XXL: Can you tell me about some of the tattoos you’ve done?
Ian Griffith: I think the most recognized piece is the [Miami Heat] logo on Rick Ross’ face. It went viral. It got Google news, it got hood news, it was everywhere.

What are some other pieces that you’ve done?
I tattooed Meek Mill’s hand. I did the MMG logo on his hand. I did Tracy T’s forearm, I did the Benjamin logo with some dice. I re-did a lot of Ross’ tattoos. Every tattoo on his face, I did all of those. I actually traveled with them for two months, tattooing him. We’ve been to Miami, Atlanta, California; all over. We just tried to fit as many tattoos in as we could within that time to refresh them.

What’s one of your tattoos that you would say you’re most proud of?
I would probably say the Miami Heat logo just because it was so little and tiny but I was able to squeeze all that detail in there. It was definitely super tedious and I’d been tattooing for 20 hours straight. It was Meek and all the Dreamchasers; I was just going until early in the morning. We didn’t even do it until six in the morning. Ross had me do a few tattoos and that just happened to be one of them.


Why do you think tattoos are such a big part of hip-hop culture?
I think it’s important in hip-hop and all cultures because people can tell their story on their body. It’s like, no matter what, tattoos are with you for life. If your shit falls off your back and you don’t have your jewelry no more, you always have your tattoos. Tattoos are things that represent your life and your history and things that are close to you. Like, Meek got his son’s birth date and different things that meant a lot to him, even Ross. Just things that represent their lives.

It’s a vessel for them to express themselves and what’s important to them.
Definitely. Like [MMG Vice President] Young Sav got his parent’s wedding photo. It’s just a different way of representing yourself, visually. People see you and it sets off an emotion. If I see a tattoo on someone’s forearm of a certain image, it’s going to make me feel a certain way.

Do you think certain rappers get them purely for the style aspect of it?
All the rappers that I’ve worked with so far, the images mean more to them than just style. I’m yet to do tattoos for people where it’s just like, "I want this for the look." It’s moreso along the lines of badges of honor, badges of accomplishments or points of your life that you want to remember. That little piece of ink is forever a timepiece of that era in your life. [It represents] how you were feeling at that time. It represents that moment.


Are there any new tattoo trends that you’re seeing in hip-hop? I know face tattoos are kind of a new trend.
As far as hip-hop goes, I definitely see people... Like, before it wasn’t so much on the face, but now it’s more acceptable. There’s definitely more face tats. Definitely branding yourself, too. A lot of the MMG guys or the Dreamchasers, they want to get MMG or DC because that’s what they live for. I definitely see that more. I wouldn’t call that a trend though. I guess face tats are more of a trend.

Why do you think face tats have become more acceptable?
I think just human nature and growth with us as human beings. Just people evolved and it became more acceptable, just like everything else. It’s just the culture and it’s the next step. What’s after this? Now it’s face tats. Some people get their eyeballs tattooed now. Not in hip-hop or anything, but in the tattoo culture. It’s definitely just growth. The more people that get it, the more common it is and the more accepted it will be.

Wait, you said people are getting their eyeballs tatted? I’ve never seen that.
Yeah, people inject ink into the white part of their eye. It’s not like an actual machine tattoo, but they call them eye tats. That’s not my prerogative.

I know in my field of work, someone will do a great interview and I’ll be like, "Damn, I wish I did that." Do you have those moments with tattoos?
You know what’s crazy? My two favorite rappers were actually Ross and Meek, I ended up working with them. For me, it’s always a blessing getting to work with new people and it’s not so much of what I want to do but what I could do for them. Like, maybe they had something in mind and I’m able to bring that to life better than their expectations. That’s always something that means more to me. It’s not like, "This person should have that," because I might not know what they need.

What can we look out for from you? What’s on the horizon?
I have a tattoo shop. Some clothes, [called] Unroyal. I’m definitely going to be coming out with a summer line for the brand. Unroyal Ink is also the name of the [tattoo] shop.

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