Black Ink Crew: Compton makes its mark on the West Coast as the VH1 show makes it debut on national television. Of course, when you think of Compton you think Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, YG, Kendrick Lamar, the list goes on. But now, IAMCompton (the name of the tattoo shop) finds its home in the city.
Spearheaded by famed tattoo artist and visionary KP, the self-proclaimed “Prince of Compton” has collected the best group of artists to bring their own creative juices into the community, specifically through body art.
AllHipHop: For those who don’t know, who is KP?
KP: KP is Danny Kirkpatrick. [chuckles] My aka is IAmCompton, IamCompton is Ink Art Music. Compton is a struggle, put ‘em together, now we have the first tattoo shop ever.
AllHipHop: That’s wild! What took so long?
KP: Timing, good things you’re not supposed to rush. Timing, alignment, and finding the best artists in LA to be a part of that.
AllHipHop: What do you see in Nessie?
KP: She’s one of the best artists. You can’t be around me if you ain’t the best or don’t believe in yourself. You gotta believe in you enough, the I Am is within you. You gotta believe in yourself enough so that if you’re out here by yourself, you gon’ hold it down. You won’t have nobody looking like “hold up, what should I do?” You hold it down, I need them type of people around me.
AllHipHop: Define the best artist.
KP: That confidence. They care about what they’re doing, their work, their passion. It’s that type of stuff I in myself that I look for in artists. If they’re passionate and care about what they’re doing, not just doing it to do it.
AllHipHop: Nessie, what made you come to Compton?
Nessie: I just wanted to be a part of something that’s going down in history. It’s the first tattoo shop ever in Compton. Came a long way. I was working out of my living room back in the suburbs of Philly until this happened. Since I got here, I’ve been taking private clients off of Instagram and Facebook to keep myself afloat so when this opportunity came along, I’m like “this is it.” It was the right timing.
AllHipHop: How did you find each other?
KP: Well, that’s on the show. You have to tune in, no spoilers.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to when you both first fell in love with tattooing.
KP: It was a decade ago, once I realized my story and my life was already written. I’ve been drawing since 1st grade/elementary. I didn’t realize the gift I was given and how much of a blessing it was to be able to draw. I had no options, I had to figure out what to do with my life or go to jail. I picked up the tattoo gun, a real one. It’s like hold up, I had this talent all along and never even used it. I’m over here looking at everybody else like “I want to do that, I want to do that,” and this whole time I already was blessed with a purpose.
Nessie: I started tattooing 7 or 8 years ago, since 2012. My uncle introduced me to it. I think it’s the trust that got me in love. People come to you to get the most important things in their lives to be tattooed, the stories behind it. That honor, you trust me to create that for you? Then you wear it for the rest of your life. They’re walking billboards, every single person you tattoo. It’s a blessing in itself.
AllHipHop: What does it mean to have the show air in your hometown?
KP: I’m still trying to bottle up that feeling. Right now, everything is a blur. I’m more of a one day at a time type person. Dealing with all the interviews, the family members hitting me, all of that, I’m still like “alright, we still gotta get through the first year.” I look far before I get excited. We in the championship yet? Nah. We in the playoffs? Okay, focus!
AllHipHop: What are your family members hitting you about?
KP: They so proud! It’s crazy. I know they’ve been proud of me since day one with everything I do, but now it’s different — when you have a disconnect because everybody gets older, go their separate ways, take care of their family. They wish you luck, pray for you, reach out when they can. Certain reunions, certain holidays you can see people and stay in touch, but this is forcing people to be a family member and reach out. “I’ve always been proud of you!,” this and that. You get to hear that. That’s the cool part about it, to hear how they feel and to hear the love while you’re here.
AllHipHop: What were you seeing growing up?
KP: A little bit of everything. There’s nothing I haven’t seen growing up in Compton. You grow up fast. Walking those streets, you become fearless. It’s a jungle, you adapt.
AllHipHop: How does body art help those who are struggling in the neighborhoods?
KP: It’s a lot of expression in the art. The tattoo does something to you. You feel a way when you get a tattoo. When you see it, it calms you down. Even with the gang culture back in the day, they used to do certain things then get tattooed. They have a realization that “dang I really did this, am I really finna ride this out for the rest of my life?” They either do it or they say “hold up, I don’t know.” It’s an eye-opener ‘cause you realize this is on me forever. I gotta wake up and see this. It comes “alright, what do I wanna see on me?” That’s where I come in, people are like “I need this covered up! I don’t wanna see this no more.”
AllHipHop: Nessie, how’s entering just the aura of Compton?
Nessie: It’s real different. I’ve been through some stuff in Compton already. I’ve been in shootouts out there. Gotten robbed in broad daylight, chased them down and got my s##t back. You just gotta move forward. And he called me a b##ch, I’m like “you just snatched my purse off my arm bro.” Which probably wasn’t smart because who knows what he could’ve had, but I’m like “I can’t just get robbed out here.” Nah.
AllHipHop: What’s been the craziest memory filming the show?
KP: If I tell you that, I’ma give away some scenes. We all took a trip as a crew. We took a vacation.
AllHipHop: Where’d y’all go?
KP: See, that’s too much information.
AllHipHop: Was there any tattooing on the trip?
KP: We wanted to! That’s part of the story too.
AllHipHop: What’s the best episode?
KP: All of them, s##t! I got an idea of the first 3, the rest were a blur. But the first 3, you’re definitely gonna wanna stay tuned in. Because I wanna tune in, ‘cause I don’t remember all the s##t that happened. I want to see so I can remember, then I want to watch.
AllHipHop: Is it hard having cameras at all times?
KP: I’m just at that point in my life where I’m numb to a lot of stuff. There’s so much camera phones and all that nowadays to where if you see someone who’s a fan of your work or you know, it’s naturally just being cool. Everybody’s normal, just do selfies with somebody they look up to.
Nessie: If you’re comfortable with yourself, the cameras are nothing. As long as you’re you, you don’t change up.
AllHipHop: What do you both specialize in?
KP: Mine’s linework, but sometimes coverups. I’m always getting challenged. When I get challenged, I’m like “oh, I guess I’m nice at that too.” [chuckles]
Nessie: I like portraits and realism.
AllHipHop: Talk about getting that Nipsey Hussle portrait on your arm.
Nessie: My homie Jim did this. Right after I got the opportunity to work with KP, he told me he wanted to give this to me for free because I was doing a whole bunch of Nipsey murals around the city for people. He’s like “come through the shop, I won’t charge you.” He named it Prolific so that was dope. He told me “I want to offer you a job here, I won’t take a cut from you or nothing. I’ve been watching hustle” I said, “damn that’s love, but I got something else lined up…”
Nessie: He’s like “stop by whenever you want, you know you’re family.”
AllHipHop: What did Nipsey mean to you?
Nessie: Everything man! He was the example we all been waiting for. Really just did it his way and never compromised. I do music too, he’s one of the only artists who didn’t try to change up and be what everybody wanted for streams or for popularity. He made music for people who wanted to listen to it, that’s how I want to be. I just want to influence and inspire. I’m not trying to cater to any certain demographic.
AllHipHop: Have you tatted any big names in the rap game?
KP: For the generation now, I’ll say Lil Uzi and Travis Scott. I always pull up on them. There’s too many people: Puff, Taraji, Kelly Rowland, Jeremih.
AllHipHop: What sets your shop apart from the rest?
KP: It’s Compton! [chuckles] That right there is legendary. Nothing’s like Compton. It’s a privilege to be in Compton, be able to run a successful business and spread love.