Tupac’s Tattoos

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The outspoken nature of Tupac was also evident in the ink he wore on his skin. Messages of his faith and spiritual station could be found in the burning Christ on the cross on Tupac’s left bicep beside the quote – ”Only God Can Judge Me”, most noted tattoo the ”Thug Life” on his stomach and the acronym it stood for'( The Hate U Give Little Infants Fuck Everybody) – goes misinterpreted by his detractors to this day.

(1) “Makaveli” (wrote on his neck)tupac tattoo front
(2) Neferetiti with: “2 Die 4″ wrote underneath
(3) “2PAC
(4) A Skull
(5) Skull And Crossbones with: “Heartless” written above
(6) “Notorious” on forearm
(7) The now famous “Thug Life” across his stomach, the “i” is replaced with a bullet
(8) AK-47 with: “50 Niggaz” (representing all niggaz in all 50 states)
(9) A Black Panther, to show respect to his families ties to the Black Panthers
(10) Jesus on burning cross in crown of thorns with: “Only God Can Judge Me
(11) “Outlaw” representing his group

12) A Cross, with the bible verse “Exodus 18:11″, which reads: “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.”tupac tattoo back
(13) Face with “Smile Now” written below
(14) “Ballin
(15) Crown with “Boss Playaz
(16) “Fuck The World” across shoulders
(17) Face with “Cry Later” written below
(18) “MOB” on back of his right arm. Representing ‘Money Over Bitches’

(19) ”DADA” tattoo on his inner left forearm.

1. 2Pac

Left side of his chest

Tupac was 18 years old, he got his first tattoo, a simple “2Pac” inscription on his left chest.

Meaning: In 1989, at the age of eighteen, Tupac got his very first tattoo. He had ‘2PAC’ tattooed on the left of his chest. Born Lesane Parish Crooks, Afeni renamed him after the last Incan ruler, Tupac Amaru II. With this being his first stage name, it was inevitable that he would put it on his body.

2. Nefertiti 2 Die 4

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Right chest

This chest piece, Queen Nefertiti, symbolizes black grace and excellence and represents his love for his mother Afeni Shakur. Queen Nefertiti is a symbol for strong women. The text comes from the lyric above in his song ‘Something 2 Die 4’ – “You know what my momma used to tell me. If ya can’t find something to live for…. then you BEST, find something ta die for” – from ”Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z…” album.

3. 50 Niggaz

Below chest

50 Niggaz: 50 Niggaz stands for 1 black from every state of the USA, all them niggaz would be stronger than every weapon, if they would be united. This tattoo specifically symbolized black unity. Tupac believed that if one black person from every state joined together with him, they’d be stronger than an AK-47. In his song ”Holla at me” from “All eyez on me” album, Tupac sang “I want members across tha fifty states”. He got this tattoo done with his stepbrother, Maurice “Mopreme” and Dana Smith aka Mouse Man.

Tupac’s most famous tattoo, on his abs, reads “Thug Life.” Directly above it is another one, which reads “50 Niggaz.” Those are both social movements, and the latter inspired the former.  “50 represented states,” Mopreme said. “If we had one good nigga in every state, we could accomplish anything.” 50 Niggaz developed and morphed into Thug Life, he went on, adding that when their friend Big Kato was murdered in 1993, it set Thug Life into overdrive. “It was really supposed to be about saving thugs’ lives,” Mopreme added. “A lot of people got the message, but a whole lot didn’t.”

4. Thug Life


Tupac got his “Thug Life” tattoo in December, 1992 at Dago’s Tattoo in Houston. ‘THUG LIFE’ – an acronym for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody’ is the most recognizable tattoo in music. ‘”Inside my mind, couldn’t find a place to rest. Until I got that THUG LIFE tatted on my chest.” -2Pac

The “I” in “Life” was replaced with a bullet. In late 1993, Tupac formed the group called Thug Life with a number of his friends, including Big Syke (Tyruss Himes), Macadoshis (Diron Rivers), his stepbrother Mopreme Shakur, and the Rated R (Walter Burns). The group released their only album Thug Life: Volume 1 on September 26, 1994, which went gold.

5. Celtic cross and Exodus 1831

Right below his neck

Tupac had a massive Cross tattoo on his whole back which has the shape of a Celtic cross. The tattoo artist Dennis “Dago” Coelho told in an interview that Tupac came to him and asked for a symbol on his back that he could take with him for the rest of his life and ended up having the cross tattoo which is often referred as Tupac cross. He had the words “Exodus 1831” tattooed inside the cross. Among the fans there are two possible meanings of Tupac’s EXODUS 1831 tattoo. One group believes that it refers to a verse from the bible. But the problem with that theory is that in the bible, chapter 18 finishes with Verse 27 so Exodus verse 18:31 is non-existent.

