Every Lil Xan face tattoo explained

Diego Leanos, better known as his Xanax-inspired rap name Lil Xan, certainly is no stranger to making noise, whether he’s grabbing headlines for singing “moronic rap to make you feel old” (a scathing review from The Guardian) or getting sent to the hospital for, essentially, overdosing on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (we relate). However, the tabloid rap king mostly made a name for himself because of his litany of face tattoos, rivaling his fellow face-tatted rap stars like Post Malone and Tekashi 6ix9ine.

But if this is a competition, Lil Xan is certainly a frontrunner. Though Post Malone kicked off 2020 with some brand new face ink, Xan has been steadily pushing forward for the last three years. Honestly, we can’t keep track of who’s ahead, but this train shows no signs of stopping. While most of us may regret a job-stopper like having an upside down cross permanently affixed to the side of our faces, Lil Xan only briefly had some second thoughts before his rap career took off. “What comes with face tats is you’re pretty much signing off that you’re not gonna live a normal life,” he told DJ Smallz Eyes in 2017. Luckily, this music star hasn’t had to. 

Here’s a complete guide to Lil Xan’s face tattoos.

Lil Xan's mother inspired his first face tattoo

Lil Xan’s first face tattoo wasn’t eye candy, at least if your asking his mama. The famed rapper was just 18 years old without a successful career in the music industry when he inked the word “candy” under his left eye. Needless to say, his mom was not thrilled, presumably because face tattoos are renowned as “job killers.” But if a teenager can sign up for crippling, life-altering student loans, shouldn’t they be able to also get some ink?

In the true nature of a rebellious teen, Lil Xan did everything he could to lessen the blow for his mom. In a 2017 interview with DJ Smallz Eyes, the rapper admitted that he called his mother an hour before the appointment, saying, “She was pretty shook … but very supportive.” He ended up deciding on Candy, her name, in hopes that she’d be a little less mad.

“I was like, ‘Mom, how mad can you be? It’s your name, you know what I mean?” Lil Xan told 106 KMEL in an interview. “But, she was mad at first like any mom should, but she got over it, and she loves it.”

Catching some z's

Not every tattoo has to have some important meaning. Tekashi 6ix9ine is kind of the Holy Grail of undeniable proof. How many 69s does one person need stuck all over their body like a sheet of irremovable Lisa Frank stickers? Most people would probably argue none, but the guy did name himself Tekashi 6ix9ine, so perhaps he deserves a little leeway. In true Soundcloud rapper form, Lil Xan also got a meaningless tattoo in the most visible place possible as a cheeky nod to his name.

In an interview with DJ Smallz Eyes, the star revealed that when he got three Zs inked under his right eye, it had “no meaning” other than a joke. It’s a reference to Xanax’s common side effects and coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to Post Malone’s “Always Tired” under eye tattoos. “I was Lil Xan, and I thought it would be funny to be, you know, Lil Xan, always sleepy,” he told DJ Smallz Eyes. “And that’s not a lie. I’m always nodding off on the road on these airplanes, like we travel, we be traveling so much. So it’s definitely a representation of how I am.”

Someone get this kid a coffee before he passes out.

Lil Xan is always repping his crew

It may be hard to see it on the rapper’s face now, because it’s covered with a tattoo of the word “lover,” but Lil Xan does have the word “low” tattooed in a faint red ink on his right cheek underneath his Zs. This is a nod to his former crew, Low Gang, which included $teven Cannon. Per an interview with DJ Smallz Eyes, Xan met the rapper at one of his shows, and though Cannon initially found him annoying, the pair became friends. Cannon then followed Lil Xan to Xanarchy as the project evolved away from Low Gang.

“Low Gang, like, it got us to a certain level, but it evolved into Xanarchy, what we are today. We’re doing all the merchandise now, and the brand is just going f**king insane,” Lil Xan told DJ Smallz Eyes.

In an interview with MTV Access, Xan revealed that they changed their project’s name because it “wasn’t working” (perhaps in some very small part due to homophonically sharing a name with YouTuber Logan Paul’s fan base). Instead, Xan created Xanarchy. The new project had a more positive message because, as he put it, “Low Gang was trash.” We can see why he got that tat covered.

Hey Xanny, it's your birthday

In 1996, the world was still a year away from the James Cameron epic Titanic, but plenty of other important things happened in those 365 days. Prince Charles and Princess Diana got divorced (what up, Camilla?); the Blizzard of ’96 gave Millennials a few epic snow days; and Major League Soccer first debuted in the United States. Perhaps the year’s greatest contribution (at least if you’re the type of person trying to justify the mass consumption of Hot Cheetos) was Lil Xan.

