By Andrew Gruttadaro and Hannah Giorgis
Drake now has a bottle of Drakkar Noir tattooed on his body. Feel free to mansplain to me how the ink is a reference to the days before Drake was Champagne Papi, when he was rapping about last slices of pizza and his Twitter handle was @DrakkardNoir. None of that historical context will change the fact that Aubrey Graham has a bottle of notoriously bad cologne — pop culture’s go-to scent for parodying masculinity — imprinted and awkwardly placed where his left bicep and collarbone meet. It’s the kind of tattoo that might make anyone who sees it feel embarrassed by association.
And it’s not even Drake’s worst tattoo. The rapper’s corporeal art collection — a total of 25 works — suffers from many of the foibles that afflict Drake himself. Some seem impetuous, others are far too in service of meme culture, and though almost all of them (admirably) have layers of meaning, they’re all over the place in terms of style. A pretty, well-designed hibiscus flower is located just centimeters away from a poor rendering of Drake’s dad’s mugshot, the “No Long Talk” into “Passionfruit” of tattoo design. Drake’s disparate interests are all incongruously slapped onto one palette — his body looks like the Trapper Keeper of a 10-year-old.
It’s still extremely important that we talk about the stickers on that Trapper Keeper, though. They’re the physical manifestation of the many forms and eras of Drake — the forlorn dweeb, the petty subtweeter, the unrepentant champion, the victim of “Needed Me” — revealing more about Aubrey than “Controlla” ever could. Also, it’s just really fun to try to suss out why Drake did this to his back.
Here, then, is two Ringer staffers’ very thorough ranking of Drake’s tattoos in a hierarchy of importance and aesthetic value:
25. The “Unruly” Flaming Skull
Andrew Gruttadaro: Almost as common as the Drake cosign verse is the Drake cosign tat. Whereas normal people might buy a T-shirt from an artist they support, Drake gets symbols of the ones he likes permanently drawn on his body. “OK, so is this tattoo an homage to Nic Cage’s 2007 film Ghost Rider?” you may be asking — to which I’d say, “No, but I do not blame you for thinking that!” It’s actually part of a Tattoo Exchange Program™ Drake has with dancehall artist/Unruly label ambassador, Popcaan. Around the same time Drake premiered Popcaan’s song “Unruly” on OVO Sound in November 2016, he got this tatted on his left bicep, while Popcaan got the OVO owl on his left forearm. That’s a nice little display of camaraderie — my friends and I certainly do not do this sort of thing, and now I wish we did — but no tale of friendship or brand partnership is going to erase that flaming skull. It looks exactly like one of those temporary tattoos you’d get out of a bubblegum machine for 25 cents when you were 5 years old.
24. The Drakkar Noir
Gruttadaro: One last thought about this tattoo: Why is it askew like this?! It’s like three degrees slanted, which, from a design standpoint, is extremely aggravating.
23. The Pumpkin
Gruttadaro: Allow me to blow your freaking mind about this gourd-related ink: Drake was born in October and is also the proprietor of a music label called October’s Very Own. Halloween is a holiday that occurs annually in October and is celebrated by the carving of pumpkins. BUT ALSO: “Pumpkin” in Spanish is “calabaza,” a word that sounds very much like Calabasas, the affluent California town where Drake posts. Pretty clever, huh? Yet all the double meanings in the world can’t make a jack-o’-lantern tattoo cool.
22. The Uncle and Grandmother
Hannah Giorgis: I’m sure Drake loves his family and I’m happy for him. But this shit is just plain creepy. The tattoos of his uncle and grandmother, following a trend in Drake’s permanent portraiture, look only vaguely like the people they are meant to represent. They stare at the viewer as though to warn of a haunting happening within the body of their host: Sure, we’re smiling, but that’s only because we’ve succeeded in taking over this vessel. Would you like to be next? No, I would not, and I would never like to look at these again either. Just get a family-reunion shirt like the rest of us, dweeb.
21. The BBK
Gruttadaro: The first entry in Drake’s Tattoo Exchange Program™, Drizzy traded a tat of BBK — short for “Boy Better Know,” the English grime collective headed by Skepta — on the front of his left shoulder for an OVO owl on Skepta’s body. If it turns out this tattoo is how Drake persuaded Skepta to drop the best verse on More Life, we’ll have to adjust these rankings. As it stands now, though, this is a woefully boring tattoo.
20. “Everything Happens for a Reason Sweet Thing”
Giorgis: Points docked entirely for not spelling it “ting.”
19. The Portrait of Drake’s Mom
Gruttadaro: Esteemed celeb tattoo blog PopStarTats initially thought this was a tattoo of Phoebe from Friends. ’Nuff said.
18. The Houston
Gruttadaro: “Like H-Town in the summertime, I keep it 100 / Met a lot of girls in my times there,” Drake rapped on 2013’s “Too Much.” It’s not the first time he’s referenced Houston in a song, but it’s the bar that best reflects his feelings of nostalgia for the city (mostly V Live, let’s be honest). So of course Drake has a Houston tattoo — it’s just kind of upsetting that he went with the Astros logo instead of, like, the skyline or a photo of Paul Wall. Isn’t Joey Bats annoyed by this?
17. The Face of Aaliyah
Giorgis: Drake’s well-documented obsession with Aaliyah, who died before ever having the chance to so much as tweet her opinion of Take Care (or before Twitter even existed, sadly), took an especially Swimfan-esque turn when he got her face tattooed on his body in December 2011. Drake is not that somebody, he has never been that somebody, and he never will be that somebody. Tat or not, Aubrey, Aaliyah still doesn’t know you.
