not quite ratchet, but not full of nutrients- on vh1’s black ink crew

January 9, 2013


By: Frantz Cayto

A good friend of mine that has cut her cable chord was staying in a hotel over the weekend and was able to get a glimpse of what television has become during her absence. She bemoaned that even though the world had not ended quite like the Mayans had calculated, she surmised that possibly they were only talking about the state of television. Most notably the realm of reality television. She mentioned Moonshiners, Honey BooBoo, Love and Hip-Hop New York, and a number of other shows that if stuck in a time capsule may cause our future selves to wonder about our civilization and potentially our intelligence. Last Monday night, after the season premier of Love and Hip Hop New York (which according to Twitter #LHHNY was all the age and trending along with #DwayneTheRockJohnson and #WWERaw) came the series premiere of Black Ink Crew. It is a show centered on a tattoo shop (Think LA
or Miami Ink) that is owned by an African-American in the middle of central Harlem. I have seen bits and pieces of both LA Ink and Miami Ink, but I cannot say I am a crazy fan, and it’s very obvious that it is the personalities that push the show. The same can be said about Black Ink Crew. It is full of personalities, I am not just sure if they should be fully exposed to the world at large.

A quick rundown of the crew:

Caesar: The crew is headed up by Ceasar, who is not only the owner of the shop, but
also considers himself the top artist. He is young (26 years old) and he took over the
shop from the previous owners. He is very arrogant and loves the ladies, and has a
vision for the shop’s future, but is struggling managing people for the first time.

Dutchess (who is ridiculously fine) came up to NYC from North Carolina to do her
craft in tattoo artistry after graduating college and is the only female artist on the

Sassy is another female in the shop but basically helps plan events and keeping the
shop from delving into chaos. Her claim to fame is her Mohawk hairstyle and AK47
back tattoo.

Puma is the “face” and PR person for the shop which I find peculiar since he is
always getting into trouble and causing a ruckus. He and Ceasar are boys from way
back and is in the middle of having a child with one of the groupies (Mixxies) from
the shop.

O Shit is the final artist in the shop and he has a very big ego and healthy feeling
about himself. He is Ceasar’s mentee and rival. He also has a baby momma drama
that causes him problems both in and out of the shop.

Alex is the receptionist who is always fighting with Ceasar and butting heads with
him. She also expresses her opinions with customers whenever she thinks they are
getting bad tattoos.

There are others in this motley crew, but this is the core people from episode one. And yes, it can be a train wreck at times as all the personalities are very different and have their own issues, especially when the “Mixxies” (the groupies who hang around the shop and always are getting into the mix) get involved. But the reason why I take umbrage with this show is not because of the people… they are likable enough, and all of the women are fine in a very eclectic way… but because they show their ass on the regular in a business establishment. It is like taking the riffs from movie Barber Shop and raising it up to the nth degree. Artists fight with customers (literal fist fights and pushing matches with customers), customers are forced to wait hours after an appointment because their artist did not come in on time. Employees fight the owner in front of customers and other employees/artists
because they just feel like they have the right. The atmosphere is beyond ghetto and unacceptable. People who had problems with Tarantino and Django Unchained should have more problems with VH1 for displaying this buffoonery and showing exactly how NOT to run a business. And last but not least, as a man who has five pieces of art on his body, the tattoos they do are not that stylistically appealing. Not compared to what I have seen on other shows like Ink Master with Dave Navarro. In the end, is this show the end of the world? No. Will I cringe with the “are you the
father” storyline going on with Puma and one of the “Mixxies”? Yes, probably. But I will most likely return to see what is going on with Dutchess and her fine self. Yes, I have a bit of shallowness to me as well.