As a Torontonian, I can’t help but have a special place in my heart for Aubrey Graham, a hometown hero and the artist we all know as Drake. And tomorrow is a very special day for The 6 God: it’s his birthday. October’s Very Own started-from-the-bottom-now-he’s-here rapper, business mogul, and basketball superfan is turning 33 years old. And to celebrate the day—which roughly coincides with a full decade since his professional, commercial music debut with the 2009 release of So Far Gone—we’ve taken intensive inventory of the @champagnepapi Instagram to present our (relatively) complete guide to Drake’s tattoos.
1. A portrait of Lil Wayne
Although you can see a few tattoos in this pic, we’re focused on the large portrait that’s on the back of Drizzy’s arm. The rapper got a realism rendering of Lil Wayne’s face in 2017 as a reported tribute to the man who kickstarted his career (Lil Wayne signed Drake to his music label, Young Money Entertainment, in June 2009).
2. The Beatles on Abbey Road
This Beatles design, despite being one of his newer pieces, is widely considered Drake’s most controversial tattoo. After breaking several decades-long Billboard Hot 100 records previously held by the legendary British pop-rock quartet, Drake opted to get a fine line forearm tattoo of the Fab Four inspired by the cover of their 1969 album Abbey Road. But in this design, Drake is standing in front of the band, waving back at its members. The ink caused a lot of debate on Twitter, with many people angry at Drizzy for even suggesting that he’s a superior artist.
3. An all caps quote for “All Kinds”
Even Drake gets friendship tattoos. According to Toronto Life, this sweet, minimal design is a nod to some of his best friends, who frequently use the phrase. If you need proof, Drizzy literally tweeted the words back in 2011.
4. This unruly, flaming skull
Quite a few of Drake’s tattoos were done by the Insta-famous and LA-based single-needle tattooer Dr. Woo. The theory behind this piece is that it was inspired by Popcaan, a dancehall artist who first collaborated with Drizzy before inking his own deal with the rapper’s record label, OVO Sound. Popcaan has a long-standing relationship with the word ‘unruly’ that includes several song titles (“Unruly Rave,” “Unruly Law,” and “Unruly Prayer,” among others) and a music festival called Unruly Fest.
5. A micro-portrait of his friend Fif
If you haven’t already noticed, know that Drake has a thing for portrait pieces—both on large and very small scales, including this teeny tattoo of his good friend and OVO affiliate Anthony Soares (aka Fif). Just a few days after Fif’s tragic death, Drake got a micro-portrait (think not even a couple inches wide) of his friend from Inal Bersekov, a tattooist who specializes in the realism style.
6-7. The Eye of Horus and a Jack-o-Lantern
The two pieces we’re looking at in this photo are the blackwork eye on Drake’s left bicep and the jack-o-lantern just above his right wrist. The eye—which is actually the Eye of Horus, an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection—is a coverup piece, done over the rapper’s previous CN Tower tattoo. And, according to Toronto Life, the jack-o-lantern is a symbol of Drake’s favorite month—October, his birth month
8. A matching shark design
If you’re a Drake fan OR a Rihanna fan you’ll know that they’ve had a tumultuous relationship, supposedly including a brief, romantic fling. During the height of their friendship, the pair got matching tattoos of sharks—above, you can see Drake’s piece on his inner right forearm. Rihanna got hers done by Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy and though it’s never been confirmed outright, it’s believed that Bang Bang—who specializes in the black-and-grey realism style—did Drake’s tattoo, too.
9. This literal homage to the 416
Drake’s love for his hometown is intense. (It was hard to miss him during the Raptors’ championship season in his courtside seats). And he’s such a Toronto stan that he chose to get the city’s primary area code, 416, as a massively sized, but minimally designed tattoo down the side of his ribcage in 2012.
10. A bottle of Drakkar Noir
To celebrate the release of his 2017 playlist More Life, the artist got another black-and-grey tattoo that, like some of his other pieces too, is steeped in nostalgia. Diehard Drizzy fans know that many years ago his Twitter handle was @Drakkardnoir—after the famous cologne—whose bottle now graces the back of his shoulder.
11. This metaphor for More Life
The bottle of Drakkar wasn’t the only piece Drake added to his tattoo collection to celebrate More Life, though. The flower and bee piece—one of his few colorful designs—is based on images used in the promotional materials for the record and could even be a metaphor for the idea of ‘more life’ since bees spread pollen from plant to plant, enabling even more plants to grow.
12. Denzel Washington as Bleek Gilliam
Another microrealism portrait from Inal Bersekov, the tattooer behind Drake’s Fif tattoo, this piece features young Denzel Washington from the 1990 film Mo’ Better Blues, in which he starred as trumpet player Bleek Gilliam.
13-14. A double shot of Sade
It’s clear that Drake loves to get tattoos of his icons—so much so, he went ahead and got two pieces of Sade along his ribs. Both in the black-and-grey realism style, the top design comes courtesy of Inal Bersekov, while the bottom one comes from Niki Norberg. And although you can’t see it in the pic here, Norberg’s design also features a bit of text that reads “with love Sade x” in the songstress’s handwriting.
15. This Skepta-inspired design
This script tattoo is a tribute to Skepta, the famed British rapper and producer. Drake has collaborated with Skepta in the past, and, in true Drizzy fashion, chose to show his admiration for the artist with ink. This shoulder tattoo reads “bbk,” the acronym for Skepta’s record label, Boy Better Know, in a gothic-style font.
