Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse comes news that even the rappers have been forced to scale back.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported on the plight of the braggadocios emcee.

I know, I know: My heart aches for them, too.

Though the death of the music industry started years before the Dow decided to lean back thousands of points, the economic crisis has expedited the decline in album sales – leading a number of rappers to have even less money to stunt with.

That is, rappers who haven’t created a catchy dance tune that sells lots and lots of ringtones.

According to the report, rappers hoping to keep up their appearance have started asking jewelers to make their chains with less expensive stones and metals. Some have even started replacing their diamonds with cubic zirconia.

In other words, your favorite rapper may be wearing pieces from the Joan Rivers Jewelry collection in their videos.

This helps explain why Louie Vuitton wrote that letter to XXL informing the editors that (Officer) Rick Ross was wearing fake LV shades on a recent cover for the magazine.

And why whispers about rappers wearing fake chains that have grown louder and louder in recent months.

I’ve always found the idea of the few rappers who actually do make money from music spending it on jewels to compete with the likes of Queen Elizabeth and Elizabeth Taylor to be ridiculous. But hey, it’s their advance money, not mine.

Who am I to tell them how to spend it?

Unfortunately, with “fake being the new real” defining the mentality of many in mainstream hip-hop, don’t anticipate many any of these struggling rappers to fess up about wearing jewelry that might give you a rash (no offense, Joan, I mean the flea market pieces) anytime soon.

Gregory Lewis, who writes under the moniker “Doggie Diamonds (The Interview King),” told the Wall Street Journal: “You gotta understand, it is every rapper's fear to be exposed as a fraud. If you admit you wear fake jewelry, it is over for you. It's like bragging you drive a Lamborghini when you really drive a Toyota.”

Alas, for those of you who enjoy pseudo drug cartels spitting rhymes about their money, cars, clothes, girls, and mafia fantasies, don’t fret. Rappers are determined to continue selling fantasies to impressionable youth and gullible adults for years to come.

They’ll just be pretending a little harder now.