It was the album artwork that launched a thousand Reddit threads: Kendrick Lamar wearing a diamond-encrusted crown of thorns on the cover of his fifth studio album, Mr Morale & The Big Steppers. A little over a month later, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper made his debut at Glastonbury, wearing the same talking point headpiece to headline the Pyramid Stage—and close out the festival—on Sunday night.
Vogue can exclusively reveal Kendrick’s custom titanium and pavé diamond crown is a collaboration between the rapper, his longtime creative collaborator Dave Free and the jeweller Tiffany & Co., which has been crafting speciality headpieces since the 19th century. The meaning? “The crown is a godly representation of hood philosophies told from a digestible youthful lens,” says Free, who co-founded the multi-disciplinary media company pgLang with Kendrick.
Perhaps one of the most widely recognised symbols of religious iconography (according to the New Testament, a crown of thorns was placed on the head of Jesus in the events leading up to his crucifixion), the crown is a metaphor for artistic prowess, humility and perseverance, according to the jeweller. For the rapper, it serves as a nod of respect to the artists who came before him.
The crown proved central to his powerful performance on the Pyramid Stage. Before his finale—a rendition of “Savior” from Mr Morale & The Big Steppers—Lamar told the crowd it was his favourite track from his new album, because it’s about “imperfection”. “Imperfection is beautiful,” he said, adding that he wears his crown of thorns as a reminder: “They judge you, they judge Christ.” Kendrick made those words a repeated refrain in the song, which ended with a statement of support for women shellshocked by the rollback of abortion rights in the US just days earlier. As blood appeared to trickle down his face from the thorns, the rapper repeated: “They judge you, they judge Christ. Godspeed for women’s rights
Designed over the course of 10 months, the headpiece features 8,000 cobblestone micro pavé diamonds totalling more than 137 carats, and weighs around 200g. It required more than 1,300 hours of work by four craftsman to handset the diamonds.
Tiffany & Co.’s most accomplished artisans worked on the custom piece, which was inspired by Jean Schlumberger’s “Thorns” brooch—one of two iconic, thorn-themed brooches that Schlumberger designer in 1947, prior to joining Tiffany in 1956. The crown, made up of 50 thorns, was cast in 14 components in Tiffany’s New York workshop, before the final piece was assembled in the northern region of Italy and then custom fit to Kendrick.
“Kendrick Lamar represents the artistry, risk-taking creativity and relentless innovation that has also defined Tiffany & Co. for nearly two centuries,” says Alexandre Arnault, executive vice president, product and communication, Tiffany & Co. “We are proud and incredibly excited to work with a visionary like Kendrick in realising his vision for the crown.”
The one-of-a-kind piece previously had a high-profile outing at the Louis Vuitton menswear show in Paris on 23 June, where Kendrick wore his crown as he performed a live ode to the late Virgil Abloh while sitting next to supermodel Naomi Campbell on the front row.
This article first appeared on vogue.co.uk