The buyer behind the recent $1 million sale of a crown-shaped ring designed by hip hop legend Tupac Shakur, worn during his final public appearance in 1996, is none other than fellow musician Drake.
“I plan to buy your most personal belongings when they up for auction,” rapped Drake on his 2019 track Omerta. The sentiment appears to ring true for the former Degrassi actor, who has previously snapped up necklaces and accessories at public sales. While his purchase of Tupac’s gold, ruby and diamond ring, which went on the block on July 25, wasn’t his first time bidding on this type of item, the sale set a record for the most valuable hip hop artifact ever sold at auction.
The ring, which was put up for sale by Yaasmyn Fula, Tupac’s godmother and advisor, and tripled its high estimate of $300,000, features a diamond-encrusted band topped with a gold crown with cabochon rubies and diamonds. It has the inscription “Pac & Dada 1996,” which refers to Tupac’s engagement to Kidada Jones, and was worn by the late musician at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 4, 1996, three days before he was fatally shot.
For a few days, the buyer of Tupac’s bling remained anonymous, then Drake revealed himself as the ring’s new owner when he posted an Instagram story wearing his new jewelry. “We’re thrilled that this exceptional piece has entered a new chapter in the hands of another legendary artist,” said Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby's global head of science and popular culture, in a statement.
Drake’s latest purchase comes only a few months after he acquired a trove of jewelry previously owned by Pharrell Williams. Joopiter, the digital auction house Williams founded, auctioned off nearly fifty pieces owned by the musician during its inaugural sale in November of 2022 for a total of $5.2 million.
As it turns out, Drake was responsible for around half of those sales. According to a music video the rapper released at the beginning of 2023, he either purchased or was gifted around $2.6 million worth of bling from the Joopiter sale. The video showed him wearing a 14-karat gem-encrusted chain featuring animations of Williams and his N.E.R.D. bandmates, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley, which sold for roughly $2.2 million and was described by Joopiter as “one of the most historic pieces of contemporary jewelry that represents an incomparable artist, at an incomparable time, with incomparable creativity.”
Drake was also seen donning two $150,000 gold and diamond chains, and a gold skateboard pendant chain which sold for $103,750 and was worn by Drake in an Instagram post in January of this year. The rapper additionally picked up Williams’s gold and diamond-covered Oakley sunglasses and a gold-encased Sony PSP for $62,500 and $19,375, respectively.
In a nod to his proclivity for bidding on hip hop accessories at auction, Drake’s own memorabilia has gone on the block in previous years. In 2019, the hip hop star’s signed notebook went up for sale for $32,500, followed by handwritten rap lyrics that were auctioned off last year with a starting bid of $20,000.
What is Drake’s connection to the art and auction world?
The Canadian-born musician has a long track record of participating in, contributing to and helping design auctions. In 2015, he teamed up with Sotheby’s for an exhibition of contemporary works by Black artists and chose music to accompany some twenty lots, including pieces by Nick Cave and Jean-Michel Basquiat, ahead of their sale. Visitors were able to listen to his selected songs for each work through curated playlists provided alongside the lots at the auctioneer’s gallery. The collaboration reportedly came about through Drake’s connection to Jacqueline Wachter, a contemporary art specialist at Sotheby’s and a close family friend of the rapper.
In November of 2022, the rap star took things a step further when DreamCrew, his arts and entertainment company, purchased the traveling art amusement park Luna Luna. Debuting in Hamburg in 1987 with a Jean-Michel Basquiat-designed Ferris wheel, a fun house by Salvador Dali and a carousel painted by Keith Haring, alongside music from Philip Glass and works designed by David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein, Luna Luna was a functional circus created with the help of these and other renowned artists.
But despite plans for a global tour, financial issues forced Andre Heller, the Austrian artist behind the project, to sell it in 1990. While the park’s remains have been held in a storage unit in Texas since 2007, the rap star’s firm is now restoring the rides and adding new attractions, with plans to launch a U.S. tour of the carnival in autumn of this year.