The other group believes that Tupac was inspired by the heroic courage of Nat Turner an African-American slave who led a two-day rebellion of slaves and freed the blacks in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831. The rebellion caused the death of approximately sixty white men, women and children. Whites organized militias and called out regular troops to suppress the uprising. In addition, white militias and mobs attacked blacks in the area, killing an estimated 120, many of whom were not even involved in the revolt. Nat turner was later captured and hanged.

The meaning of Exodus is a mass departure of people. Tupac Cross represents many things like faith, god, injustice, fight against corruption and human rights.

Exodus 18:31

6. Fuck the world

Right below his neck

Tattoo on the back of his shoulders read “Fuck the world”, one of the tracks from his third studio album “Me against the world” released on March 1995. He expressed raw anger on “Fuck the World” and that was his message when he felt the whole world was conspiring against him. Tupac’s life was full of ups and down, so he got inked FUCK THE WORLD tattoo on his back to express his anger towards everyone.


7. ‘Smile now’ and ‘Cry later’

Left and Right of his back

Tupac had a happy face mask tattoo on the left side of his back, under it says “smile now” and a sad face mask tattoo on the right side of his back, below it says “cry later”. The masks are also known as the Comedy and the Tragedy masks derived from the symbols used in ancient Greek theater. The tattoos represent the good and bad times in life.

On Scarface’s song “Smile”, Tupac said: “There’s gonna be some stuff that you’re gonna see / That’s gonna make it hard to smile in the future / But whatever you see / Through all the rain and pain / You gotta keep a sense of humor / Gotta be able to smile through all this bullshit. “.  

‘Smile now’ and ‘Cry later’

8. Ballin

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Lower back

Ballin is a word often used and heard as a slang, especially in the black community. It is originated from the term ‘having a ball’. Tupac had this tattoo on his lower back. This tattoo is the tenth track ”Str8 Ballin” from his album Thug Life: Volume 1(1994), in which he rapped, “I would share the definition of ballin’ with you white folks, but now the game is to be sold not told so fuck y’all.”

9. Panther Head

Top of left Arm

Tupac had inked a black panther head on his left arm. Panther tattoos are basically sign of power and strength. Tupac had inked black panther head on his left arm as a tribute to The Black Panther Party, in which his mother Afeni Shakur was an active member. The Black Panther Party was founded on October 15, 1966 with the aim of protecting black people and giving them justice in every field. Many members of Shakur family were involved in this party, some of whom were even imprisoned for serious criminal offenses, including his mother Afeni Shakur.

”All Eyez Оn Мe” Album Photo Shoot by Ken Nahoum / Edge Film

10. Jesus on burning cross in crown of thorns with: “Only God Can Judge Me” 

Tupac had got Jesus on burning cross tattoo with a text ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ on th left side of his arm. He believed that he was answerable to only God and no one else in this world. He also has a song titled ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ from the album ‘All Eyez On Me‘(1996) featuring Rappin’ 4-Tay.

11. Outlaw

Left Arm

Outlaw can be defined as a person who is excluded from the benefit or protection of the law. It is an acronym of ‘Operating Under Thug Laws As Warriors’. This tattoo represents Tupac’s hip hop rappers group which he formed in late 1995 right after he got released from prison. This group called Outlawz was officially known as Outlaw Immortalz and Dramacydal.

12. Be Ambitious With Love While Young 

Upper Right arm

Tupac’s right shoulder tattoo explained…(this tattoo is located above the Heartless skull tattoo.) .Tupac was saying that while he’s young he wants to be ambitious with love using both ambition and love to catapult his success.The writing says “Be Ambitious with Love while young” in cursive…The scale at the bottom looks to represent both youth and fortune as you can see gold in the right scale and a baby infant in the left scale…the scale are being held up by money tied to the goon as it is a balance of “life and fortune” “young and fortunate” or young and successful”,the skull goon has a beanie on his head with a sideways dollar sign “$” on the front which could mean “head of currency” hence the goon being the vicious hustler for money.There is also a worn bandanna over the skull goon’s mouth…Tupac had a true philosophy about being successful while young.This is the tattoo 2pac fans spent many years wondering about.On the right next to the actual photo is a 100% accurate illustration of Tupac’s right shoulder tattoo…On the left is a cropped up close photo of Tupac’s actual right shoulder tattoo,they’re brought side by side to break down the tattoo description.

