Interview: Rapper Kid Ink spills the details on his many tattoos

Kid Ink

Kid Ink (Courtesy Estevan Oriol/ RCA Records / April 30, 2014)

Kid Ink has so many tattoos, he’s having a hard time finding room for future ink.

The Los Angeles rapper — who released his “My Own Lane” album in January on RCA Records after years as an independent artist — is pretty much tatted up from head to toe. The little room he has left is either too prominent (his face) or not prominent enough (his legs). This explains, in part, why Ink (real name: Brian Collins) has yet to get a tattoo to celebrate the success of his album, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 thanks to the radio-friendly single “Show Me,” featuring Chris Brown.

The other issue? Finding time these days for tattoos. Ink is midway through his U.S. tour and recently announced dates in Europe that will take him through the fall. On Friday, Ink is set to perform at the House of Blues.

Ink discussed his too many-to-count tattoos over the phone last week and what they do and don’t say about him. The following is an edited version of a longer conversation.

First time: “When I was 16 years old I went with my mom and got this design I drew up. She already had five tattoos, so she wasn’t totally against it. I (persuaded her) by making it sound like a mother-son situation. My father wasn’t around, so my mom was my parent.”

Family tribute: “My mom was the one raising me and my grandfather supplied support financially. They’re the only two people who I felt deserved that acknowledgment. They’re the two people who helped me most in my life. My mom loved (the tattoo of her). Even my grandfather, who didn’t like tattoos, as soon as I got (the tattoo of him): ‘Oh, that’s the nicest tattoo ever.’”

Misconceptions: “I feel like people judge me because of the tattoos. They think I’m a gangster or a crazy biker dude because I’m tatted up from head to toe. That inspires me to prove them wrong. I know where I come from and I treat people how I want to be treated. That’s a major key to my success. It definitely helped me make relationships.”

Modesty: “I don’t want to be that person who raps about stuff I don’t have. I did early on and realized it wasn’t helping me. I wasn’t relating to anybody. I wasn’t speaking for the people. Honestly, I can say from personal experience the past year, not too many (rappers are humble). The peers who are similar and give me that vibe, those are the ones I kept as close friends. I do records with the ones who are cool.”

Significance: “I think some of my tattoos show my energy. I have a burning tie tattoo that represents my stance against the corporate world. My Frankenstein tattoo represents me and how my music dips into different lanes, like I’m made of different people.”

Special someone: “We’ve been together six years. She’s got my last name tattooed on her. I let her tattoo her initials in a heart (on me). I let her do it herself. It’s a cool thing. I have a song called ‘Tattoo Of My Name.’ I was never into (significant other) tattoos. I think that puts pressure on a relationship. People who do it the first year, it’s like, all right, whatever. But having this relationship for so long, there’s a trust factor there.”

Running out of real estate: “I do want to get one to celebrate the new album and the major label deal, but I don’t have room for it. If I do it on my legs nobody will see it. It would be something that represents the ‘My Own Lane’ theme. I’m good (on face tattoos). I got two things on my face I felt represent me as an artist. They’re nice and symmetrical. I didn’t want it to be distracting.”

Finding time for tats: “I’m on the road and don’t have any familiar tattoo artists around. I also don’t have much time to heal. Every day it’s interviews, meet-and-greets, being prepared with rehearsals and trying to fit in recording music.”

Good cause: “I have pets and would feel terrible if they were (killed for their skin). The main purpose of ‘Ink, Not Mink’ is (fighting) animal cruelty. But to me it not only represents animals, but being comfortable in your own skin. I grew up a heavy-set teen. I definitely did a lot of things just to be cool and fashionable.”

No regrets: “It’s not just the tattoos, but also that moment in time and memory. They reflect an era and everything happening to me at that time. I try to live without regrets. Things happen for a reason.”

Down the road: “Sometimes I think about what (the tattoos) will look like in the future. I Googled on old man with tattoos and a long beard and glasses. That will be me when I’m older. It gives me motivation to stay in shape. I try not to think about the future too often. It’ll clog your focus when you think about the future too much. Sometimes you’ve got to be in the moment. The best stuff happens in the moment when it’s not pre-planned.”

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

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Kid Ink
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St.
Tickets: $25 at houseofblues.com/chicago

CHICAGO

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