Tattoos are deep. No matter what fad may come and go, this art is for life. They have also become an addictive part of hip-hop. Rappers love to ink their skin in the name of art. They use their voices as their form of expression, so why not wear it as well? It just gives us a more visual aspect of their perspective. Sometimes we love their ink, and then there are times we don’t really care for it. It’s their body, yet what they put on it captures our attention.
With the right tattoo, it can become a phenomenon. Art lovers will replicate it. The media will critique it. Fans even get their favorite rapper’s name tattooed on them, as to say they will be a part of their lives.
Many in hip-hop have amazing (and insane) ink. From Damon Dash to Gucci Mane, we identify the pieces with the individual itself. So here at Soul Train, we pay tribute to the artists with “The Greatest Tattoos in Hip-Hop”.
Remember, this is just our thoughts folks….just what we’re feeling.
Rihanna – “Thug Life”
There’s no doubt that Rihanna loves tattoos. From the gun on her ribs to “Shhh…” displayed on her finger (and many more), she’s no stranger to ink. After a day of tweeting about Tupac, Rihanna went back to her tattoo artist, BangBang, and got “Thug Life” tatted on her knuckles.
Tupac – “Thug Life”
When we think of the late, great artist, his music, words, and legacy come to mind. Yet when we remember Tupac, the“Thug Life” tattoo across his abdomen also tends to come with it. That memorable tattoo spoke volumes about the usually shirtless rapper as few knew it stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**cks Everybody”.
Method Man – “Life/Death”
Method Man’s ambigram “Life/Death” tattoo is one of the most admired and replicated in the hip-hop culture. Courtesy of popular tattoo artist, Mister Cartoon, portraying “Life” one way and “Death” in another is the simplest way to explain our beings
Eve was the first lady of Ruff Ryders and the first rapstress to begin the “dog paw phenomenon” in the early 2000s. Don’t act like you didn’t know somebody with them after the Philly rapper did it.
50 Cent – “Southside”
If you don’t know who 50 Cent is or where he’s from, just take a look at the rapper’s back. He dons the large tattoo scribing “50 Cent” and “Southside” on his back because “I’m a product of my environment”. But 50 also says, “It’s on my back though, so it’s all behind me”.
DMX – “One Love Boomer”
OK, I will be the first to admit that it’s not the nicest tattoo, but DMX loved his pit-bull, Boomer. They were partners-in-crime back in the day and the fact that the rapper would rock his tribute for the pit-bull on his entire back shows some real love. Tattoos don’t have to be pretty; they just have to be real and represent you. DMX did that.
Lloyd Banks – “Rotten Apple”
When Lloyd Banks was about to release his second album, Rotten Apple, he wanted something to mark this milestone. So he sought Miami Ink’s tattoo artist extraordinaire Chris Garver. The result, documented on the TLC show, resulted in Banks’ Rotten Apple tattoo, “an intricate city scene that represents the best and worst ofNew York”.
LL Cool J – Microphone
LL Cool J has been in this game for over 2 decades. He deserves to have a microphone with a crown tatted on his arm. His tattoo also sparked his rivalry with Canibus. In the song “4, 3, 2”, Canibus rapped, “Yo L, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that”. LL let the wordsmith know, “You don’t wanna borrow that, you wanna idolize / And you don’t wanna make me mad, you wanna socialize”.
Lil’ Wayne – “Fear God”
Lil’Wayne’s body has become a canvas for his art, but the most notable one has to be the script on his eyelids. On one eyelid is “Fear”. The other eyelid states “God”. Everyone has their own thoughts of what this represents, but only Weezy F. Baby knows that story…and perhaps Birdman as well.
Beyonce and Jay-Z’s matching tattoos of “IV” (their wedding day)
Jermaine Dupri’s tattoo of Janet Jackson
Nas’ tattoo of Kelis
— Zoey Flowers