14. Skull and Crossbones with HEARTLESS / “My only fear of death is coming back reincarnated”.

Right side of his arm

Tupac had a Skull and Crossbones tattoo on his right shoulder. Above the Skull and Crossbones tattoo he had “HEARTLESS” written in the memory of his late friend “Strech” from the Live Squad – HEARTLESS. Under the Skull and Crossbones, he had a tattoo that read “My only fear of death is coming back reincarnated”.


Right forearm

The word notorious basically means famous for bad quality or deed. Tupac Shakur had inked the word notorious on his right forearm in an old English font. This tattoo was in the memory of his best friend Big Kato who was murdered in 1993.

16. MOB

Backside of the right arm

Tupac had “MOB” tattoo on the back of his right arm that stands for “Money over Bitches”.

The word mob means a large crowd of people usually get together to cause trouble and violence. Mob has many different acronyms but for Tupac, it meant ‘Money Over Bitches’ which he had described in his songs ‘Blasphemy’ (The Don Killuminati: the 7-day Theory,1996) and ‘MOB’ (Until the End of Time,2001). Later he described the word mob as ‘Money, Organization, and Business’.



 Inner right forearm

Tupac had a 7-point crown tattoo on his right forearm that said “Trust Nobody”. The crown is a traditional symbol of immortality. Tupac became quite paranoid, especially after being shot at the Quad Studios in New York in November 1994. He was convinced that it was a set-up by the people that were close to him. On All Eyez On Me’s ‘Holla at Me’, he rapped: “When me and you was homies / No one informed me / It was all a scheme / You infiltrated my team / And sold a nigga dreams / How could you do me like that?”.

Tattoo Studio: Andy Neville’s Tattoo Asylum on October 27, 1995, Venice Beach

2Pac getting his Trust Nobody tattoo
2Pac getting his Trust Nobody tattoo | Colorized by TruthAboutTupac.com

18. Makaveli

Right side of his neck

Tupac had “Makaveli” tattooed on his neck. Tupac released his 5th studio album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” under his alternative stage name Makaveli. Tupac created the alias “Makaveli” from Renaissance Italian philosopher and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, whose writings inspired him in the prison.

Machiavelli, a political theorist from Italy, wrote the book in the 1500s with the work of his is to be the first works of modern philosophy. Writing about how you can get an advantage over your enemies and political tactics to deceive, Machiavelli paved the way in philosophy. Loving the way he viewed topics, ‘Pac analysed the life and writings of Machiavelli. His first posthumous album was released under the alias Makaveli.


19. Boss Playaz

Back of his neck

2Pac tattooed ‘Boss Playaz’ on the back of his neck along with a three-point crown. On the A three-point crown with the text “Boss Playaz”. For Tupac, “boss playa” is the next level a “thug nigga” should try to reach. In an interview Tupac said, “Coming from the ghetto, our development as men begins with a dust kicker, a thug nigga then finally a boss playa. […] [Many] never survive the next level of Thug Life. […] He used the term in 1995 when writing to former publicising at Death Row, Nina Bhadreshwar, while in prison. In the letter he elaborated; “A Boss Playa is a thinker, a leader, a builder, a moneymaker, a Soulja, a teacher and most of all a man!”

20. DADA

Left arm

Tupac had inked this last tattoo on his inner left forearm. It is a crown with a word DADA under it. It was believed that this tattoo was dedicated by Tupac Shakur to his fiance, Kidada Jones, daughter of the legendary jazz musician and record producer Quincy Jones Jr. as a token of his love towards her.

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December 1, 2018 1:58 am

His cross tattoo reads “exodus 1831” and it represents Nat Turners rebellion in August 21-23 of that same year.


[…] Across the hall are examples of his other tattoos. For example, “50 N—az” refers to Shakur’s belief that if a black man from every state joined him, he and black people as a whole would be stronger […]


[…] Across the lobby are examples of his other tattoos. For instance, “50 N—az” referred to Shakur’s belief that if one Black person from every state joined with him that he, and Black folks as a whole, […]

April 21, 2023 9:42 pm

Weird mistake in your Nefertiti tattoo synopsis. Obviously Nefertiti was not “black.” She was Egyptian, with Egyptian features and an Egyptian skin tone (though that varies like the rest of North Africans, who are a Mediterranean people). “African” grace and excellence is the correct description, not “black.” Just as not all Europeans are pale and blonde and not all Asians have a light complexion with the same eye shape, not all indigenous Africans are black.

Patrick Cunningham
Patrick Cunningham
May 18, 2023 4:26 am

The Exodus tattoo is the same font as the Bob Marley album

January 17, 2024 8:07 pm

50 ni…z was a music group he was in very early off before his career got big.

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