To commemorate his birth year — or just in case he ever forgets and needs to fill out some medical forms for a Cheeto-induced hospitalization — Xan got 1996 inked vertically across the side of his face. The only real question is if he also celebrated his birthday with Billy Ray Cyrus. According to E! News, the rapper gave Cyrus a bong for his birthday in 2018, so it’s only fair that the “Achy Breaky Heart” star returns the favor, right? Or maybe Billy Ray isn’t so stoked after the rapper broke up with his daughter, Noah Cyrus.

Lil Xan's a lover

Lil Xan ultimately covered his “low” tattoo with the word “lover.” The motivation isn’t clear, so we can only speculate that perhaps he was just over Low Gang. You can’t fight the Xanarchy, and Low Gang wasn’t a thing after it eventually took over. Nonetheless, $teven Cannon, a member of both crews, still lists Low Gang in his Twitter bio. Could Xan really be the only one who’s not sentimental? The rapper seemed a bit sour when he called Low Gang “trash” in an MTV Access interview, but that’s just our opinion.

As for the actual cover-up, it doesn’t seem like Xan ever spoke about why he chose the actual word “lover.” Maybe he just loves to sleep and it’s an addition to the Zs tattoo directly above. He did admit that he gets tattoos on his face because he likes to “go all f**king out,” telling DJ Smallz Eyes, “If I’m going to do something, I’m gonna like fully commit to something.” Unfortunately, fulling committing to a tattoo means sometimes you might need a well-placed cover-up.

This face tattoo is a tribute to Lil Xan's rap hero

In September 2018, Lil Xan debuted a new tattoo — the words “Memento Mori” above his eye — which served as a tribute to the late Mac Miller. According to People, which captured his now-deleted Instagram post, the phrase is Latin for “Remember that you will die.” For some, this may seem like a grim homage, but it’s important to remember that Xan has struggled with substance abuse, the same affliction that led to his rap hero’s passing.

Xan was particularly devastated by the loss of Miller, and even considered quitting rap altogether, especially after the backlash he received while trying to explain to his fans how much the rapper’s death had affected him. During an interview on Adam Grandmaison’s No Jumper podcast, Xan admitted, “Even on a video of me, you know, showing people just like how much he meant to me, and I was like bawling out crying to like the whole f**king world. I’m still getting hate comments on it.”

During the podcast, Xan also revealed the bittersweet last words he shared with Miller. “Before I went, he was like ‘be safe,’ and I was like … you know people say that … drive safe home or something. Then he grabbed me and was like, ‘No, like, be safe. Bro.’ He was like, ‘I care about you.'” Heartbreaking.

Cry Xan a river

The same day Lil Xan publicly debuted his Mac Miller tribute, he also revealed a second new tattoo: tear drops under his right eye. According to XXL, which captured the Instagram post before it was deleted, the star finally cleared the air after all the hate from earlier that day. “I do this for me, I could care less if this makes me ugly because that’s what I was going for,” he wrote. “Ugly is the new Beautiful, well not really, but there’s some truth to that, I love you guys.” The rapper finished it off the message with an emoji of a broken heart.

Xan delved further into the meaning of the teary tat in a series of Instagram Stories (via XXL). He joked about how it angered his manager (“My manager hates me lol”) and how the ink was inspired by the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange (adding, “Duhhh”). For reference, the film’s lead wears very distinct false eyelashes under his right eye. Xan also claimed the tattoo was partly inspired by Yung Lean, who was dubbed the King of the Sad Boys by The New Yorker in 2014.

Lil Xan: the heartbreak soldier

We don’t know a whole lot about Lil Xan’s heartbreak face tattoo. The star hasn’t really spoken about it to the press, but it could have something to do with his identity as an emo rapper. On the first day of 2018, The New Yorker dropped a profile of a new sub-sect of emotionally charged, underground rap. “In 2017, a cohort of young musicians embraced a depressive sound and became stars,” wrote contributor Carrie Battan. One of these stars was Lil Xan, who, in the past, has mentioned that he looked like a “little emo boy” because of his haircut.

Xan has only mentioned his status as a little emo boy in passing, but he does have more than one broken heart tattoo. This is something he shares with ex-girlfriend Noah Cyrus. According to Steal Her Style, Cyrus got the same broken heart tattoo in 2018 while the pair were still an item. Xan later added the word “soldier” underneath. This was likely a nod to his 2018 EP, Heartbreak Soldiers. His relationship with Cyrus did seem pretty tough, though.

Total Xanarchy

The Xanarchy tattoo above Lil Xan’s eyebrow is self-explanatory. That’s what he calls his entire fandom, and the fandom is unbelievably fierce. Though they can count “Bad Guy” singer Billie Eilish as one of them, she’s not the one getting permanent Lil Xan tattoos all over her body (just the temporary kind, lest her manager also have a heart attack).

