Lest we question Kevin Durant’s commitment to musical icons of years gone by, the Golden State Warriors star has chosen to double-down on the tribute tattoos on his left leg.
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Before the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Durant showed up for Team USA practice sporting a surprising and eye-catching bit of new ink depicting the hip-hop artist, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur and the Wu-Tang Clan’s famous “W” symbol on his lower left leg. After leading the U.S. to a third straight Olympic gold medal in men’s basketball, Durant linked back up with British Columbia-based tattoo artist Steve Wiebe — the man behind the ‘Pac ink — for another big piece — a thigh-covering salute to “punk funk” legend Rick James, the performer behind huge hits “Super Freak” (the riff from which would later provide the basis for M.C. Hammer’s hit “U Can’t Touch This”) and “Give it to Me, Baby”:
KD got the 2Pac tattoo earlier this summer and now adding Rick James pic.twitter.com/RECB5mWJcq
— warriorsworld (@warriorsworld) September 3, 2016
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) September 3, 2016
Many younger fans are probably most familiar with the version of James portrayed by Dave Chappelle in the “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” segments of “Chappelle’s Show,” during which James himself appeared to offer his own commentary on Murphy’s recounting of their interactions. (That appearance included a seven-word explanation of certain, um, behaviors that would go on to become a pretty big meme.) Before he was a sketch punchline, though, James was a successful artist in the late ’70s and early ’80s, releasing eight straight albums between 1978 and 1983 that sold at least 500,000 copies in the U.S., and three — “Come Get It!,” “Bustin’ Out of L Seven,” and “Street Songs” — that sold more than 1 million copies.
In addition to his own work, James served as a songwriter and producer for acts like the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Teena Marie and, of course, Charlie’s brother, Eddie Murphy, and was one of the earliest and most outspoken critics of MTV’s reluctance to play music videos by him and other black artists that the network didn’t consider to be “rock and roll,” going so far as to call MTV “racist” for its “discriminatory policy.” James also battled addiction throughout his life, and faced legal trouble on multiple occasions, stemming from a 1991 arrest on charges that he and his future wife allegedly imprisoned and tortured a young woman at James’ home over a multi-day period. He’d later be found guilty of false imprisonment and aggravated assault related to a subsequent incident, and would spend two years in Folsom Prison. He died in 2004 at age 56.
What inspired Durant to get James inked on his thigh is anybody’s guess, but it sure seems clear that KD’s interested in carrying his commitment to music and the artists that make it with him everywhere he goes. Some of us might have decided to go with, like, a T-shirt, or loading some songs onto our phones rather than spending several hours in a tattoo artist’s chair getting photorealistic representations of singers we like forever-needled onto our body. But then, maybe we’re just not real and true fans.
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