You know a tattoo is truly great when half the people you show it to screw their faces up and look like they’re about to keel over and puke, and the other half flat-out cry “fake.” If, like me, you’re a hip-hop nerd, you’ll no doubt have seen the photo of a freshly inked DRAKE forehead tattoo that went viral on the rap interwebs this past Tuesday. Now you may cringe in disgust at the very idea of someone so clearly insane being allowed to get this done, but to me this is just another raw and swollen step towards the day T.O. is officially on the rap map. So fucking what if it takes a sweater-wearing ex-Degrassi kid from the wealthy Forest Hill suburb to do it? I don’t care who it is. It’s about damn time any Toronto rapper got tattooed on someone’s face.
Yet despite how genuinely psyched I was about this girl’s near-religious expression of adoration, there were a few questions left floating in my mind—is this going to ruin her life? Who did this? Was she high as fuck one night and thought it would be a larf, or was she emotionally inspired by Drake’s soft and tender voice? More importantly, where are her eyebrows?
I wanted some answers, so I tracked down Kevin Campbell, the tattoo artist at the LA shop Will Rise, who is responsible for this young lady’s new look.
VICE: Hi Kevin, so who took the picture?
Kevin: Norm, my boss. It sucks because the photo makes the tattoo look all crooked and janky, but it's actually pretty well-applied and straight as an arrow. The other before, during, and after photos taken by my co-worker are better. But when Norm took the now famous picture, one of her shaved eyebrows was tensed up a bit, making the "A" in "DRAKE" look like dogshit. Her eyebrows were shaved when she came into the shop, by the way. Her head was shaved too.
How did you react when she told you what she wanted done?
The funny thing is, I didn't know who Drake was. I figured it was her hood or some shit, not some goofnugget R&B dude.
Did she talk about what it meant to her? Had she been planning it for a long time or was she kind of just like, "put it on my forehead" and that’s it?
Yeah, she was really psyched about it. She had the shitty font all picked out on her iPhone ready to go and was pretty adamant about putting it on her forehead. She didn't say a word about what it meant to her. Some of the guys at the shop asked her, and she just kinda giggled at them. When I printed up the first image of the lettering, she wanted me to go bigger, so that it went pretty much from each side of her hairline to the other. I thought she shaved her eyebrows for the procedure, so when I put the stencil on the first time, it was right over her (missing) eyebrows, but she had me enlarge it a bit and push it up towards the hairline. But yeah, she acted as if she had planned it out for a while, but I'm not really sure how much extended coherent thought could actually go into getting such a stupid tattoo on your forehead.
Wow. Do you feel sort of bad about it after the fact?
My whole deal with people wanting completely outrageous and potentially life-ruining tattoos is this: I'll ask them three times if they really think it's a good idea, I tell them what the potential consequences of getting a tattoo on their face might be, and after that, the bad decision is on them. I believe that people get the tattoos that they deserve. The shop where I worked prior to Will Rise was in the center of the Harbor City Crip neighborhood, so I'm not really a stranger to tattooing gang shit on faces, which is what I originally thought that this was. I guess I feel bad that this dumbass got the name of the softest motherfucker in hip-hop tattooed on her forehead. But what makes that any less valid of a tattoo to her? I lost a little sleep over it that first night, wondering if I wanted to be known as the asshole who tattooed "DRAKE" on some crackhead's forehead. None of the face tattoos I had done prior to this got any publicity, so I was a little surprised that this one took off like it did. I'm still kinda debating whether or not I should send you guys the whole set of pictures, I don't really want to paint the shop in a bad light, but it is what it is. In the end, she paid me to do this to her, which really means she did this to herself.
So you see it as your job to give people what they ask for?
There is a way of steering the customer in a direction that would make their whole tattoo idea something that would look better on their skin when the concept they have in their mind sounds good to them but wouldn't translate well into a tattoo. This usually comes up when they come in asking for something like a tattoo of a rose but with 20 names and dates hidden in the petals or something. When it's something as simple as lettering, I could have tried to steer her into a prettier font maybe, or a different location (obviously), but she was already set on this letterman jacket-style font.
But as far as having a choice, yeah, sure, I could have turned her away, and I'm already getting a ton of flack from other tattooers for this, but the way I see it, if she's got her little heart set on getting her forehead tattooed then she'll just keep on trying until somebody finally goes through with it. I think that getting a color portrait of the Joker from Batman is a dumb idea, but who the fuck am I to judge? If some cat from MS 13 comes in and wants me to "blast" that shit on his chin or forehead or whatever, who am I to judge the validity of them getting what they get and where they get it? If I tattoo a huge "BK" on a Crip or tattoo "DRAKE" on some R&B-crazed girl's face, what's the difference? Who am I to say which one is wrong and which is right?
Are you surprised at how quickly the photo spread?
Honestly, I didn't think this thing would get so much exposure. I'm still kinda debating whether or not it's a great idea to have my name attached to this shit more than it already is. Seeing as how I haven't really established too much of a name for myself, I don't particularly want this one tattoo to represent my whole body of work. It’s not something I’d want to write home to mom about, if you know what I mean. I've actually done some way crazier facial tattoos recently, but was really careful not to blast the shit all over the internet. There are so many kids walking up and down Fairfax with ridiculous facial tattoos that I didn't think too much about it before I did it. Plus, the whole shaved eyebrow thing usually means you just got put on to your neighborhood or whatever, so I figured she was just some crazy shermed-out cholla who was "down for her calle" or whatever.
In my opinion this whole world's going to shit, and shit rolls downhill, so I might as well just jump in, hold my breath, and pray to God that there's a nice big soft puddle of diarrhea for me to land in once everything hits the fan.
I wonder what was going through her mind when she decided to do it.
Man, I wish I could get you in touch with her. I'm sure the story's pretty intense. Sadly, she didn't leave a number on her consent form, just her name. But she is supposed to be coming back to finish the tattoo once it heals (she only had enough money for the outline) and I could probably talk to her then. She was on a pretty good one when she came in, but I think by the time I finished she was coming down, because her attitude changed pretty drastically once the tattoo was finished.