The Real Meaning Behind Tupac's 'Thug Life' Tattoo

Most of us are familiar with Tupac Shakur's various tattoos - with some mega-fans even attempting to emulate his famous inking - yeah, probably the less said about that the better. But what you might not know, is that his iconic 'Thug Life' tattoo actually had a hidden meaning.

In an interview, Tupac said THUG LIFE was actually an acronym standing for 'The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone'.


So despite the moral panic and the media at the time slamming the rapper for glamourising violence and being a 'thug'; the message was actually a warning: if we continue to bring up children in a negative environment, surrounded by racism, violence and oppression then the cycle will just continue.

Dennis 'Dago' Coelho, the tattoo artist who worked on Tupac, told The Source that when it came to choosing his ink, "It had to have a meaning and be something nobody had. Every tattoo meant something to him."

Speaking in 1994, Tupac said: "I don't consider myself to be straight militant. I'm a thug, and my definition of thug comes from half of the street element and half of the Panther element, half of the independence movement.


via GIPHY

"Saying we want self-determination. We want to do it by self-defense and by any means necessary. That came from my family and that's what thug life is. It's a mixture."

He added: "When I say 'thug' I mean, not criminal or someone that will beat you over the head, I mean the underdog. I mean someone who goes out there and succeeds who has overcame all obstacles."

Since his death, the Thug Life philosophy has continued - Rihanna has the phrase tattooed on her finger and the phrase is still used in hip-hop culture.

Angie Thomas, author of best selling book The Hate U Give, which is being turned into a movie, told Cosmo: "When we were trying to figure out a title for the book, I came across a YouTube clip of him discussing THUG LIFE.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"When I when I saw him explain what it means, it hit me that that's not just in my book, but that's what we see in society.

"When these unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they've been given screws us all. We see it in the form of anger and we see it in the form of riots. So when I saw that in the video, it was like a sign."

Featured Image Credit: Paramount

Claire Reid

Claire Reid is a journalist at LADbible. Claire graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a BA in journalism. She’s previously worked at Trinity Mirror. Since joining LADbible, Claire has worked on pieces for the UOKM8? mental health campaign, the Yemen crisis, life in the Calais Jungle as well as a profile of a man who is turning himself into a cyborg.

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