Ten years ago, Waka Flocka Flame sat in a tattoo parlour and inked Hit Squad across his knuckles to show his loyalty to his friends. Now, the 26-year-old rapper has his nearly half of his body covered in ink-mostly done by Kintoz in Riverdale, Georgia.
The Brick Squad rapper says his mother cried after seeing his first tattoos but now, she’s sat with him during some of his sessions including his recent cameo on Pitchfork’s Selector series where Mama Flocka Flame makes an appearance.
Waka Flocka spoke with Complex on the cusp of dropping his sophomore album Triple F Life: Fans, Friends, and Family this week to explain the meanings behind his ink, passing out during his most recognizable tattoo, and posing nude for PETA’s ‘Ink, Not Mink’ campaign.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)
When did you get your first tattoo?
My very first tattoo was on my fingers. I got a group called ‘Hit Squad.’ Hit Squad was a group of kids I was hanging with in my neighborhood. My dedication to them was to put the tattoo on my fingers. I wanted to show my friends how dedicated I was, how serious I was about what I tattooed so that’s why I put it on my fingers. When I did, that’s when my mama just started crying because she’s like, ‘You’re just fucking your life up.’
How old were you?
I was 16.
What does your mom think now?
She’s like, ‘You’re a grown man. I can’t judge you for the mistakes you’ve made but it all worked in the end.’ [Laughs]
Does she have any now?
She’s got tattoos, like two or three of them. She got one with me. They’re not matching tattoos with me.
Who has done most of your tattoos?
I’ve gotten most of them done in Georgia by my tattoo artist named Kintoz [in Riverdale].
I saw you just got another done by Jason June at Three Kings Tattoo in Brooklyn.
Yeah, shout out to Three Kings.
Let’s talk a little bit about your next tattoos after Hit Squad.
The next tattoo I got was on my hands. It says ‘Southside’ because I’m from the Southside so I tattooed it on my hands. Let a person know when they’re conversating with me that I’m from the Southside and my group’s called Hit Squad.
You went straight to your hands first. What’s next?
From there, I got on my right arm a tattoo that says ‘So Icey Ent.’ that stands for what we got with me, Gucci, Wooh, Juice, Frenchie. Then my next tattoo was on the other arm, ‘Time Is Money.’ Then I just started going crazy.
Let’s run them down, we can start with your neck tattoos.
On my neck, I got words that says ‘Salute Me or Shoot Me’. That quote there means respect it or check it, if you like me or not, dig it or ditch it. On another part of my neck, in the middle of my neck, I have ‘Cut Throat’. What I mean by cut throat is that I’ll get cut throat in any situation, it’s just like whatever level you get on, I could get on. If you want to come to me correct, I’ll come to you correct. If you want to be cut throat, I could be cut throat. On another part of my neck I got a quote that says ‘Dreams could come true and you could survive hard times.’ I just really live by that.
Definitely. Your chest is fully covered, what went into your chest piece?
My chest piece, I got M.O.B. Money over...You know what I’m talking about. I’m on the phone with a girl so I’m not going to say that.
Well, thank you.
I got a whole bunch of skulls too. There’s a whole bunch of pain on my chest. When a person sees that, they can really feel my pain. On my stomach I got Waka Flocka Flame, my stage name, and above that I got Loyalty Over Royalty. I feel like I could never trade a friend or nobody for a way to the top.
Yeah, that’s a new tattoo, too. Let’s go down your right arm.
I got a man behind prison bars, under that I got a judge one, under that I got a guy hanging out a window with two pistols in his hand. Under that, I got a graveyard. The meaning behind that is that I got a lot of friends locked up, either they’re getting times or they’re in now, but they all got the same outcome in the end. That takes up my whole arm and when I look at that, it lets me know I could never go back that way.
And on your left arm?
I got a joker on my arm with a gun in his hand. A lot of people say, like, a joker like I’ll say I’m a joker because I’m so playful but I know how to get real evil if someone pushes my buttons. That was the whole meaning behind that tattoo. That took up my whole arm right there. Above that, I got a wolf with music notes around him. I got a man holding the world saying the world is mine.
Tell me about your back piece
On the top of my back, I got a tattoo of Riverdale. That’s where I’m from. I’m finishing my back piece right now.
Are you getting it done with Kinko as well?
Yes I am, m’aam. You know.
How many more tattoos are you trying to get?
I’m going to finish my legs, my whole back, my sides, my ribs. Ain’t nowhere near done, I’m going in.
What do your tattoos mean to you?
They’re like unspoken words, they mean unspoken words. It’s like saying certain shit that I want to say but I don’t have to say it because people already see it tattooed on me.
You posed naked for the ‘Ink, Not Mink’ PETA ad. Why did you decide to do that?
My PETA ad, ‘Ink, Not Mink.’ I posed nude over that because that’s how far I was going to take it on what I stood for. I never did it for a publicity stunt or more fans. It was to show a person how far I can go on things that I say out of mouth, that’s what I stand by. I’m a man of my word. I don’t wear fur. Never. I’m not a vegetarian, I just don’t wear furs.
I read an interview where you said that you got a paperclip tattoo while you were in jail.
Yes I got a paperclip tattoo for my little brother that passed away. I put that on my left arm on my wrist. A guy in jail was doing tattoos did it, for like two bags of chips, some honey buns, some shit like that.
You were just on the cover of Urban Ink magazine too for their anniversary.
I’ll say this confident, I feel like I put in a lot of work, I did a lot of things, and I feel like it’s paying off and I deserve it.
What’s your best tattoo story?
When I got Waka Flocka on my stomach, my friend told me I was taking pain medicine but he ended up giving me two or three Xanax pills. They got pictures of me drooling all out of my mouth, I woke up I didn’t even know I had a tattoo on my stomach. I had Waka Flocka Flame on my stomach. I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on!’ I wake up and my stomach is burning and I’m like, ‘Holy shit.’ I was mad as hell.
Would you have gotten that anyway?
I would have gotten it, but I also wouldn’t have gotten it so big because it hurt so fucking bad. They date raped me, man. [Laughs] Oh my god that shit was like death!
Are there any tattoos that you regret now that you would consider covering up?
I don’t regret no tattoos. They all mean something to me.
What’s next for your tattoos?
What’s next for me? My ribs, I’m about to get a whole bunch of people on my left rib like Malcolm X, Nefertiti, Dr. King.
Can you talk a little bit about tattoos in hip hop and what trends you see with it?
I feel like tattoos in hip hop are unspoken words. Sometimes it will let you know how artists feel without even talking because you can read it on them. It’s pain, it’s anger, it’s emotions, style, and swag. It’s unspoken words.
Where do you get your inspiration for all of your tattoos?
I get them from me, from trying to put my point across. I always try to be different.
Definitely, that was all the questions I had for you, unless you have more tattoo stories like your stomach one.
I don’t know, we’ll come up with something when I see you. All I need them to do is cop the album on June 12th, Triple F Life: Friends, Fans, and Family.