It’s arguable that no reality show documented the tropes of the 2000s better than MTV Cribs. Over the course of its 13-season runtime, the show offered audiences uninhibited access to the homes of the decade’s biggest artists, athletes and socialites and became a fixture of MTV’s programming. Giving us bombastic displays of machismo and more than a few stories of guests fronting up to show off their fortune, Cribs acts as a nostalgic throwback to an age where CDs sold like hotcakes, baggy jeans reigned supreme and just about everybody needed to have a jacuzzi and at least five TV screens in each of their whips.
The show’s emphasis on capturing clout-hungry rappers in the salad days of their savings would also prove, perhaps unintentionally, pivotal in the emergence of hip-hop’s bling era, with appearances from the likes of Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent subsequently going down as huge moments in hip-hop history.
As Cribs makes its return to MTV next month with new episodes, I thought it right to take a trip through time and revisit the series' most memorable episodes.
Lil Wayne and Birdman
No two rappers rep the bling era quite like Birdman and Lil Wayne do, and it should seem rightful that the duo’s appearance on MTV Cribs has gone down as one of the era’s greatest among hip-hop purists. Boasting a jacuzzi smack bang in the centre of the living room, the New Orleans Cash Money Family crib is predictably adorned with dollar symbols and decor that a young Weezy defines as being ‘exotic, but gangster’, while a pool fitted with underwater speakers, some stupidly tricked-out whips and two very colourful grills help to put the cherry on top of this one.
In one of the show’s most astonishing episodes from 2002, Mariah Carey opened the gold doors – like, actual gold – of her tri-level Tribeca penthouse apartment to make even the most middle-class of onlookers feel ashamed of themselves. Here, Mariah discusses her distaste for jarring colours, demonstrates how to take a bath, showcases a piano formerly owned by Marilyn Monroe, navigates multiple walk-in robes - including one exclusively for her lingerie - and even changes into a new outfit before entering one of the apartment’s pristine bathrooms. Queen shit.
Luda’s three-bed, two-bath Atlanta GA home is relatively humble compared to typical Cribs standards, but by no means does that insinuate he’s not balling. An elegant home office, jam-packed recreation room and Russian sable throw are all prestigious touches, but it’s the TV that’s built into the steering wheel of a classy Cadillac DeVille that steals the show here.
It should come as no surprise that a young, pre-smartphone DJ Khaled would be tapped to flex his Florida domicile for Cribs in 2007, and it really doesn’t seem like Khaled has changed a bit since he made that fateful appearance. In true Cribs fashion, a jacuzzi filled with Bahamas-imported water stands out as the pad’s centrepiece, while a baby blue fur-finished Bentley, platinum plaque wall and a Rick Ross cameo all complete the picture.
Missy Elliott actually made two appearances on MTV Cribs to showcase two very slick different properties, and perhaps unsurprisingly, each episode is about as iconic as the other. The first sees Missy show off a 25-room estate in her hometown of Virginia Beach, complete with a home theatre, gym, ballroom and indoor pool with marble appointments galore, while her second appearance finds her star flexing Lamborghini furniture, exotic fish tank chair and a Ferrari bed with a plasma screen TV under the hood – which she still owns to this day. Huge Kirk van Houten energies from this one.
It may not surprise you to learn that Tony Hawk’s Southern Californian home does, in fact, boast its own skatepark. Other premium features include a massive outdoor pool, a Playstation 2 and a Tivo unit, but it’s Tony’s kids who seem to rule the roost, judging by how insane the crib’s play room is.
Moby’s shabby Brooklyn loft might stick out like a sore thumb when compared to the comparatively decadent mansions featured in Cribs’ first season, which also makes it one of the series’ biggest highlights. The bathroom is notably void of having a mirror (“I wish it was a profound statement, but I simply just haven’t gotten around to it”) and the abundance of white brick is a little overwhelming, but the house does feature a pretty sweet home studio, and comes complete with a rooftop deck with an eerie view of a now unfamiliar skyline.
Two years after appearing in Like Mike and one year after dropping the Lil from his name, Bow Wow took to MTV Cribs to prove his newfound maturity by flexing a 14,500 square foot property in Atlanta. Here, the young Mr. Wow schools us on the proper pronunciation of the Ferrari Modena, balks at the idea of spending time in his opulent living room and proudly touts what might be the most morbidly decorated bedroom of the mid ‘00s, while a fleeting appearance from Atlanta Hawks point guard Lou Williams and a chubby pooch by the name of Precious make this episode one to remember.
Riding off the back of his third album 8701, selling a staggering eight million copies, Usher’s MTV Cribs episode paints a portrait of the young R&B star on the cusp of his creative and commercial career as he indulges in all of life’s luxuries. His vast Atlanta mansion is dotted with houseplants (all named, of course) and crystals; a fully-kitted analogue recording studio sits out the back, and he conducts a fair portion of the episode while wearing a floor-length mink coat – because why not?