16. The Eye (of Horus?)
Giorgis: This eye — used to cover Drake’s first CN Tower tat — is the body-art equivalent of Egyptian musk body oil. Perhaps an ill-fated attempt to absorb André 3000’s powers, this does nothing but maybe signal a vague connection to some kind of spirituality. Thick lines and off-kilter placement (common themes here) do little to offer the tat any sort of artistic finesse. Drake probably just wants you to know his third eye is open or remind you that he once had tea at Erykah Badu’s house.
15. The Fancier Prayer Hands
Gruttadaro: Before October 2015, Drake was an Apple guy — at least in terms of prayer hands. See, he already had the iPhone version of prayer hands on the inside of his right forearm, but then If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late–era Drake had to get all fancy and have a more artistic, intricate rendering tatted over the original piece. He called it “level[ing] up,” but I call it selling out.
14. The “Oktober Lejonhjärta” Lion
Gruttadaro: What’s that? You Google Translated “Lejonhjärta” and found out it means “lionhearted” in Swedish, so you really don’t see why this tattoo is that bad? Well, boy, do I have a backstory for you. While Lejonhjärta does mean lionhearted, it is also the surname of Elizabeth and Victoria, two models who spent the night of December 22, 2015, drinking with Aubrey. As the sisters told it — in an Instagram post that clowned Drake more than a little — they persuaded a very inebriated Drake to get the tattoo, so he did. If the story of a thirsty man getting the last name of two random twins tattooed on his body isn’t the perfect allegory for Drake, then there isn’t one.
13. The Songbird and “XO20”
(See no. 17, right above Aaliyah’s face)
Giorgis: Sure, the XO20 lettering is slightly askew, as though it were being expelled from the bird’s body. And yeah, Drake has had a complicated relationship with the XO crew. But the bird is pretty, right? Right?
12. The 416
Giorgis: Let’s not mince words here: This is a fuckboy tattoo. The numerical homage to the area code of Aubrey’s beloved Toronto sits thick and heavy down the length of his ribs. This was painful, it practically screams. It is the tattoo of someone who really wants women to ask about his tattoos.
11. The “All Kinds”
Gruttadaro: Displaying a two-word phrase that memorializes a tight-knit group of friends, this is Drake’s most down-to-earth tattoo. And from a visual standpoint, his most Degrassi-ish.
10. Prayer-Hands Emoji
Giorgis: It’s hard to believe Drake wasn’t born with some emoji already tatted to his body. Better this than .
9. The Rihanna Eating Ice Cream
(See no. 11)
Giorgis: Unlike Drake’s understated shark tattoo, with its precious twee symbolism, his “Rihanna ice cream” tattoo is an abomination. The “art” is an attempt to replicate this perfectly delightful photo of Rih intently eating ice cream (so intently, in fact, that all she’s left with is a cone). A lovely photo of her, to be sure. But the dermal rendering sits awkwardly on Drake’s bicep, nearly tucked into his elbow. Did Rih know he was going to get it? Is it even really her? Who knows — it could just as easily be a portrait of Wendy Testaburger. Frankly, Rihanna deserves better.
8. The Mugshot
Gruttadaro: While I too think it’d be dope to be able to have your dad’s mugshot tattooed on your arm, there’s something very off about this tattoo. Maybe it’s because Drake Sr. looks he got pulled over on his way to a taping of Soul Train — the photo doesn’t exactly scream “mugshot” — or maybe it’s because this is yet another Drake tattoo that looks like it’s a stick-on. No one has more permanent temporary tattoos than Drake does.
7. The ‘More Life’ Flower and Bee
Giorgis: If More Life is a meandering sonic apology for Views, then — before the arrival of the Drakkar Noir tat — this work of art could generously be interpreted as Drake’s apology to himself for all the bad tats he’s already gotten.
6. The CN Tower, Part 1
Giorgis: RIP, CN Tower tattoo. Gone too soon, covered up by the Eye of Horus (no. 16), the most hotep tattoo of all. A great Canadian tragedy.
5. The CN Tower, Part 2
Gruttadaro: So yeah, Drake dispatched his first CN Tower tattoo, but at least he got a new one that looks … like sheet music? Ay bruv, I rep my city and my art, classic ting innit.
4. The Compass
Giorgis: The crisp, cleanly drawn compass is a rare example of artistic precision in Drake’s oeuvre. A North Star of sorts for the Boy, it points to Toronto’s East Side, which probably comes in handy when he gets lost en route to his favorite hookah spot.
3. The 6
Giorgis: We get it, Drake, you love Toronto. Just please never make any mention of turning this tat upside dow —
2. The OVO Owl
Gruttadaro: I can’t be mad at the OVO owl (especially because this was Drake’s first tattoo), even if it’s become as much of a red flag as the Supreme logo.
1. The Camouflage Shark
Giorgis: This charming ode to none other than Ms. Robyn Rihanna Fenty (she too has a camo shark tattoo) sits gently on the Boy’s right forearm. Sweet and almost imperceptible at first, it’s a nod to the stuffed toy he once got her (and the matching tattoo she has on her ankle). Even if you don’t love AubRih (which I’ll allow, because Champagne Papi really can’t catch a wine), the tat tops the list if only because someone else approved of it for once.
Update: It appears Drake has now tattooed Sade on his left side, and we wholeheartedly give up.
Update no. 2: The Sade tattoo is officially complete and …
… wow! It’s true what they say: The only thing better than one Sade tattoo is two Sade tattoos. I also really like the palm tree. I don’t understand it at all, but whatever, it’s an island thing, and I like it. For those keeping score at home, this is a top-10 Drake tat.