For Ben Baller’s latest collaboration, the celebrity jeweler linked up with Captain Morgan to throw an over-the-top party that HYPEBEAST had VIP access to.
I arrived at Van Nuys Private Airport in Los Angeles, California on Wednesday afternoon, where a private plane was set to transport me and several others to Las Vegas for an exclusive party. On the tarmac stood Ben Baller — draped in a T-shirt fresh off of Born x Raised’s “Carry The Fire” capsule with The Alchemist, tethered light blue jeans and a pair of Air Jordan 1 High Pine Green 2.0’s — decked out and ready to ascend the aircraft steps.
If the dual iconography plastered on the plane’s exterior, reading “Captain Morgan x Ben Baller: Captain On Ice,” didn’t hint at a partnership, then the entourage of the liquor company’s original spiced rum bottles commanding the cabin’s food and beverage station certainly provided some clarity. Baller designed four custom, iced-out chains, inspired by Captain Morgan’s signature spiced rum and elevated by his diamond-encrusted artistry.
Once in the clouds, Baller turned to me, holding a curious black box in his hands, and asked, “Do you want to see the chain?” With an enthusiastic “yes,” I delicately opened the lid, revealing an opulent, diamond-set pendant featuring a silhouette of Captain Morgan’s iconic pirate motif alongside a soccer ball attached to a yellow-gold chain.
“Because Captain Morgan is a big partner with Major League Soccer (MLS) now, we came to the agreement that the silhouette of the captain should be stepping on a soccer ball,” he explained.
Then I took it to another level and I said, ‘Look, are we set with this artwork?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, why what’s up?’ I was like, ‘Because I’m going to freak this a little bit.’ And that’s when I threw in the ball bearing and made the soccer ball spin.
Baller set the iced-out ball in motion with a light flick, displaying a sense of playfulness within his fine jewelry expertise.
Like most people, Baller has long equated high jewelry with wealth. “When I was a kid and you would see somebody on the street wearing gold, you knew that person had some money,” he said. “I think the youth today probably looks at custom pieces in the same way that I looked at jewelry when I was growing up.” Baller’s brand undoubtedly resides on the top shelf of the luxury goods industry, though his craft is focused on catering to high-profile friends and select clientele, rather than just the super-wealthy.
“When you think of something that has my logo and my name on it, that person has to be somebody. I’m not just making a chain for anybody anymore,” he said, before revealing that he’s booked out until the summer of 2023.
The jet touched down in Vegas, where we were whisked away to The Venetian Hotel. A trio of hostesses greeted us outside and led us through the grand corridor of the Italian-inspired concourse. On the walk, I asked Baller about his far-spanning portfolio of celebrity-endorsed works, inquiring about which people have been his favorite to work with over the years. Without hesitation, he said his long-time friends Kid Cudi and Tyler, the Creator. For Kid Cudi, Baller created a Takashi Murakami-approved chain with an enormous 18k gold pendant and “TV Pixelation Pattern” grills with 3,000 hand-set diamonds, among other luxe iterations. For Tyler, the diamond connoisseur has most recently crafted a range of gem-finished IGOR pins and necklaces.
We arrived at a bar made entirely of ice, where the group was fitted with enormous faux fur coats and knit gloves. We were then ushered through a freezer-like door that hid a pristine igloo-like space – flowers and angelic statues were frozen into the walls of the entrance that led to a castle-like ice structure. Further inside, a massive ice sculpture of a polar bear breaking through a frozen centerpiece was on display, forming a throne surrounded by ice-covered bottles of Captain Morgan’s rum and frozen-over images of the jeweler and his family.
Baller placed the newly-unveiled chain on his neck, quickly inviting photographers and a huge crowd to form around. In this moment, I witnessed the unequivocal hype surrounding a Baller design.
“Hype is getting somebody excited, getting somebody to want something, and I’ve mastered that craft,” he said of his designs.
The funny thing is, when I was younger, my teacher was like, ‘Ben you’re way too hyper.’ You think about that word, ‘hyper,’ and you think about a rush. I don’t think there’s a better word that describes me as a person. And you can’t spell ‘hyper’ without ‘hype.’
The first of Baller’s four iced-out designs is now up for grabs ahead of the 2021 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. One winner will be awarded two tickets for themselves and a guest to the game at Los Angeles’ Banc of California Stadium on August 25, where they will get to meet Baller and receive their custom chain.
The “Captain on Ice” sweepstakes will remain open from August 13 to August 18 to fans ages 21 and over and can be found on Ben Baller’s Instagram.
Baller later commanded the room’s attention to make a toast, expressing his excitement for the collaboration with Captain Morgan and the company’s “unapologetic” approach to working with him. After thanking guests for their attendance, he concluded his speech: “If you need a drink suggestion, I have one for you. It’s the OG Spice and Ice, my signature cocktail,” made with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, fresh pineapple and lemon juice, simple syrup and seltzer water.
Back on the plane, I waxed philosophical about Baller’s ultimate goal. Between his industry-captivating collaborations, his multitude of lucrative brand deals, his hefty at-home art collection and his garage full of hypercars — how does he measure his own success?
“The basic definition of success in terms of my career would obviously be the milestones, the accolades, the crazy pieces,” he reflected.
“But success for me today is seeing my kids flourish,” he concluded. “I want this to be carried on, and I want them to understand how hard it was to get here, being an Asian-American, being in hip-hop, being in sports, being in jewelry and coming into worlds that wouldn’t necessarily have a lane for me.”