The pandemic hit at an unfortunate time for the Compton leg of the Black Ink Crew franchise. As viewers were able to get introduced to the cast of Compcon artists, a halt in production, and the entire world, delayed more of the stories the shop led by iamCompton.
Now, Black Ink Crew: Compton is back in season two, allowing us to learn more about the hottest Black artists on the nation’s west coast. iamCompton led that group to Atlanta to take on their counterparts from the Chicago and New York Shops.
While on hand in Atlanta, iamCompton spoke with The SOURCE about owning the first tattoo shop in Compton, gearing up for the “Battle of the Tattoo Titans,” and more.
As a fan of Black Ink, I feel like the pandemic screwed me over. Just as we got introduced to you all, the story got cut short. How was it being a shop owner and continuing business right after the initial stages of opening the shop and then the pandemic?
Honestly, it was a struggle as a first-time shop owner. Trying to do something in Compton, being the first tattoo shop ever in Compton. It was a lot of pressure on me. And then when the pandemic hit, it was like, oh man, I got this far and now I got to somehow keep it above water. I just took it one day at a time and thank God that I’m here now.
Do you feel there is a never-ending set of roadblocks and challenges?
Oh for sure. Obstacles come left and right through life it’s it is a rollercoaster, but I’ll never stop. Might ease out for a while but that’s, that’s part of life going through those hurdles.
What have you learned about yourself as a person, but also a business owner, and then a tattoo artist?
Don’t take nothing personal. It’s just business. Don’t mix emotions with business.
When you got here to Atlanta and saw the setup for the competition. How did you feel?
That was exciting. I was like, oh, hold up. We important [laughs]. Y’all took the time out to do something for us. You get kind of numb when you been working for a long time and tattooing a lot of people or to see somebody spend $1,500 on a pair of shoes or $5,000 on a bag, but they didn’t want to pay for $500 tattoo at the most. It throws you off and you feel like you are not doing enough and it’s a difficult job. Now, everything changed and now people appreciate it a little more for art. And even the things like the NFTs and stuff, the artists being more appreciated, more valuable. And that’s what I felt walking out like, oh, y’all value us. So it was excitement, a good feeling.
When you first heard about this battle and everything coming together for it, placing you in the same arena with the other two shops and on this grand stage, what was your initial thoughts?
I thought it was dope. I thought it was a great idea. I’ve been waiting to be a part of something cool like that. I didn’t know what it was, but that was it. You can take this all over the world and have fun with it. It’s the culture and it’s a part of my brand. I done dreamed about this environment, not knowing it, you know what I’m saying? I can do what I love.
This is a family environment, but at the same time, there’s a level of competitiveness that comes into it. How did you prepare yourself and your team for this?
I think they got a lot of competitive nature. I wasn’t concerned about them competing, but as far as coming and being prepared and having everything you need on a spot and then like do this right now and figure it out. You got this amount of time with the pressure for cameras and, and stuff like that. It’s difficult. But we deal with that anyway. So I think it’s dope. It’s all fun. It’s all up. At the same time, you can display your talent. They get to show their skills under pressure and see what obstacles they overcome at the end of the day. We all get a chance to use the platform to show people what we do.
Reflecting back on season one, was there a big lesson you would take a way from it?
I think I would have did the tattoo shop thing a couple of years before the show. It’s still cool that I did it the way I did it. Cause I showed the process of starting and building it from scratch. You got to see the struggles and then there you gonna be at two years from now.
You’re competing against Ryan and Ceasar. You are a boss in your own right. How do you feel coming into it? Do you look at yourself as the underdog or the upstart that is taking on the guys who have had more TV time?
Honestly, when I played football I learned to focus on your assignment and what you are supposed to do. Now me, one on one, I play receiver I’m on that island. It’s a DB trying to stop me. I’m not even worried about you. I’m calm. I know my assignment. I know what I need to do. As long as I can get to the zone, I’m good. Take your time. Be patient, keep calm. Do the assignment, get in the zone. Once you in that zone, your talent going to speak. Your art is going to speak. And this is what we do.
You art ranges from tattooing to music. Where do you draw the inspiration for your music?
I’m speaking on situations that I’m been through. I seen my life flash before my eyes and I’ve been robbed and woke up to some gun in my face. I done seen life from a different perspective. So all of this is fun. I just take it one day at a time.