16. The king of the jungle
This micorealism tattoo of a lion is also a show of love for the month of October: the phrase “Oktober Lejonhjärta,” is Swedish for “October lionhearted.” Although no one knows exactly what this phrase means to Drake, there’s another, uncorroborated story behind it: models Elizabeth and Victoria Lejonhjärta claim they convinced an inebriated Drizzy to get this tattoo of their last name. Jury’s still out as to whether that actually happened, though.
17. This East-facing compass
In Toronto, the East End of the city rarely gets as much love as the West End. While Toronto West is known for its great style, restaurants, and nightlife, the East End is considered to be still up and coming. But this compass design—another piece tattooed by Dr. Woo—is a shout out of sorts to Toronto East, an area of the city that’s near and dear to the Drake’s heart. If you need further evidence of his Eastern affinity, listen to the rapper’s 2014 song “Days in the East.”
18. A portrait of his dad
On several occasions, Drake has mentioned that as a kid he didn’t have the greatest relationship with his father, which explains why he’s such a diehard mama’s boy. (Here’s your reminder that he only loves his bed and his mama, he’s sorry). But as an adult, he seems to have spent a lot of time working on things with his dad, Dennis Graham. And thanks to this microrealism portrait by Dr. Woo on the back of his arm, Drake can check in with his Pops whenever.
19-20. The 6—plus a personal reminder
Of the many Dr. Woo pieces Drake has, the ‘6’, on the musician’s right forearm is easily one of the most iconic. In 2014, Drake went to see the tattooer and left with three new designs: the 6, emoji praying hands, and a quote that reads “Everything happens for a reason sweet thing.” So yeah, maybe everything does happen for a reason, including covering up those emoji praying hands with a more detailed design down the road.
21. A more detailed 6 God design
Just over a year after getting his first tattoo of praying hands from Dr. Woo, Drake went back for an update to the original design. In the year between visits, Drizzy released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, which has a more detailed set of hands on its cover—precisely what Dr. Woo ended up tattooing over the original more simplified emoji-inspired piece. On Instagram, Drake referred to the cover up as a “level up.” We’ll keep that terminology in mind for any future cover ups, TBH.
22-30. The many back tattoos
Drake’s back is covered in tattoos and these upper back designs aren’t even all of them. Here though, he has realism portraits of, from left to right, the late R&B artist Aaliyah, his uncle and grandmother, and his mother Sandi. On the upper left portion of his back he also has a red songbird with XO 20 inscribed underneath; a supposed reference to his former friend The Weeknd (they’ve been feuding recently). According to Toronto Life, story goes that “The Weeknd (XO) [was] once dubbed the ‘Songbird of his Generation,” and that “a small printed ‘20’ is said to be a reference to OVOXO’s crew of 20 friends, which has been referenced in verse.”
Plus, on his upper right side, the rapper wears the OVO owl alongside a very faint quote whose text no one’s been able to make out yet. Sad.
If you slide a bit lower on Drizzy’s back, you’ll find three additional tattoos. Near his ribs and next to the portrait of Aaliyah is a text piece that appears to say “I love you” followed by a name. Although we’re almost positive it was written in someone’s personal handwriting, we’re entirely unsure of whose name is inscribed. Underneath that design is another portrait, this one of an unidentified person—you can only see the top of the figure’s head in this shot. And then on the back of his arm, is his fourth Toronto-inspired tattoo, this one of the city’s beloved landmark, the CN Tower (a new rendering of the tower to replace a version he’d previously covered up).
31. This massive, majestic owl
Spanning from shoulder to shoulder, this massive chest tattoo is Drake’s second owl design. But unlike the OVO owl he has on his back—which is pretty minimal—this piece is incredibly detailed. As reported by Refinery 29, this tattoo is yet another piece done by realism artist Inal Bersekov, and the design isn’t just of an owl, it’s an owl catching a mouse. (Savage, right?!)
32-37. These Golden State legends, plus more portraits
Drake loves basketball and is known to get pretty intense when he’s at a game. (Check out these GIFs of him watching the Raptors, the 2019 NBA champions, if you need proof.) But his appreciation for the sport isn’t reserved for the Toronto team and its stars—he loves all the greats, and has two tattoos inspired by Golden State’s finest, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. On his left bicep are each of their jersey numbers: Curry wears 30 and Durant wears 35.
If you look carefully you can also see a few more portraits among Drake’s tattoos: a woman on his right bicep and a child. Many fans like to believe that the woman is Rihanna, but it’s actually the model and actress, Robin Givens (his relationship to Givens is unknown, but based on his past portrait tattoos, it’s likely that he’s a fan). And the child is reportedly Drake’s son, Adonis Graham.
Plus, there are (at least) two more pieces in this pic that we haven’t been able to identify yet: the tattoo on Drizzy’s wrist (it kind of looks like an ice cream sundae?) and the piece on his outer right bicep.
38. This Houston Astros logo
Houston is an important place for the Canadian rapper—he spent a lot of time there (it’s where he met Lil Wayne) at the onset of his career. Over the years he’s mentioned the Texas city a few times in his songs: “H-town my second home like I’m James Harden,” and “Like H-Town in the summertime, I keep it 100.” And the Houston Astros logo one of Drake’s tattoos as a way of commemorating the city.
39-42. The remaining unidentified tattoos
Listen, Drizzy and his artists don’t publicize every design he gets so we likely don’t know about all of his pieces. (A guy’s gotta keep some secrets, right?!) And even of the designs we can see, there are quite a few of Drake’s tattoos that we can’t identify including this microrealism portrait underneath the piece of his dad, another micro-portrait on the top, front of his right arm, a faint quote on the side of his shoulder, and a small black design on his left wrist. Consider the rest of Drake’s tattoos future story fodder.
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