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I walked around with Post Malone's face tattoos for a day

It wasn't long ago that face tattoos were only for the totally crazy. Chunky hooligans who don't hesitate long before ramming you into the ground without a sharp point. Mike Tyson. The guy from college who sort of figured out how to turn an electric toothbrush into a tattoo machine.

With the emergence of a certain musical subgenre about two years ago, the context of permanent face enhancement changed radically. Suddenly, face tattoos weren't just for the toughest of the tough. They were the hallmark of a new generation of rappers: pumped full of Xanax, limitlessly apathetic and potentially problematic. The late Lil Peep had "Cry Baby" tattooed over his right eyebrow. 21 Savage just answered a question about the meaning of his forehead tattoo with "Issa knife", paving the way for a bunch of memes. Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Xan, Lil Pump, Trippie Redd, 6ix9ine ... the list goes on and on.


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The best known, however, is Post Malone - and right away also the one who is by far the furthest away from the classic tattooed person. It exudes the aura of a cozy teddy bear. His music is loved - "Rockstar" was number one on the Hot 100 charts in the USA for eight weeks - and hated. Many find his appropriation of a predominantly black genre as a white artist problematic.

Posty is neither the first nor the only rapper with face tattoos and a high chart position. Lil Wayne landed on number one with "Lollipop" in 2008. And Wayne's unique style with full-blown dreads, grillz and countless tattoos obviously serves the new generation of rappers as a primary aesthetic inspiration. All you have to do is check out memes like How to Become a Popular Rapper in 2018. With his steadily growing place in the limelight, Post Malone has become the figurehead of face-tattooed rappers - and has even left Wayne behind in the process. You can now even buy prints of his tattoos:

You can order the above tattoos on the Post's Tattoo Parlor website - each and every one of them is based on the artwork on Posty's cute bearded face. Personally, I'll never get a face tattoo in my life, but unfortunately my editor-in-chief wanted me to experience firsthand what it's like to run around with posts of face tattoos. So I had the pictures popped up for me on a particularly unpleasant Tuesday morning in the office.

When asked about the motivation for his tattoos - including a squiggly "Stay Away" above the right eyebrow and "Always Tired" across the face - Post said that he just wanted to do anything to "piss on my mother". Which a) corresponds very much to the thinking of a not-so-grown-up 23-year-old, and b) really pissed me off too, because I really couldn't imagine anything worse than walking through London with a scrawled face.

Basically, Post Malone and I are not that dissimilar. We're two pretty average guys who somehow managed to garner a significant number of Twitter followers. But well, maybe there is more:

Born Austin Richard in Syracuse, New York, Post Malone grew up in Dallas. His interest in music grew through hours Guitar Hero II-Game awakened. After high school, Post moved to Los Angeles to a house full of YouTubers and gamers, from where he performed live Minecraft-Sessions streamed. He put Bob Dylan covers online in the early 2010s. Similar to the Donald Glover case, Richard got his stage name from an online generator. But in contrast to Glover, who worked as Childish Gambino for years before his popularity with his third album, Awaken, my love, literally exploded, Malone made a meteoric rise right from the start with the success of his 2015 single, "White Iverson".

"White Iverson" was hailed the way people made fun of it - a pattern that would run through the rest of his career. "LMAO I'm a grown man, everyone have fun with this," Earl Sweatshirt posted on Twitter. Somewhere, presumably Hanover, a middle-class kid bought a couple of barbecues.

After the two of them met at Kylie Jenner's 18th birthday party, Kanye West took Malone over to record. The result of this is in the track "Fade" by Wests The Life of Pablo to listen. This was followed by contributions to tracks by 50 Cent, Justin Bieber and Young Thug. Being Post Malone seemed easy. He resisted this assumption in an interview with GQin which he said, "It's hard to be a white rapper."

One more fact:

There is absolutely no fun wearing Post Malone's face tattoos in public. I wish for nothing more than to be swallowed up by a suddenly opening crevice.

Of course, people on the street look at you differently than they would otherwise. In a way, to be precise, that instantly reminds you that you have tattoos on your face. Apart from the highly subjective aesthetic value, the question of whether you will have a face tattoo at some point depends on how much you are into getting skeptical or pejorative looks on the street.

Nonetheless, I try to make my day as normal as possible:

I buy a sandwich in the supermarket, but today I still have a few kilometers to walk.

I read a little in the library. Education is important.

I am going to the museum. Can't do enough.

But all of these endeavors are a little less fun with face tattoos. I feel like I'm in the spotlight all the time, everyone is staring at. I inevitably think of Hostgator Doctom, the guy who had his face decorated with the URLs of porn sites to get some cash. How desperate must he have been to be walking on his forehead with DrFreak.com? He didn't get a tattoo to piss off his mother, though. He had himself tattooed to feed his children after losing his job in the wake of the economic crisis.

Post Malone is all about style.

Post has cultivated an aesthetic that seems to say broke and rich in equal measure. He combines supposedly unkempt facial hair with clothes that he could immediately do a photo shoot with. In a sense, the tattoos serve the same purpose in that they depict Post as a person who has a different past behind them than Post actually lived it. But maybe it's not that complicated after all and he just thinks the designs are chic and I'm pissed off because I have to slap my cheek with a dagger all day.

It's not that I really want to badmouth face tattoos - they're stigmatized enough anyway, and every person I've met with one has been as nice as anyone else. It is rather that posts' choice of motive overshoots the mark in my opinion. On the whole, they're just weird tattoos to get stabbed in the face.

But who knows, maybe Posty will mark a turning point in facial tattooing? Perhaps by 2049 they will be associated more with bed-wetting than tough guys, are as normal as dyed hair. But would that be a future we look forward to? I guess it all depends on how much you care about other people's faces.

Post Malone has always been an outsider. That is what makes him so interesting for his audience. His face tattoos are just another expression of this: symbolic of his desire to stand out from the crowd and at the same time to be absorbed in it. What is really remarkable is that with these peel off tattoos you can now try out for yourself what it is like to have a face tattoo. Then you just wash it off again as if nothing happened. Try it. Maybe you get deep thoughts about context and everything. Or maybe you don't think anything at all. At least that seems to be Post Malone's thing until it's his turn to apologize for something.

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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.

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