The vast world of body art has grown in popularity and
acceptance in Hip-Hop throughout the years. If you try to think of rappers who
dont have at least one tattoo, more than likely youll come up with very few.
There are even rap odes to tattoos in songs from artists
like The Alliance and Twista. Tattoo artists are becoming celebrities themselves,
displaying their work and name to endorse apparel and novelties. Tats are very
big in the Hip-Hop community, and its very likely that youve thought about
getting a tattoo at one time or another – preferably not on one of those wild
nights that youll regret for the rest of your life!
Before getting a tattoo at the spur of the moment, there are
some things that you should strongly consider such as cleanliness, safety and
Even choosing the right tattoo artist is an important factor when getting a tat. Is the tattoo artist open to answering your questions? Does the artist have a portfolio? Being educated means being prepared, and making the right decisions will put you at less risk of disease and in better control.
Rapper and jeweler Paul Wall has even raised awareness of
high toxicity in tattoo ink with hundreds of formulas that include lead, arsenic, beryllium, cobalt, nickel and other heavy
metal toxins. Paul and his father have developed a heavy metal detoxifier from
an ancient volcanic called Clinoptilolite.
The product is called Tattoo Detox and should be released in the U.S. soon. Paul’s goal is to educate tattoo enthusiasts of the risks of tattoo inks and provide them with a product which allows them to continue their lifestyles without giving up their health.
We spoke with H, a professional tattoo artist from Harlem
who has done tattoos for celebrity rappers like Juelz Santana. He also does
house calls, meeting artists at their studios and homes. We got his opinion on
the tattoo game, his advice on aftercare, and what to look for when entering a
AllHipHop.com: Who are some of the artists that you have
done tattoos for?
H: Artist-wise would be Juelz Santana, Un Kasa, Freekey Zekey,
T-Money, Tito Green, J.R. Writer, Dinero and Stevie Q.
AllHipHop.com: So you also do house calls for artists. How
do you prepare to do tattoos outside of your shop?
H: Whatever area that I work on, that immediate area has to
be clean. Thats including the floor, the seating, the tabletops and I work on
a stainless steel tray that I provide. The majority of the work is being done
off a tray. The arm rests are wrapped with the same cloth that youll see at
your dentist; one side is plastic, the other side is cloth.
AllHipHop.com: So do you use an Autoclave?
H: Yes. I use a standard Autoclave and thats brought to the
AllHipHop.com: Do you have any advice on what people should
look for when they enter any tattoo shop?
H: Overall its like entering a restaurant or anything.
Youre looking at pretty much whats around you, you ask questions about how
they sterilize. Especially in New York City – in most places youre required to
have a license. So you ask for their license because youre not licensed on
tattooing, youre licensed on sterilization.
Ask to see the stuff coming out of packaging, because there
are indicators on the packaging to tell if its been sterilized or not. Check
for all of that. Check the indicators – theyre brown once theyre sterile.
Pretty much a persons overall hygiene you should be looking at too. If a
person is not taking care of themselves, theyre not going to take care of
their stuff well.
AllHipHop.com: Do you hear stories often about scratchers,
hackers and scammers who try to get a quick buck?
H: Wow! Yeah. Thats the thing, tattooing use to not have so
many artists and a lot of artists are coming in the game and theyre reckless
for the dollar. They figure like, Oh! Its a way that I can make a quick
buck. And they dont pretty much care what theyre doing. They dont know how
to sterilize. They dont know how to deal with cross-contamination.
Thats the biggest part of tattooing is cross-contaminating
something, because people are thinking to themselves like theyre doing the
best they can do but easily germs are transmitted from surface-to-surface,
person-to-person very easily. Im a germophobe, and a lot of people will ask
why Im so anal about everything thats being done. Ive seen artists kick
their feet up on their workstations. Ive seen artists spray out tubes with
H: You name it, Ive seen it done. So I tell people who say
that will run over here and say that theyre getting a good deal, that youre
playing with your life. Youre playing with your overall health to save a few
dollars. And the artists are playing with peoples health to gain a few
dollars. So overall its a dirty game. Again, its like eating in a restaurant.
You dont know what goes on behind the scenes, youre just sitting down and
eating without knowing whats happening.
I always try to tell people dont think its a hot deal when
you dont know whats happening. Dont be afraid to ask questions, ask as many
as you want. Its like seeing a doctor, you ask him as many questions as you
want or dont deal.
AllHipHop.com: I didnt think that it would be that brazen.
H: It is, and your mind would be blown away. You have to
think about it, if I were tattooing you and suddenly go into my pocket and
touch your skin. Its just like surgery, thats why they scrub up and its like
that. I have money in my pocket, keys, overall dirt and lint in my pocket and
touch the surface of your skin I just cross-contaminated you. So people dont
look at the slightest thing, they just do it and go on with their lives. Its
AllHipHop.com: What are some of the mistakes that people
make with tattoos as far as aftercare?
H: One; I get a lot of people who have the overall mindset
that if something doesnt hurt its okay. A person will say, Oh, my tattoo is
not bothering me, and theyll stop the aftercare right away. And because its
not hurting you shouldnt give up. It will hurt you later on down the line. Its
so much deeper than just little words, like people just feel like, Ok, were
going to talk and Im going to just tell you something and thats that. No,
because its bigger than that.
Say I tattoo you and you happen to go on a dirty surface.
That could be someones couch, someones bed, a train or something. They dont
take into consideration that its pretty much an inflicted wound. Youve been
engraved. The process of engraving and youre not covering up the wound, that
you have to give it care in order for it to heal.
Its an open wound and they just lay anywhere and come back
to me and say, Hey, what is this? and its like where have you been? Oh, I
was just home. Do you have any pets? Yes. Well, youre lying on the same
thing your dog was just laying on, your dog walks close to the ground. Laying
on the ground, laying in your bed and youre laying where your dog just layed.
AllHipHop.com: Ah, man!
H: Its about 7,000 things you can do wrong in a day. So
theres no quick answer. Overall, you must keep yourself away from all germs.
Here are some
important tips to consider when it comes to getting a tattoo:
· Never be
impulsive when getting a tattoo. Remember that tattoos are permanent and making
quick decisions may lead to a lifetime of regret.
· When it comes
to selecting a design, make sure that it is your choice and not one that your
friend, spouse or artist picks.
· Make an
appointment and make sure that youre well rested and nourished. You will be
more relaxed and still. Tensing up and complaining does not help your
tattooist. Never get a tattoo under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
· Fall and Winter
are the best time of year to get tattoos, because you dont sweat as much and
its less exposure for your skin by wearing more clothes. However, take
vitamins to boost your immune system such as C and Zinc to prevent you from
getting a cold.
· Always remember
that you must wait one year before you can donate any blood or plasma. A lot of
people are being turned away because finding suitable donors are increasingly
· Do not shave
your tattoo until 5-10 days after receiving it. Shaving your tattoo during the
healing process can damage your artwork. Wait until after your skin peels and a
protective layer of skin is over your tattoo.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned tattoo enthusiast,
getting a tattoo takes a lot of thought and preparation. Being unprepared may
end up scarring you for life. If you have any additional tips for getting a
tattoo or aftercare, please feel free to share them with us.You can find out more about H’s tattoo work at myspace.com/bestkeptformula – also look for H in issue #88 of Urban Ink Magazine this September!