Hip Hop Tattoos

Tattoos and Thug Livin'

Some people claim tattoos are being marketed primarily to a white Rock & Roll generation. Hip hop and R&B artists - from Tupac to 50 Cent to Eminem - have donned elaborate, detailed and beautiful tattoos even though tattoos are primarily associated with rock and bikers. Slain rapper Tupac Shakur illustrates how tattoos began to symbolize a 'gangsta' lifestyle in the tattoo he chose to put across his abdomen which read "THUG LIFE."

Hip hop and R&B artists are a kind of modern-day aristocracy. All you have to do is switch on MTV to find out how prevalent is their desire to be covered with tattoos. Rappers are both insiders and outsiders.  who is credited with sparking the modern interest in tattoos. The later popularity of punk rock and the gothic style is another big part of today's tattoo craze. Contemporary musicians from heavy metal bands to hip hop artists and R&B artists have all gotten in on the act.

Hip Hop Culture and Tattoos


"Since a tattoo to certain levels of society is the mark of a thug, it becomes also the sign of inarticulate revolt, often producing its only possible result: violence."

Its seems that things have changed since then but recently, more and more people are getting tattoos simply because they idolize certain rappers or R&B artists. According to a well known tattoo artist, "people want tattoos because they see them on rappers and R&B artists and figure it will look as good on them".

Rap artist Trick Daddy broke into the mainstream in 2001 with an album entitled "I'm a Thug". No one questioned his talent, but his image hardly matched that of other mainstream rappers. He certainly lived up to his thug billing, known as much for his rapping as his trademark omnipresent grimace, bald head, prickly whiskers and forearm tattoos. Nevertheless, thug or not, Trick Daddy became a national superstar, earning substantial mainstream airplay and has had a major influence on people copying his style.

Tattooing is becoming as much a part of hip-hop culture which is in turn slowly becoming part of mainstream culture and the MTV generation. Hopefully this will lead to the demise of negative stereotypes associated with both tattoos and hip hop culture.