Chinatown granny Eva Sam is a real gem in the eyes of her rapper customers.
For nearly three decades, the Macau native has been selling custom bling to hip-hop’s biggest names, starting with Cappadonna of the Wu-Tang Clan in 1988. He was her first rapper.
Since then, she’s made necklaces for dancers in Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour, jewels for A$AP Rocky’s “Multiply” video, and earrings for Playboi Carti and model Ashley Graham. She’s sold gold chains to Macklemore as recently as last week and a gilded Jesus pendant to Travis Scott.
And she’s got the photos to prove it.
Snaps of the petite Sam, beaming from behind her glasses and flanked by rappers throwing hand symbols and flaunting their new jewels, cover the walls of Popular Jewelry at 255 Canal St.
While Cappadonna turned the rap community on to Sam’s store, A$AP Rocky and his Harlem-bred A$AP Mob of fellow rappers can be credited with attracting the newest generation of up-and-coming hip-hop stars, Sam said.
A$AP visits the shop two to four times a year, and drops up to $100,000 each time. Sam’s motherly relationship with the young rapper has even earned her the nickname “A$AP Eva” among family members who help her run the shop as well as a shout-out in an A$AP Rocky song.
“Hit Canal Street, real as a gold medallion/smokin’ blunts in front of public housing,” he raps.
Sam treats her hip-hop patrons like her “own sons” and gives them tips on how to cleanse their bodies of marijuana toxins.
“I tell them to drink hot water with honey and lemon and eat green bean soup,” she said. “I say take a Chinese cookie, don’t smoke.”
Eva’s son, William Wong, is his mom’s right hand at Popular and a cultural liaison for the Cantonese-speaking grandmother of two. The first time A$AP visited the store, William informed his mom a celebrity was in their midst.
A rap fan since Jay-Z’s “The Carter III” came out in 2008, Wong makes sure the music at Popular is fresh, and knows all the rappers’ personal styles. He and his cousin Kevin also run Popular’s social-media feeds; the store’s Instagram page boasts 32,000 followers.
“They like to lean toward bespoke pieces, some also like vintage,” he said. “Ayo & Teo — they did the “Rolly” song — like flooded diamonds, and the rapper…