For many people, tattoos are a way of expression, an extension of the self. But for rapper Lil Durk, his ink is more than just decoration- he’s telling the world what he thinks about his city and its people.
Lil Durk, a 20-year-old rapper from Chicago, has come out of the shadows with a huge following- who support him for his provocative music. But it’s his controversial tattoos that have garnered more attention. They’re visceral and pointed, a rebuttal to the people he feels are killing his city- and its people.
“I’m only 20, but I remember being 15 and 16 years old growing up in the City,” he says. “And I remember how the city didn’t seem like it was headed in the right direction.”
He says he doesn’t know specifically what he’s against, but his tattoos are a reflection of what he thinks is wrong with the city. “I’m going against everything that’s been going on in Chicago,” he says. “My people aren’t being treated right, and that’s something I feel like every kid born in Chicago should be fighting for. ”
Lil Durk’s tattoos are shocking, violent, and sometimes disturbing- they cover much of his body, and he has more in the works. Some have drawn criticism from observers who think they overstep the boundaries of good taste and decency to get the point across. But Lil Durk says he’s not a role model. He says his music is true to life, something people can relate to, but he isn’t trying to be a positive influence on anyone. “I’m not here to change anybody,” he says. “I’m not trying to be somebody to talk about what’s going on in their life. I’m just doing it for myself.”
His tattoos, and the words he’s come up with to describe them, range in meaning. One tattoo reads ‘Your city is dying,’ another says ‘Illest,’ while one large one on his chest bears a picture of the Emancipation Memorial in Jackson Park. The tattoo depicts a man throwing a brick onto a pile of firewood and reads, ‘The south side is burning.