Tattoos, in their essence, are a 2,000-year-old form of self-expression that in the past 10-20 years have become increasingly popular. No longer are tattoos used to identify oneself in a native tribe or are they reserved for rebels and rock and roll enthusiasts.
My cousin, your best friend and maybe you yourself have at least one to ten tattoos: according to a 2006 poll conducted by Pew Research, 36% of those aged 18-35 and 40% of those aged 26-40 have at least one tattoo. So what to do when tattooing an arm, a torso or a leg becomes a bit passé? A new, yet atypical trend has emerged: face tattoos.
To be fair, face tattoos also stretch back 2,000 years but the purpose was to identify oneself with a tribe. And since most tattoos – wherever they may be on the body – usually symbolize something meaningful, in today’s world, what is the meaning of tattooing your face, especially in our community and in hip-hop?
Don’t get me wrong, the tiny teardrops on Lil’ Wayne’s face weren’t too distracting to look at and can be forgiven because they are supposed to be in remembrance of loved ones who were murdered (although since then he as added many more to his face). And the first celebrity with a shocking face tattoo was Mike Tyson, but were you seriously surprised?
Besides teardrops, rappers with face tattoos run the gamut of the Game’s butterfly turned L.A. Dodgers logo to the silliest of them all, Gucci Mane’s triple-scoop ice cream cone with lightening bolts striking it. Given any explanation, the tattoo doesn’t make any sense. I love Oreos, but I will never cover half of my face with two or three of them and add a rainbow just because.
T.I.’s former artist, Yung L.A. who recently got a duck tattooed on his face to represent Duct Tape Entertainment, explained the reason to XXL magazine:
“That tattoo just comes from something in the city. I know a lot of people from Zone 6 and the people from Zone 6 – their whole movement is called Duct Tape and I just had been really getting up with these guys. There’s so many cliques in Atlanta and I just wanted to be the Robin Hood, I just wanted to be the guy that could have relationships with everybody in the city.”
A tattoo of a duck shouldn’t foster a relationship with a community, giving something back, say teaching aspiring rappers how to create an entertainment company would be more meaningful than a tattoo.
Although the ice cream and the duck tattoos are nonsensical, the worst of them all is from the nameless man with the Gucci print tattoo covering an entire half of his face. If and when Gucci becomes no longer cool to buy, wear, or even look at, he will (almost) permanently have the logo embossed on his face. And because it is a brand, what if Gucci decides to sue him for copyright infringement? He will have a scar on his face that will look worse than the tattoo already does.
Above all, I do believe tattoos should be a form of expression and everyone has a choice of how they want to express themselves with tattoos – even if that is on their face. Not everyone will become a lawyer or doctor, but if a young adult follows the trend before they decide what career path they want to take, their chances greatly decrease of holding a job in the corporate world or that are in a professional setting because they have a visible tattoo that can’t be covered with long sleeves and pants.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about getting a tattoo in the near future and if the process isn’t too painful, possibly adding more. They will of course be below the neck, only visible if I decide to wear clothes that display them and each will have a true meaning – not profess my love for a brand that has no idea who I am or represent a community I belong to when there are better ways to do that, like giving back.