Welcome to Harlem, USA, home of the Black Ink Crew. On tonight’s premiere episode, we head uptown to meet some of the “coolest people in the world” who also happen to be responsible for some of the most elaborate and skillful tattoo designs in New York. Black Ink is kinda like the Olive Garden: when you’re here, you’re family. Let’s meet them all and then get down to business.
Shop owner. Prior to that, he worked the streets but drawing and tattooing were what he was good at. According to those who know (and LOVE) him the most, Ceaser is the “bastard of all bastards” and he’s the kind of guy who thinks every girl he meets wants to sleep with them. However, he’s also the best friend a person can have, even if he’s a bit of a softie as a boss.
Dutchess. A self-proclaimed southern belle. “I love the woman that is me,” she says. And we love her for that.
Dutchess likes tattooing men because “I like to see them in pain…They’re vulnerable and they’re weak and I’m putting them in that state.” Originally from North Carolina, she’s college educated and the object of Ceaser’s affection. “Ceaser definitely crushes on her a lot,” Sassy says.
Like Dutchess, he also likes tattooing people of the opposite sex, but that’s really just because he likes getting close to the booty. “As long as you get the chance to take your clothes off and you pay me for it? Get outta here. I love it!” he declares.
Sassy’s the event manager of the shop. “I love life. I’m just trying to take everything by storm with girl power,” Sassy says in her intro. Sassy has an AK-47 tattooed on her back because it symbolizes empowerment, but, she explains “it doesn’t have a trigger on it ’cause I don’t wanna hurt nobody.”
Shop manager. Gallery curator. “I do everything in this mother-f—er, man!” O’S**t describes Puma by simply saying “He needs Jesus.” Just to hit that point home, he has the word “Madness” tattooed across his chest. And, like, remember the time Puma walked into the shop missing his top front tooth? “Puma, where your tooth at??” Ceaser needs to know.
“I got hit by a parked car,” he says. (Cue the slide whistle.) “That’s how you know you had fun! When you lost a tooth. You can’t beat that. That’s real partying, man.”
Ceaser’s not a fan of this hobo toothless look though. “We got an image to uphold,” he tells Puma, who is the face of the shop. “Look at us. We all have our teeth.”
Alex is about the third person in the cast to claim that she runs the shop. Alex loves the girls at the shop a lot, she and Sassy and Dutchess stick together and have each others’ backs because it’s tough being a woman in a predominantly male business. Alex is drawn to tattoos for a few reasons, but mostly because they were a way for her to find an artistic outlet and way to rebel after her boyfriend was murdered in high school. “I remind myself every day, you only live once,” she says, and she’s living to the fullest. “It’s family here,” Alex says of the shop. “Respect what you’re getting into.”
So even though this crowd is tight-knit, they are fiercely competitive when it comes to their professional skills. When a cute girl walks in asking for a tattoo of a feather, she tells Ceaser and O’S**t that she doesn’t care which one of them tattoos her, so long as it’s the better artist.
“Draw off!” O’S**t declares.
Sassy gets out the paper and pens and after a few minutes of drawing, they reveal the results.
O’S**t and his simple, heart-filled design on the left end up winning, which leads to a whole bunch of gloating. But what O’S**t didn’t realize is that this girl’s actually the tattoo version of Sally from When Harry Met Sally. She likes the design but it’s too big. Maybe she should see what it looks like in color. On second maybe just black and white. On third thought, it’s a cute drawing but not a good tattoo fit for her. So after that whole thing, she doesn’t even get the tattoo.
Some clients are skittish about even the tiniest feather, while others want to get life-sized naked women smoking a joint across their thighs…when Alex meets a woman who shows her said design, she does everything in her power to persuade the woman not to go there.
