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The teardrop tattoo or tear tattoo is a symbolic tattoo that is placed underneath the eye. According to "the Devil's Back porch" a book about serving 1927 to 1957 in Kansas State Penitentiary, it denoted a member of "The Old Fraternity" referring to the Biblical Cain who slew his brother. but almost all meanings (see below) have some connection to prison.
In the United States, it can mean the wearer has killed someone. The number of teardrops may indicate the number of years spent in prison, or the number of times the wearer was raped. It may also indicate the loss of a loved one or fellow gang member.
It is sometimes worn by the female companions of prisoners in solidarity with their loved ones.
In a 2008 interview with Blender, Rapper Lil Wayne said of his four teardrop tattoos: "Lord, forgive me". He did not say what he was asking forgiveness for. Wayne has spent 8 months in a city jail. Amar'e Stoudemire was tattooed with a teardrop following the death of his older brother Hazell Jr. in a car accident. Stoudemire's mother and brother Hazell Jr. have been in and out of prison.
On Epix's "Amar'e Stoudemire : In The Moment" documentary, Amar'e Stoudemire talked about his teardrop tattoo and what it meant. Amar'e said : "The reason I got the teardrop tattoo is because I'm forever crying inside. My little sister was balled on 20 inch rims while getting sprayed by Ike." His mother had said that it was always hard for Amar'e to cry.