Tupac’s tattoos: what each of the legend's tattoos meant

Tupac’s tattoos: what each of the legend's tattoos meant

Tupac is a prominent American rapper and songwriter. He is among the most influential and successful rappers and African-American music artists of all time. Tupac is known for using his music to fight against oppression and inequality. The prominent rapper had several tattoos that reflect significant milestones and personal beliefs. Here are Tupac’s tattoos and the story behind each.

Tupac’s Makaveli (L), 50 Niccaz and Thug Life (C), and Exodus tattoos (R)
The legendary rapper Tupac’s Makaveli tattoo (L), 50 Niccaz and Thug Life (C), and Exodus tattoos (R). Photo: @2pac_thelegend, @chimodu on Instagram, @NathiTwala4 on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC


The rapper’s prominent songs include Too Many Tears, Can’t C Me, Runnin, and How Long Will They Mourn Me? Tupac's tattoos are deeply symbolic, reflecting his complex personality, struggles, beliefs, and commitment to social justice.

Tupac's tattoos and meanings

The late American rapper has over sixteen known tattoos. What do Tupac tattoos mean? Explore Tupac’s tattoo photos below, alongside their unique meanings.

1. 'Thug life' tattoo

Thug life tattoo
Tupac's 'Thug life' tattoo. Photo: Raymond Boyd (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

This tattoo across his abdomen represents the American rapper’s philosophy about the systemic oppression faced by African-American people. He tries to show how the oppression affects the community from a young age, perpetuating cycles of violence and poverty.

Read also

AMVCA 2024: Funke Akindele, 2 others whose losses were unforeseen

2. 2Pac

2Pac inking
Tupac’s left side tattoo. Photo: @PacForLif3 on Facebook (modified by author)
Source: UGC

'2Pac' is on his chest's left side. It showcases his identity as a music industry artist. The musical artist got the tattoo in 1989.

3. Black panther design

Tupac's Black Panther
Tupac's Black Panther arm tattoo. Photo: Raymond Boyd, @allinhiphop on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Before garnering fame, he was known as The Black Prince at home, as people viewed him as the leader of the new panthers. His parents, Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland, and other relatives were members of the Black Panther Party. This party, established on 15 October 1966, aimed to safeguard African Americans and ensure justice for them in all areas.

4. Makaveli

2Pac's Makaveli tattoo
2Pac's Makaveli tattoo on his neck. Photo: @2pac_thelegend on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The legendary rapper created the alias “Makaveli” after Renaissance Italian philosopher and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, whose writings inspired him in prison. His inspiration from the Italian Philosopher made him release his 5th studio album, “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory,” under his alternative stage name.

5. Tupac's '2.DIE.4' tattoo

Tupac's '2.DIE.4' tattoo
Tupac's tattoo 2 die 4 on his chest. Photo: @NathiTwala4 on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The 2.DIE.4 tattoo was written beneath the portrait of Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen and Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten.

Read also

J Cole, Kelly Rowland and 4 popular foreign artists who have sampled or Interpolated Nigerian songs

Nefertiti symbolises strong Black women and may also reference Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, whom he often called a Black Queen. The "2.DIE.4" tattoo is believed to refer to his 1993 song Something 2 Die 4 (Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z...).

6. Only God Can Judge Me

The 'Only God Can Judge Me' tattoo is among 2Pac’s tattoos located on his arm. This ink is next to a Jesus-like portrait with a crown of thorns before a burning cross. The musical artist believed that only a higher power could judge his actions and choices, a belief reflected in his 1996 song Only God Can Judge Me (All Eyez On Me) featuring Rappin’ 4-Tay.

7. 'Outlaw' tattoo on the left forearm

Outlaw ink on left forearm
2Pac's Outlaw ink on left forearm. Photo: @2pac_thelegend on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The Outlaw tattoo is an acronym for "Operating Under Thug Laws As Warriors." It signifies the hip-hop group 2Pac, founded in late 1995, shortly after his release from prison.

Read also

20 iconic rappers with dreads to inspire your locs journey

The hip-hop group, initially called Outlawz, was officially known as Outlaw Immortalz. Therefore, this ink symbolises Tupac’s loyalty to his crew and his rebellious nature against societal norms.

8. Be ambitious with love while young

"Be ambitious with love while young" tattoo
The "Be ambitious with love while young" tattoo is on his right shoulder. Photo: @chimodu on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

One of his lesser-known pieces is the tattoo "Be Ambitious with Love While Young" on his right shoulder. It features a skull surrounded by cash and a scale, with the phrase "Be Ambitious with Love While Young" inked next to it. This tattoo represents his belief in living life passionately and fully, particularly in youth.

9. Skull and crossbones with "heartless/my only fear of death is coming back reincarnated"

Skull and crossbones with heartless/my only fear of death is coming back reincarnated tattoo
Skull and crossbones with "heartless/my only fear of death is coming back" reincarnated tattoo on his right arm. Photo: @2pac_thelegend on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

This tattoo, located on his right upper arm, combines a skull and crossbones with the words "Heartless" and the phrase "My only fear of death is coming back reincarnated." It conveys Tupac's contemplation of mortality, his fear of an afterlife cycle, and his hardened outlook on life due to his struggles.