Not satisfied with the mere six minute time-slot granted to other artists, 50 Cent was allocated a full episode to show off his pad in one of the most infamous episodes of Cribs, with his immense Connecticut mansion tour being emblematic of everything the bling era was about. Whether it’s the 19 bedrooms and 35 bathrooms or the $80,000 chandelier, infinity pool, movie theatre, nightclub or eight-car garage, there’s a lot to love about 50’s Cribs episode, and it’s plausible that you could live there your whole life and still not step foot into every room of the house.
Nobody works a camera better than Snoop Dogg does, and in 2004, the Long Beach legend worked his magic when he took MTV on a tour through Tha Dogg House. Despite the low-key, family vibe of the humble abode, Snoop reminds the cameras that “I bring that ghetto environment out here to this nice neighbourhood” as he parades his multiple music studios, dunks on an official NBA court in the backyard, showcases his jacuzzi (of course) and adopts a hilariously high-pitched voice to speak to his pet dog, Whiteboy.
Taped right on the cusp of the release of Stankonia, Big Boi’s appearance on Cribs is deemed as one of the show’s most iconic early episodes for a myriad of reasons. Not only does it offer a glimpse into the space used to cook up many of the beats from Outkast’s early millennium masterpiece, but it also serves as an introduction to The Boom Boom Room: a sophisticated stripper’s den tucked away in the burrows of the Savannah rap great’s basement.
In 2000, a young Destiny’s Child opened their doors to the MTV camera crew to make for one of the series’ most endearing episodes, with Beyoncé, Michelle and Kelly taking Cribs through a tour of the Knowles’ family home in Houston – dressed in matching outfits, nonetheless. Highlights include a young Solange making a bandana-clad cameo, Kelly’s ‘ex-box’, and Beyoncé’s lavishly decorated bedroom, complete with a custom pyramid-adorned bedspread that surely helped stoke all of those corny Illuminati rumours.
In another of the show’s more affectionate moments, a 12-year-old Lil Romeo welcomed Cribs to explore his (or perhaps his dad’s) home in Texas. Here, Lil Romeo flaunts a sweet games room with some classy Harring-inspired appointments, as well as a tidy little studio setup and an adorable bedroom packed with plush toys and fan mail - and who could forget him stunting his very own Benz at the end of the episode? Truly iconic shit.
Perhaps predictably, Gene Simmons’ appearance on MTV Cribs was nothing but a six minute ego-stroking slog fest, which peaks with a tour of the Beverly Hills home’s KISS room, which is filled wall-to-wall with a collection of books, toys, toilet seats, slippers and anything else that’s been slapped with a KISS logo and set off to shop.
Boasting four bedrooms and five bathrooms and fronting onto a lake, Nelly’s St. Louis home is picturesque as hell, with a games room, 80 inch projector and a fish tank acting as some of the more lavish touches in the house. Nelly’s illusions of grandeur might take a hit when his bulldog pup Dollar soils the carpet on camera, but the real highlight here has to be the outdoor jacuzzi, which is very intentionally built separate from the swimming pool according to the ‘Hot in Herre’ MC.
Way before Keeping Up With The Kardashians kicked off, a young Kim Kardashian invited MTV to come and check out her family home in Los Angeles, donning her pre-transitional step-mother’s Olympic gold medal, claiming store-bought cookies as her own creations and treating the cameras to a home stripper pole workout masterclass along the way.
In 2004, Ja Rule invited the Cribs cameras into his house to showcase his extravagant wealth and even throw a rowdy party for 600 punters to enjoy – except there was one problem. It later turned out that that Ja Rule had actually rented the Miami property displayed on the show, and that the owner of the house was seriously pissed that he’d thrown a party without receiving prior permission, later suing Ja for unauthorised filming and interior damages of the pad, and as we know for Ja Rule, it was only downhill from there.
Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell appearing on MTV Cribs to show off his preppy four-bed Las Vegas home? It doesn’t get much more ’00s than this. Decked out in a pair of wrap-arounds and sporting a classic gelled-up look, Harwell guides the cameras to his master bedroom (fittingly known as The Love Shack) to demonstrate how hard he hypothetically fucks, shows off a miniature Elvis shrine and flaunts a delicately maintained backyard that features none other than – you guessed it – a jacuzzi.
Hands down the realest episode of the series, Redman’s appearance on Cribs is everything you’d ever hope for it to be. The lackadaisical stoner icon proudly reps a cluttered Staten Island unit that’s short on furniture and littered with pornos, unreturned Blockbuster videos and sleeping relatives, happily spouting the culinary value of boxed fish fillets while a grubby bong rests on a stack of DVDs in the background. Amazingly, Redman actually still owns and lives in the property to this day, and we’re willing to bet that the joint still probably looks exactly like it did 20 years ago.
This is an opinion piece written by Will Brewster, a Melbourne-based writer and producer. Follow him on Twitter @_willbrewster.
MTV Cribs will premiere in the US on August 11. Stay with us for news on when the return will hit Aussie screens, too.