Mister Cartoon: “Nothing In This World Is Given To You”

Behind the artwork on some of your favorite hip-hop albums, tatted on your favorite rappers and even on the cover of this month’s XXL Nas issue (shameless plug) is a man that needs no introduction.

Los Angeles-based tattoo artist Mark Machado, widely known as Mister Cartoon, is one of the game’s most respected artist of this generation. Responsible for such art as Eminem’s famous Hailie portrait on his right arm, vehicle design works for Oscar De La Hoya, artwork for Cypress Hill, and a long list of others, the canvas is far from empty for this West Coast innovator.

XXL recently got a chance to chop it up with Mister Cartoon, who is currently on tour, to touch on a gang of topics including his favorite self-created piece of work, working with Vans OTW, Eazy E, his top five favorite emcees and designing the Nas cover. Light work!—Ralph Bristout

XXLMag.com: You’re currently on tour. How’s the experience on the road been going so far?

Mister Cartoon: It’s difficult and challenging packing my tattoo shop into a suitcase; I have to focus and meditate to be in a positive mind frame tattooing out of a hotel suite. The good thing is I used to tattoo out of a garage in the hood back in the day. Showing my face in different parts of the country helps me stay relevant and stay on my toes.

As a Vans OTW Advocate, how did your partnership with the brand come about? What’s the experience been so far?

I have been wearing Vans since I was kid, [so], it was a natural collaboration because I love the brand. OTW is a premium line of Vans that’s the best to offer and they let me do what I want to do. The first [style] drops [at] the end of the month.

You had camaraderie with Eazy-E in the early 90s. How did you two link up?

I linked up Eazy-E— I approached him at a carwash in the harbor area and he gave me three album covers to do.

What were they?

MC Ren’s first album (Kizz My Black Azz) Penthouse Players and Above the Law (Black Mafia Life).

How was it like working with him?

Eazy-E was a California icon and you knew he was from the street. He owned a ’63 Impala hardtop and had a brand new BMW with paper plates. [Plus] he was a top-notch womanizer.

Got it. Do you have a favorite piece you’ve worked on? Whether an album cover, tat, collaboration, etc.

My wife’s back piece and my kids are my greatest works. [Laughs] I guess Eminem’s tattoos, 50 Cent’s back, and there’s a bunch of work on great repeat customers that I trip out on.

Speaking of, who are your favorite rappers or musicians?

No. 1 is Jay-Z, No. 2 [is] Snoop Dogg, No. 3 Young Jeezy, No. 4 Cypress Hill, and No. 5 Hittman.

How was it designing our XXL cover?

It was important that we celebrate creativity so, when doing this project, I freestyled the artwork like Nas freestyles lyrics. When I work, I [usually do that] so [in essence this was] back to true hip-hop, no need for computers.

What word of advice would you give those seeking a similar career path as yours?

My advice is to get a proper apprenticeship. Don’t ask to get paid, learn under [an] OG. Keep your mouth shut [and] ears open. [Keep] opinions to yourself [and] be original. In a world where everything has been done beforehand, remember there’s no substitute for hard work and practice. Nothing in this world is given to you.