Grammy Award-winning artist Drake revealed on Instagram (@champagnepapi) that he was the buyer of the so-called Crown Ring that was designed by and belonged to the late rapper Tupac Shakur (who styled his name as 2Pac).
The large gold, ruby and diamond ring sold at Sotheby's 25 July Hip Hop auction, organised in celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary, more than tripling its high estimate of $300,000 to sell for just over $1m (including fees). The ring was worn during Shakur's last public appearance before his death, at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996, and was sold through the auction house by Yaasmyn Fula, the rapper's godmother and longtime confidante. The ring bears the inscription "Pac & Dada 1996", a reference to his engagement to Kidada Jones.
With fees, the price for Shakur’s ring came to $1.01m, making it the most expensive hip hop artefact ever sold at auction, according to Sotheby's. It was commissioned by the artist to commemorate a shift in his career, from a phase marked by incarceration to what was to be a more celebratory period—serving as “an act of self-coronation”, in Fula’s words.
The ring is modeled after jewellery belonging to medieval European kings, a nod to the rapper’s interest in Niccolo Machiavelli’s political manifesto , which he read during his time in prison. Shakur even took on the alias "Makaveli" for his fifth album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, which was released less than two months after his 1996 murder (which, despite a recent police search, remains unsolved).
“This one-of-a-kind, custom ring was meticulously designed by Tupac and is among the final products of his boundless creative energy," Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s global head of science and popular culture, said in a statement. "We’re thrilled that this exceptional piece has entered a new chapter in the hands of another legendary artist."
Drake is no stranger to Sotheby's. In 2015, he collaborated with the auction house on the selling exhibition I Like It Like This at its New York headquarters. In addition to works by historic and contemporary Black artists, from Jacob Lawrence and Jean-Michel Basquiat to David Hammons, Kara Walker and Wangechi Mutu, the show featured an accompanying playlist of songs curated by Drake.