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Hip-hop has never been shy about its penchant for all things flashy. In the golden age, rappers like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick wore blinding rope chains and thick knuckle rings. In the 1990s, Diddy and Ma$e sported attention-grabbing shiny suits in the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” video. And, in the 2000s, the rise of Dirty South rap popularized gold-, platinum- and even diamond- encrusted grills.

These days, however, the pretentiousness once represented by gaudy jewelry and fancy outfits has seen another transformation, one that is less obvious but equally provocative, as sneakers with metallic finishes and high-gloss coatings become more and more popular in urban circles.

“The first thing that people notice, especially when you’re onstage, is your shoe game,” says the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo, one of the many artists who have embraced the look. “Everybody wants to shine, espe- cially in the hip-hop community, where a lot of cats come from inner cities. When you get a little bit of money, fame and recognition, you want to shine—whether it’s with shoes, icy watches or grills.”

Traditionally, Nike’s Air Jordan 11s, with their trademark patent-leather finish, and Foamposites, such as the recent super-limited “Galaxy” edition, were the main shiny footwear options available. But in the past year, high-end and streetwear brands have also introduced flashier footwear. Now, fashion-

conscious MCs like Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes and Diddy have turned to lines such as Christian Louboutin, Supra, Radii and Maison Martin Margiela for kicks in eye-popping golds and silvers and reflective sheens.

For veteran stylist June Ambrose, the vision- ary responsible for putting Diddy and Ma$e in the aforementioned shiny suits, it’s a no-brainer to connect anything garish in fashion with the world of rap—the move down to sneakers is a natural progression.

“You tend to associate flashiness with money and hip-hop culture in general,” she says. “For example, the flashiness of the [shiny] suits coincides with the theme and music [of “Mo Money, Mo Problems”], and Bad Boy Records was about living that lifestyle.”

A decade-and-a-half later, it’s still bling- bling. —Safra Ducreay