by rapper Christopher Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie, who is said to have purchased three of them for $30,000 from his jeweler, Tito Caicedo.
The Jesus piece hanging from Biggie’s neck became strongly associated with his rap persona. He even referenced it in his song “I Love the Dough” from his hit 1997 album, Life After Death: “You seen the Jesus, dipped to H classes.” In the song “Hypnotize” on the same album, he raps: “So I just speak my piece, keep my peace / Cubans with the Jesus piece…” This line popularized the term Jesus piece as it is now popularly used. It’s worth noting that the term piece is also slang for the gun, so his phrase Jesus piece creates a compelling juxtaposition of wealth, violence, and religion.
In 1999, fellow rapper Jay-Z appeared on the cover of the hip-hop magazine XXL wearing a Jesus piece, speculated to have been one of Biggie’s original three. However, Jesus pieces didn’t hit the mainstream until 2004, when they became a signature adornment of artist Kanye West. West partnered with jeweler Jacob Arabo to create an entire line of religious hip-hop jewelry. He also frequently mentions Jesus’s piece in his songs, helping cement the term, and accessory, in hip-hop culture. Rapper The Game, for instance, since titled a 2012 album Jesus Piece.