Seven years ago, rapper Gucci Mane got a tattoo of an an ice cream cone, featuring the onomatopoeic “Brrr,” across the right side of his face. While he wasn’t the first to wear them, the cold-as-ice-(cream) artist has since become a pioneer of audacious face tattoos, and today, flashy facial ink is de rigueur among young rappers. 21 Savage has a dagger tattooed between his eyebrows; Post Malone wears the phrase “Always Tired” under his eyes; and the late Lil Peep sported the word “Crybaby” across his forehead.
But a different kind of face tattoo has become equally popular among the rap community: Many artists are choosing to permanently mark their bodies (and faces) with the literal faces of their friends. Late last year, Post Malone paid tribute to friend Lil Peep by tattooing a portrait of the fallen rapper on his arm. “This man was gonna fucking change music forever, and his music is gonna live on forever,” Malone told a TMZ reporter while rolling up his sleeve to show off the tattoo. “Rest in peace to Lil Peep. I love you to death.”
More mainstream rapper Drake, meanwhile, also has a tattoo of his buddy Lil Wayne, who helped the “Hotline Bling” artist launch his career by signing him to the Young Money record label in 2009. Drake’s tattoo collection features a memorial portrait of Anthony “Fif” Soares as well, a friend who died during a 2017 shooting in Toronto.
The sentiment behind many of these friend tattoos seems to be one of love and admiration; however, some young artists have also chosen to tattoo faces (albeit, not their friend’s faces) on them for less obvious reasons. Take rapper Arnold Gutierrez, who recently tattooed the image of Anne Frank across the side of his face. Here he is attempting to explain the meaning behind his tattoo on camera:
Welp. You do you, man.
While the reasons for getting a friend’s face tattooed seem to vary, Derrek Everette, a tattoo artist at Broken Art Tattoo in L.A., says that many of the men who come into his shop seeking such a tattoo have limited motives. “Most men in that type of situation are normally getting their friend’s face tattooed on them from either drunken nights or losing a bet,” he says. “I couldn’t really think of another situation, besides a memorial tattoo.”
Whatever the reason for permanently marking your skin with your buddy’s mug, we can expect to see more people sporting tattoos of their BFFs: Online retailers have begun selling customizable temporary tattoos that allow you to wear your friend’s face as a tattoo for a short period of time, which will almost certainly lead the way for more permanent versions.
That said, Marcus Lundqvist, a heavily-tattooed friend of mine (with an epic collection by world-famous tattooers) has a few words of advice for those thinking of joining the friendship tattoo crew: “You just need to make sure that the friendship will last,” he warns. “It would be awkward to have the face tattooed of someone who fucked your wife.”
I mean… he’s right.
But honestly, I can’t say that I’m opposed to the idea of more men getting their friend’s faces tattooed. If anything, maybe these friendship tattoos will actually help men maintain those relationships into their thirties for once.