THE RAP ON EYEWEAR: On the list of character traits shared by rap artists, few entries are higher than an obsession with proving street cred and a penchant for conspicuous consumption. The Miami rapper Rick Ross seemed to be going by the playbook when XXL magazine dedicated most of its May cover to his face and what appeared to be a pair of Louis Vuitton Millionaire sunglasses. His picture sat above the pull quote, “I’ve never had a credibility problem and still don’t.” Lawyers for Louis Vuitton Malletier disagreed this week, at least with regard to Ross’ taste in accessories. On Monday, the magazine’s Web site published a letter from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton attorney Michael Pantalony, who said the sunglasses Ross wore in the photo were counterfeit, denied any affiliation with the rapper or XXL and added, “Louis Vuitton did not grant permission to Mr. Ross or to whoever did make the sunglasses to use our trademarks.” Ross’ publicist did not return a call requesting comment, but Los Angeles-based sunglass customizer Jacob Bernstein on Tuesday said he had added 14-karat gold accents to real Vuitton frames at the rapper’s request. Bernstein compared his trade to adding after-market parts to a Rolls-Royce. A representative for LVMH said the company would not comment beyond the letter.
This is not the first time the now-discontinued Millionaires have graced the cover of the magazine. Jay-Z appeared on the December 2007 issue in an authentic, or at least off-the-rack, pair. His frames, which retailed for $1,120, lacked a gold LV logo on the bridge. It’s also not the first time Ross, born William Leonard Roberts, has had his bona fides checked. The ill-placed quote on the May cover referred to the revelation last year that the rapper — who once boasted in rhyme that Manuel Noriega owed him “a hundred favors” — worked as a Florida corrections officer in the Nineties. The scandal did not stop his third album from topping the Billboard 200 when it made its debut in April. — Matthew Lynch