“You’re getting a white girl with her t—ies out smoking a blunt on your thigh,” Alex says with a bit of disgust. And the woman is not happy to hear Alex’s criticism. “She’s totally offended right now!” Ceaser tells Alex, warning her to tone it down. A customer is a customer, in his opinion, but to Alex, the woman “is this close to getting a dumb tattoo she’s gonna regret for the rest of her life!”
Ceaser vetoes Alex and tells her he’s doing the tattoo, and Alex flips out. She walks back into the waiting room, flips the coffee table, and walks past the waiting customer who is so confused.
“I don’t know what homegirl was talking about, this is sexy. I love it,” the client says as Ceaser finishes the outline of her white-lady-blunt-smoker. Like so many other ladies who come to the shop for some ink and stay for the men, the women of the shop have no regard for her and even have a name for the kind of tattoo groupie she appears to be. “Mixxxy b—ch.”
“Mixxxy b—ches, they’re like, b—ches that are in the mix. They need to be everywhere, anywhere there’s something going on. They’re just around for no reason. The blonde bimbo chicks. Who are you??” Sassy explains. Here’s another one, hanging out at the shop after dark.
“I know why the guys have the mixxxy’s here. They ‘INSPIRE’ them!” Alex sarcastically explains.
“We hate mixxxys. The guys love mixxxys,” Sassy says.
So Alex has a minor beef with the mixxxy client whose tattoo she disapproved of, but Dutchess finds out that there’s a separate girl who has a beef with her, which comes out of nowhere.
This particular mixxxy thinks Dutchess is rude for not introducing herself, and when Dutchess finds out, she goes over to see what’s up. “Is there a problem?” she asks, but not before the mixxxy calls the place “my shop” which, if we’re keeping track, makes her the 17th person to say that they’re in some way, shape or form, running this place.
The next day, Alex and O’S**t don’t show up for work. “This morning with S—t not being here and Alex not being here, I think there’s some dirty deeds going down at Black Ink,” Sassy observes. Ceaser is in full boss mode and he’s not going to stand for this complacent, poor employee behavior.
Puma was late to work too, but he gets a pass because everyone knows he was at the doctor’s office. “I’m having a Pum-ette!” he tells the group when he comes in. Finally, someone that he’ll have more teeth than!
While Puma explains that he’s trying to grow up and “get my Cosby on,” Cease is skeptical. He wants Puma to get a DNA test juuuuust to be safe.
Puma mentions that he did see Alex outside the shop “throwing up her life,” which further annoys Ceaser, who plans to have a group meeting once S—t finally arrives to work. Alex runs in, ignoring everyone and dressed in gym gear and runs to the back of the shop (maybe to barf?) and Cease has totally had it. “Boss the f—k up, homie!” Sassy says, because he has no grip on any of his employees.
When Ceaser asks her where she was all morning, she tells him she wasn’t feeling good and that she didn’t call becasuse “I figured I’d talk to you when I get here, which is what I’m doing right now.” She goes in on Ceaser and starts yelling at him for a number of things — the fact that he’s on her case, the fact that she needs health insurance, a whole mess of random topics that cause Cease to burst and he yells at her to pack up her stuff and get out. And as for the health insurance thing? “Take that s— up with Congress, yo.”
Throughout all this drama, O’S**t still hasn’t shown up for work, he’s leaving his appointments hanging, and one unhappy former customer comes in looking for him to discuss a tattoo of a diamond on his finger gone wrong that looks blurry and fuzzy and terrible, so Ceaser agrees to give him a freebie. The diamond was on his knuckle. The freebie? A complete torso of Ganesh. Not bad.
But the fact that S—t is M.I.A. makes it seem like he’s not taking the business very seriously. And when he finally arrives, with his adorable daughter in tow, Ceaser is rips—t.
S—t explains he can’t be coming in working these so-called regular hours because he has to care for his daughter and live his life and all that. But that doesn’t fly with Ceaser, because they ALL have daughters, and they ALL have lives.
“Honestly, this s—t is not gonna work out for right now,” Ceaser tells him. O’S—t indeed.