By now you’ve probably heard the latest Iggy Azalea single, “Trouble” featuring Jennifer Hudson. As with most Iggy songs, she lays raps between choruses of a pop or R&B singer’s groove, spewing rhymes filled with slang and witticisms in her signature (strangely) American accent. Unlike her previous tracks, however, the Australian rapper’s latest hopeful hit opens up a whirlwind of stereotyping problems for the tattooed community beginning with its opening lines:
I should’ve known you were bad news,
From the bad boy demeanor and the tattoos.”
These opening lines appear again throughout the track and are even echoed by J. Hud in the bridge. The song, itself, a single about a self-proclaimed “good girl” falling for the bad guy despite all of the warning signs, is not so much the problem. The real issue is raised through the negative associations found in the visual depictions of tattoos in its music video.
Throughout the video, viewers watch Iggy’s bad boy love interest rob a bank, get arrested and break out of jail, complete with a high speed car chase. All the while, the camera is zooming in on his hand and neck tattoos. The scenes of Iggy's inked heartthrob in jail even highlight other tattooed inmates, one in the visiting room and several heavily tattooed inmates hanging around in their cell block. The only other person visibly tattooed in the entire video is Iggy, herself, who shows off several arm and hand pieces. Apart from her, however, all of the non-incarcerated characters, including the cop played by Hudson, are seemingly ink free. As Iggy then busts her bad boy out of jail, suddenly all of the tattooed people in the video seemingly become criminals, a stereotype the artistic nature of tattoos has been trying to overcome for decades.
Whether the video was intending to paint tattooed people in a negative light or just crudely emphasize Iggy’s bad girl persona in the same way Rihanna did with her 2007 album, Good Girl Gone Bad, the lyrics and visuals all show a conscious effort to bring the mainstream viewer to see tattoos as a sign of something unlawful and rebellious. Though tattoos can symbolize rebellion, they do not necessarily associate anyone with criminality, as this video suggests. It’s 2015. Tattooed people are landing probes on comets, working as CEOs, going to the Olympics and have even led governments. Stereotyping tattoos in such a tasteless way should be a thing of the past in the pop culture music world, especially when representing someone willingly and visibly tattooed.
Take a look at the video below to see how you think Iggy and her team are portraying tattoos.