Hip-Hop in Ink: Tattoos Can Be Dirty Too

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 don’t have at least one tattoo, more than likely you’ll come up with very few.   There are even rap odes to tattoos in songs from artists like The Alliance […]

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

don’t have at least one tattoo, more than likely you’ll 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 it’s very likely that you’ve thought about

getting a tattoo at one time or another – preferably not on one of those wild

nights that you’ll 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

tattoo shop.


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. That’s 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 you’ll 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 that’s brought to the

place sterile-ready.


AllHipHop.com: Do you have any advice on what people should

look for when they enter any tattoo shop?


H: Overall it’s like entering a restaurant or anything.

You’re looking at pretty much what’s around you, you ask questions about how

they sterilize. Especially in New York City – in most places you’re required to

have a license. So you ask for their license because you’re not licensed on

tattooing, you’re licensed on sterilization.


Ask to see the stuff coming out of packaging, because there

are indicators on the packaging to tell if it’s been sterilized or not. Check

for all of that. Check the indicators – they’re brown once they’re sterile.

Pretty much a person’s overall hygiene you should be looking at too. If a

person is not taking care of themselves, they’re 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. That’s the thing, tattooing use to not have so

many artists and a lot of artists are coming in the game and they’re reckless

for the dollar. They figure like, “Oh! It’s a way that I can make a quick

buck.” And they don’t pretty much care what they’re doing. They don’t know how

to sterilize. They don’t know how to deal with cross-contamination.


That’s the biggest part of tattooing is cross-contaminating

something, because people are thinking to themselves like they’re doing the

best they can do but easily germs are transmitted from surface-to-surface,

person-to-person very easily. I’m a germophobe, and a lot of people will ask

why I’m so a### about everything that’s being done. I’ve seen artists kick

their feet up on their workstations. I’ve seen artists spray out tubes with



AllHipHop.com: What?!


H: You name it, I’ve seen it done. So I tell people who say

that will run over here and say that they’re getting a good deal, that you’re

playing with your life. You’re playing with your overall health to save a few

dollars. And the artists are playing with people’s health to gain a few

dollars. So overall it’s a dirty game. Again, it’s like eating in a restaurant.

You don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, you’re just sitting down and

eating without knowing what’s happening.


I always try to tell people don’t think it’s a hot deal when

you don’t know what’s happening. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask as many

as you want. It’s like seeing a doctor, you ask him as many questions as you

want or don’t deal.


AllHipHop.com: I didn’t 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. It’s just like surgery, that’s why they scrub up and it’s 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 don’t

look at the slightest thing, they just do it and go on with their lives. It’s



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 doesn’t hurt it’s okay. A person will say, “Oh, my tattoo is

not bothering me,” and they’ll stop the aftercare right away. And because it’s

not hurting you shouldn’t give up. It will hurt you later on down the line. It’s

so much deeper than just little words, like people just feel like, “Ok, we’re

going to talk and I’m going to just tell you something and that’s that.” No,

because it’s bigger than that.


Say I tattoo you and you happen to go on a dirty surface.

That could be someone’s couch, someone’s bed, a train or something. They don’t

take into consideration that it’s pretty much an inflicted wound. You’ve been

engraved. The process of engraving and you’re not covering up the wound, that

you have to give it care in order for it to heal.


It’s an open wound and they just lay anywhere and come back

to me and say, “Hey, what is this?” and it’s like where have you been? “Oh, I

was just home.” Do you have any pets? “Yes.” Well, you’re 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 you’re laying where your dog just layed.


AllHipHop.com: Ah, man!


H: It’s about 7,000 things you can do wrong in a day. So

there’s 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 you’re 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 don’t sweat as much and

it’s 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!

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