Each tattoo, even the grody tramp stamp of a Mexican worm that appears in Bridesmaids, has its own story. And, since the tattoo taboo has melted away, it seems everyone, even the most powerful celebrities, sports stars, and musicians have at least one. One day, we'd love to ask Lil Wayne about his ink armor (and stupid face tats), or question pop princess and awesome mom Britney Spears about her collection of oddities. In that same vein, we sat down with local rhyme-slinger Bleubird to ask about his tattoo fetish and to hear his his ink tales.
The first time he went under the needle was for an Arabic inscription of his name at 18. "There was some sort of international day at my school," he laughs. "And I had this piece of paper with my name written in, like, 20 different languages." He settled on Arabic, because, he says, it looked awesome "compared to everyone else's Kanji [tattoos]." Bleubird found his way into "some janky" (whatever that means, we're guessing a mix of junk and tacky?) tattoo shop in downtown Orlando, and bit the bullet, or the needle, er, or bit something.
"My mother is Jewish and hates tattoos," Bleubird tells us of his first time "coming out" to his parents. "It seemed like the most rebellious thing I could do... Besides slam my bedroom door with my Rage Against the Machine poster on it," he laughs. It wouldn't be until years later though that Bleubird met a man in a small cave in Amman, Jordan, who told him what his tattoo actually said. Instead of his first name, Jacques, "It means nothing at all in Arabic, except for 'y-e-l-b,' so now," he says, "I just tell people it means 'Young Egyptian Lover's Brigade." He thinks it suits him just fine.
Despite this misunderstanding, his obsession continued. Not long after, Bleubird found what he describes as "this house in the student ghetto." There he met a nice, though probably unlicensed, man named A.D. "With all gold teeth," the rapper relates, "he would set up shop and tattoo football players." Bluebird was tattooed by A.D. only after the artist drove him to Kinko's to enlarge the image of the iconic Goodie Mob tree. "A.D. spent all night hammering into my back with his outline needle." Why, you might ask? "Because he forgot his fillers elsewhere." While it took some time, Bleubird was no complainer. "We listened to Mobb Deep's Hell on Earth like 12 times and smoked about four blunts." A best and worst case tattoo scenario.
Most of his visible tattoos don't look like the "scratcher" type. However, he remains true to his humble initiation into ink. "With needles and ink and, if the situation is right, we'll stick-n-poke some 'friendship freckles' into each other," Bleubird says of those he meets on his travels. The small area above his knee is decorated with a small cluster of about a dozen or so small black ink dots.
When he's not busy giving or receiving "friendship freckles" on the road, Bleubird frequents artist Holden Ritchison at his shop Formula Ink in Fort Lauderdale. "Holden is the first tattooer I developed a relationship with, and he's done a majority of my work," Bleubird notes. "I've come to him with the most off-the-wall ideas, and he just laughs and draws what I describe perfectly!" Even if it's, he says, "a portrait of the reflected image of a skeleton teaching his son how to shave," Holden has said "sure," without hesitation. How about another of Bleubird's creative concepts: "A panda-bear hot air balloon with little rabbits dropping carrots out of the basket?" No sweat for Holden who Bleubird hails as a talented and amazing artist.
"The only official 'Bleubird' tattoo out there is on Randy Keeler of No Kings Tattoo in Louisiana," the rapper describes an all night booze binge with the artist that ended oddly. Bleubird notes, "He gave me nine tattoos and demanded that we trade positions." Get your mind out of the gutter people! "I gave him a bird tattoo on his thigh. There's a video of it somewhere," Bleubird recalls. But, he admits that the experience won't have him quitting his day job because, well, "I forgot to color in one wing."
We couldn't dig up the colorless wing tattoo, but here is a video of "Friendship Freckles" from Bleubird's ongoing Freebird project.
Bleubird will be performing live with fellow BLS members Astrea Corporation Saturday, July 28 at C&I Studios' Hip Hop Night.