Read also

33 best British rappers that should be on your radar

10. Notorious

The rapper's Notorious forearm tattoo
The rapper's Notorious forearm tattoo. Photo: @2pac_thelegend on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

This tattoo reads "Notorious" on his right forearm. Many believe this design accompanies the Outlaw tattoo to read “Notorious Outlaw”. It reflects Tupac’s recognition of his infamous status in the public eye and acceptance of the notoriety of his controversial life and career.


BALLIN tatt on his lower back
Tupac’s BALLIN tattoo on his lower back. Photo: @chimodu on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Ballin is a slang used in the black community to describe someone who lives a lavish, flashy, or extravagant lifestyle. Tupac had this design on his lower back. It refers to his tenth track, Str8 Ballin, from his album Thug Life: Volume 1 (1994).

12. 50 NIGGAZ

50 NIGGAZ Tupac tattoo
Tupac's 50 NIGGAZ tattoo symbolises unity. Photo: @NathiTwala4 on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: Twitter

The legendary rapper had a “50 NiGGAZ” ink that symbolised black unity. This tattoo features an AK-47 with “50 NIGGAZ” written on top of it. Tupac believed that if one black person from every state joined together with him, they would be stronger than an AK-47.

The "50 NIGGAZ" tatt symbolises Tupac’s vision of 50 states united by strong, empowered Black individuals overcoming systemic oppression and racism. He got this tattoo with his stepbrother, Maurice “Mopreme,” and Dana Smith, also known as Mouse Man.

Read also

33 most popular rappers right now: biggest names in the industry


This tattoo on his inner arm reflects Tupac's wariness and mistrust, which he developed throughout his life due to betrayals and tumultuous experiences in his career and personal life.

14. EXODUS 1831

EXODUS 1831 tattoo
2Pac's EXODUS 1831 tattoo. Photo: @allinhiphop on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The "EXODUS 1831" tattoo is often mistaken as a reference to the Bible's book of Exodus, with 18 as the chapter number and 31 as the verse. However, this is incorrect, as Exodus chapter 18 has only 27 verses, making Exodus 18:31 nonexistent.

This ink could be inspired by the heroic courage of Nat Turner, an enslaved African-American who led a two-day rebellion of enslaved people and freed the blacks in Southampton County, Virginia, on 21 August 1831. The Tupac Cross symbolises many concepts, including faith, divinity, injustice, the struggle against corruption, and human rights advocacy.


2Pac's ‘SMILE NOW’ AND ‘CRY LATER’ tattoo on his back. Photo: @DecodeMagi on X (Twitter) (modified by author)
Source: UGC

The American rapper had a happy face mask tattoo on the left side of his back; under it, it says “Smile now,” and a sad face mask tattoo on the right side; below, it says “Cry later.” This design represents the duality of life’s experiences—putting on a brave face now despite hardships, knowing that sorrow or challenges may come later.

Read also

33 popular 80s wrestlers who will remind you of the good old days

16. DADA

The legendary rapper also had a "DADA” tattoo on his inner left forearm. Many believe this ink was a dedication to Tupac Shakur’s fiance, Kidada Jones. She is the daughter of the legendary jazz musician and record producer Quincy Jones Jr., and the ink serves as a token of Tupac’s love for her.

What is the cross on Tupac's back?

Tupac’s large cross tattoo on his back reflects his deep spirituality. The cross symbolises Christianity, representing faith, sacrifice, and redemption. For Tupac, it symbolises his spiritual beliefs and sense of being judged and redeemed only by a higher power.

What is Tupac a symbol of?

Tupac was among the top-selling artists of all time. He has become an icon symbolising the struggles and resilience of the black community. His work reflects the realities of life in urban America and touches on themes of survival, identity, and community.

Read also

33 best white rappers: most famous rap artists of all time

When did Tupac get the Makaveli tattoo?

The legendary rapper got the Makaveli tattoo in 1996 after he was released from prison in 1995 and signed with Death Row Records.

The prominent Tupac's tattoos offered glimpses of his complex personality, deep-seated beliefs, and struggles throughout his life. These tattoos are eye-catching and have unique stories behind each design.

Legit.ng recently published an exciting post about spider tattoo meanings, history, and beautiful design ideas. Spider tattoos offer a bold and captivating aesthetic appeal and hold significant symbolism in body art and tattoo subcultures.

Spider tattoos can be designed in various styles, from realistic to abstract, incorporated into larger tattoo designs or used as standalone symbols. Read on to discover some common meanings associated with various spider tattoo designs.

Source: Legit.ng

Brian Oroo avatar

Brian Oroo (Lifestyle writer) Brian Oroo has been working as a writer in Legit.ng since 2021. His main area of specialization is on topics regarding lifestyle, celebrities, news, and many more. He won the Writer of the Year Award on Legit in 2023. Brian graduated with a Bsc. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Jomo Kenyatta University (JKUAT) in 2021. In 2023, Brian finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. His email is brianoroo533@gmail.com

Online view pixel