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“I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me” is a catchphrase used to express one’s pride in living the thug lifestyle, a concept that is typically referenced in hip hop music, particularly in gangsta rap. Although rooted in hip hop, the phrase or its snowclone variation is often paired with various images depicting White suburban stereotypes, similar to the usage of other hip hop references like swag and haters gonna hate.
The term “thug life” was initially popularized by American rapper Tupac Shakur, who started a rap group with the same name in late 1993 and released their only studio album Thug Life: Volume 1 in September 1994. The term continued to appear in numerous tracks by Shakur, most notably “Livin’ the Thug Life” and “Thug 4 Life”. The phrase in verbatim was quoted by Tupac Shakur for the first time in an interview with the California radio station KMEL in 1996.
I didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose me. All I’m trying to do is survive and make good out of the dirty, nasty unbelievable lifestyle that they gave me.
Following his death, the quote has been referenced by a number of other hip hop artists as well as Tupac’s fans, mostly in paying respect to the artist’s “thug life” philosophy. In January 2011, a Facebook fan page for the phrase was created, which has gained over 31,600 likes as of August 2012.
As Tupac defined it, a thug is someone who is going through struggles, has gone through struggles, and continues to live day by day with nothing for them. That person is a thug. and the life they are living is the thug life. A thug is NOT a gangster. Look up gangster and gangsta. Not even CLOSE, my friend.
Throughout 2011, Facebook fans posted dozens of parody images juxtaposing either suburban lifestyle or adorable subjects with Tupac’s quote. As early as July 2011, the quote also began appearing as the caption in various instances of image macros on Meme Generator, according to Google cache.
On May 7th, 2012, an image of a teenager’s high school yearbook photo accompanied by the phrase (shown below) was posted to the /r/funny subreddit, receiving 1,501 up votes.
On May 13th, an image of a maze puzzle featuring the phrase “fuck the police” was posted to /r/funny subreddit with the title “I Didn’t Choose the Thug Life,” which received 986 up votes. In July, dozens of other image posts titled “I Didn’t Choose the Thug Life” followed suit on Reddit as well as other internet humor blogs including Memebase, WeKnowMemes and ROFLS. Similar image macros and its snowclone derivatives can be also found on Tumblr under the tag “I Didn’t Choose the Thug Life.”