I don’t recommend tinting the windows of your car if you live in Los Angeles. Anderson .Paak’s earworm single “Tints,” which he just performed alongside Kendrick Lamar on the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live, makes quite a convincing case for privacy and security benefits of these after-market alterations: hiding from the omnipresent, vampiric paparazzi; keeping sexual dalliances discreet; and being able to observe the surroundings without anyone knowing you’re watching. But window tinting is illegal in Los Angeles in most cases, even if its application is widespread. The police are too busy chasing moving violations or drunk drivers to worry about your windows, so most people get off without even the “fix-it ticket” Kendrick references in the track. It’s a curious thing that in a city obsessed with being noticed, so many people would want to hide.
The actual laws are arcane, complicated, and rather dull. Do whatever you want with your rear side mirrors. Tinting is allowed on the rear window, but you can only tint the top for inches of your windshield. Front side windows have to let in at least 88 percent of light. Why 88 percent? Why not 90? Why even bother with tinting at that point. That 12 percent you can tint might shield your eyes from the sun, which is the only practical reason to get tinting. A recent change to the law — Assembly Bill 1303 — made it acceptable to tint your car windows if you have a medical condition that causes sensitivity to light.
The laws clearly exist to allow the cops a chance to look into your window and see what it is you’re up to. You can probably guess why some of us don’t want the police peering into our windows. Sure, there’s the illicit activities that could go down in your ride, but I’m talking about a more pressing concern. The deaths of young Black males at the hands of law enforcement is one of the great stains on our society and is a problem that doesn’t seem poised to go away any time soon. If my windows are tinted, you can never know if I’m Black. You can’t profile me or judge me ahead of time — a concern .Paak touches on early in “Tints.”
Whatever the rules are, they don’t stop car enthusiasts and people who just want to stunt in their vehicle from going to an auto body shop to darken up their windows. Psychologically, the impulse to tint your windows isn’t all that different from the reason some of us wear sunglasses indoors or at night: Anonymity and clout.
But .Paak talks about tinting as a shield from his newfound fame. He’s performing on SNL and collaborating with Dr. Dre. His album, Oxnard, debuted at no. 11 on the Billboard 200 — the highest chart placement of his career. He needs to hide because everyone wants a piece of him now. It’s a common refrain from artists in the album that immediately follows their big break. Oh, how things change in an instant. With the rags-to-riches story complete, all that’s left is to ponder whether or not success is really worth it.
The fame and fortune inevitably lead to retreat: Gated communities, personal chefs, and those tints on your ride. If you grew up in the Los Angeles metro area, like .Paak did, what you end up losing is a big part of LA’s charm.