It’s hard to outshine an Olympic gold medal. Yet, that’s exactly what United States swimmer Ryan Lochte managed to do when he flashed his stars-and-stripes diamond and ruby American flag grill moments after winning a gold medal in the 400-meter IM event on Saturday night (July 28) in London.
The now-infamous picture—which covered newspapers and was plastered all over the Internet—brought huge smiles to the faces of Paul Wall and custom-grills business partner Johnny Dang aka TV Johnny. That’s because they were the ones who customized Lochte’s grill, specifically for the Olympics.
Little did they know that Lochte would flash his megawatt bling before millions of people tuning in to the Olympics on television.
In an exclusive interview, Paul Wall spoke to XXL about the international look that Lochte gave the grill culture.
“For him to represent us and our culture, the grill culture, it’s just shining a light on hip-hop in the Olympics,” said the People’s Champ, who’s currently working on a new mixtape with DJ Whoo Kid. “Everyone’s talking about it…it’s just an incredible thing to be part of. I’m just honored to be part of it. There’s not too many world-class swimmers wearing our grill.”
According to USA Today, Lochte was told by a USA Swimming representative that if he wore the grill on the podium Saturday night that he wouldn’t receive his medal. So, how did the brash 27-year-old respond? He made sure he got the gold medal in his hands first…then snuck the grill into his mouth.
“For him to have the American flag in his mouth like that shows great patriotism!” Wall added.
Lochte had purchased a standard grill from Wall and TV Johnny before, but they customized this particular one for the Olympics.
“The grill he’s wearing is all hand-prong set, all VS diamonds and custom red rubies,” Paul Wall said. “What he has in his mouth is all hand crafted. Every diamond is set by hand—one by one, prong set and all custom red rubies. Of course we gave him an Olympic discount.”
Although Wall didn’t disclose the exact price tag of Lochte’s particular grill, he did mention that such a customized mouthpiece can run “anywhere from $15,000-$25,000.”
The Houston rapper told XXL that grills “went out of style the last couple of years in terms of being a national trend,” but that Lochte’s grill in addition to upcoming rap clientele like 2 Chainz, French Montana and Meek Mill—all getting bottom grills—are helping to rejuvenate the grill culture, one that Paul Wall and TV Johnny have been a part of for 15 years now.
Wall and TV Johnny were so proud watching Lochte win the gold, that they have a great offer for other U.S. Olympians as well.
“Seeing all the excitement that the general public has had over the grills, me and Johnny want to put this out there that any U.S. Olympian who wins a gold medal, we’re going to make ’em a free gold grill,” Wall promised. “On the house.”—Mark Lelinwalla