Rihanna has raised a lot of eyebrows this week with her latest body modification: a tattoo that reads “Thug Life” , in honor of late hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur. While ‘Pac had the words emblazoned across his abdomen, Rihanna opted to write them across her knuckles in what appears to be glow-in-the-dark ink.
Say what you will about whether the pop princess is living the kind of rising-up-from-the-streets life Shakur was honoring by splashing the name of his crew across his stomach, but she joins a long list of musicians who’ve used body art to pay homage to fallen homeys or musical inspirations.
When hip-hip hookmaster Nate Dogg died last year, his old friend and collaborator Snoop Dogg had an image of Nate’s face with the legend “All Doggs Go to Heaven” written on his arm as a remembrance of the G-funk singer. And while Faith Evans once proudly bore a heart-shaped tattoo that read “B.I.G.” in honor of her then-husband Biggie Smalls. (After the couple split, however, she added some ink so it read “B.I.G. FAYE.”)
After his best friend and fellow D12 member was shot and killed in 2006, Eminem filled the space on his left forearm with a giant “Proof” tat encircled with flames. Fellow Detroit MC Kid Rock has the name of his former bandmate, Joe C., on his body as well, in honor of the hype man who passed away in 2000.
Drake got in the game last year when he reportedly added a portrait of late singer Aaliyah to his collection of back ink. Well before that, Nas paid a sideways tribute to Tupac with his “God’s Son” stomach piece, which paid homage to both the fallen MC and to Nasty Nas’ nickname.
But an artist doesn’t need to have passed on to get the tribute treatment, as evidenced by D12 member Bizarre’s love letter to Nicki Minaj, which he added to his collection last year in the form of a head shot of the female MC rocking blue hair. And while Game is no stranger to face-to-toe ink, he made a serious commitment in 2009 when he got the logo from producer/rapper Pharrell’s Star Trak label on his arm while he worked with Williams on his The R.E.D. Album.
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