Our story begins with Brandi Weeks, a Las Vegas news producer. On June 17th, she met T-Pain. They took a picture together. She Tweeted the photo, he retweeted it. Little did sweet Brandi know, their meeting was about to change my life.
Some English kid called Jake noticed something odd about the photo. T-Pain held up his right hand, and on his hand there appeared a tattoo. Not of diamonds, angels or something else sparkling and wonderful, like T-Pain himself. It was a tattoo of the confused Jackie Chan meme.
Jake Tweeted T-Pain about it: “yoo… is that the confused Asian man meme tattooed on your hand?” I saw the Tweet. Let me tell you, I was shocked. I became filled with a deep sense of disbelief. But something remarkable happened: T-Pain, man of one million Twitter followers retweeted British Jake, of 2,000. It seemed like confirmation, but I had to make sure.
— jake (@7780s) June 17, 2016
It’d be pretty easy, I thought. T-Pain is a famous man who’s basically been photographed at least once a week, every week since 2005. I trawled through Google Images to find shots of T-Pain (and his right hand) at various events. In 2015, at a party for Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, he proudly flashed the tattoo — like he wanted us to see it. But we didn’t notice — maybe because it was pretty small scale event. Let’s try something bigger, I thought. Surely, if T-Pain had taken this tattoo out into the public eye, we would have noticed.
T-Pain’s highest profile appearance in the past few years was his October 2014 NPR Tiny Desk concert. It has more than 9,000,000 views on Youtube, so I thought it’d be a good place to start. Sure enough Jackie Chan was there, wearing that same baffled expression he will carry into eternity. Not a single commenter noticed. He was hiding in plain sight. I felt like Jackie and T-Pain were colluding, taunting me. I mean, the tattoo is even in T-Pain’s goddamn press shots.
Hiding in plain sight.
It’s real, that’s for sure. But when did he get there?
I could trace the tattoo quite clearly back until November 2013, when T-Pain appeared on Sway in the morning. Then things got murky. When Nardwar interviewed T-Pain in March 2009, Jackie was gone. Plus, given the meme only came to prominence in late 2009, I could rest assured T-Pain didn’t get it before then. We were working with a 4-year window, and the trail had gone cold.
But I’d missed the most obvious lead of all: T-Pain himself. Idiot. I had to go straight to his Instagram, because I’d wasted three hours of valuable search time on YouTube. I scrolled. I scrolled some more. My thumb was going numb. This man posts about 10 times a week, and I’d scrolled back almost three years. That means I’d looked at nearly 2,000 posts, and began to grow weary.
Then I found it. 204 weeks ago, in July of 2012: a photo of the still-fresh tattoo. “What does Reddit think about my ultimate face palm tattoo?” T-Pain asked. “Why did I not think of this method first?” I asked myself.
There’s another question you’re probably asking right now: Why? Why does T-Pain, a man who changed hip-hop with his pioneering use of autotune, have an outdated meme tattooed on his hand? Why does a T-Pain have an image macro on the same hand that have clutched not one, but two Grammies? After scrolling through more than 2,000 of his posts, I’d already found the answer. It was crystal clear.
T-Pain fucks with memes heavily. He just loves memes. He reposts from @FuckJerry all the time. He posts memes that relate to his own songs. He shares memes so deep-fried from constant screenshotting that they’re barely legible. I am sure of this because I have seen four years of T-Pain posts, and it’s safe to say 30% of them are memes. I hope, I really hope with all my heart, there’s a Pepe tattoo somewhere on his body too.