According to XXL, one Xan superfan called @high.xanxiety on Instagram, got a bunch of Lil Xan’s face tattoos done in permanent ink. There’s no wash-off, temporary tattoo sheets here. The tattoos included Xan’s greatest hits, like his under eye tear tattoo, the tattoo tribute to his mother, his Heartbreak Soldier tattoo, and some of his neck tattoos, among others. Xan, who’s since deleted most of his Instagram posts, reportedly called the impostor tats “dope.” Judging by a video of the rapper’s visit to the tattoo parlor, he was also equally as stoked on his own Xanarchy ink.

Xan managed to cultivate a fan base fierce enough to wildly cheer while he raps the same song three times in a row at a concert, but getting the same tattoos is really total Xanarchy. At least you could probably make a few bucks as a celebrity impersonator in Las Vegas.

You's a mystery

Lil Xan has remained quiet about the “You” tattoo above his eye. It could be a reference to one of his earlier songs, “Who Are You,” but we’ll never really know. What we do know is that his manager was probably livid about the ink. In an interview with DJ Smallz Eyes, the star admitted his manager told him he couldn’t get anymore tattoos on his face: “I definitely got plans for the chest and the arms, but the face, my manager has said that I cannot get any more. He says we gotta keep the face intact. So yeah, no more face tattoos … I might disobey him and get another one.”

Since the 2017 interview, the “Betrayed” rapper has betrayed his manager. At the time, it looks like he only had four face tats. Now, Xan is floating in the double digits. According to The Wall Street Journal, Lil Xan signed a three-album deal with Columbia Records worth more than $1 million, so it doesn’t look like it really mattered anyway.

RIP XXXTentacion

Lil Xan always reps his friends. When XXXTentacion passed away in June 2018, the “Like Me” rapper got some permanent ink as a tribute. According to XXL, Xan debuted his new ink — eight black dots in a straight line down his nose — in a now-deleted July Instagram post. “New Tattoo inspired by PRINCE X ! LEGENDS NEVER DIE AND ENERGY LIVES FOREVER REST IN PEACE TO X PEEP AND EVERYONE THATS AFTER,” he wrote.

Xan’s tattoo was inspired by XXX’s under-eye ink. The late rapper had three dots beneath his right eye. It’s unclear why the Heartbreak Soldiers rapper landed on eight dots, but XXXTentacion was born in 1998. He also passed away on June 18, 2018. That’s a whole lot of eights right there. Or maybe Xan’s nose just didn’t fit a ninth dot. If each dot equals one X (since X had three dots under his eye), nine dots would equal the full XXX. We admit, this is a Reddit-level Internet conspiracy. Does anyone have a tin foil hat?

What's the deal with Lil Xan's upside down cross face tattoo?

Lil Xan’s upside down cross tattoo is a total mystery. As far as we can tell, he’s never publicly mentioned the meaning behind it, but could it possibly have something to do with his heritage? According to Vibe, Xan is of Mexican descent. This is highlighted even more as he ditches the Xan moniker in favor of his real name, Diego. Per the U.S. Census Bureau (via the Pew Research Center), the majority of Mexican Americans are Catholic, and the upside down cross does have a strong meaning within the religion.

In the Catholic faith, the symbol is known as St. Peter’s cross and represents the saint’s crucifixion. Per the tradition, Peter insisted on being crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy of being crucified in the same way as Jesus (i.e. right side up). This is referenced in various texts throughout history, but somewhere down the line in the pop culture lexicon, the cross of St. Peter got linked with Satanism. It’s now used commonly used as Satanic imagery in horror movies.

Though we don’t know if Xan is particularly religious, we do know he’s not a member of the Satanic church. In an interview with Genius, the star described his lyrics to “Betrayed” and admitted, “I’m not a devil worshiper,” but that people believed he sold his soul for a good price. We can’t rule out the Illuminati just yet, though.

Scratch that

At the time of this writing, Lil Xan’s most recent face tattoo is a slash across his cheek that resembles a scratch mark from an animal with claws. He debuted this ink in March 2019, and it has some major X-Men vibes. We don’t know exactly why the star got this tattoo, but we do have two theories: either it’s related to his work or girlfriend Annie Smith’s pregnancy.

Xan’s slash tat could be a reference to his song, “Wolverine,” which he released in 2016. The album art has a similar scratch mark, and the rapper already has a track record for getting tattoos that reference his art, whether it’s intentional or not (see: his Heartbreak Soldiers and Xanarchy tattoos). Xan also debuted the new tattoo the month after he announced his girlfriend’s pregnancy and a couple weeks before Smith revealed her subsequent miscarriage. According to People, Xan was somewhat rattled by the miscarriage, at least before he questioned whether or not she faked the whole thing. It’s possible that his scratch mark tattoo had something to do with the baby, but we’ll never really know.

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