“So, Lobsang Ludd, you tried to count my surprises, did you? Everybody does. Surprise is the nature of Time, and five is the number of Surprise.” “Yes, Sweeper. I found the little bridge that tilts and throws you in the carp pool…” “Good. Good.” “…and I have found the bronze sculpture of a butterfly that flaps its wings when you breathe on it…” “That’s two.” “There’s the surprising way those little daisies spray you with venomous pollen…” “Ah, yes. Many people find them extremely surprising.” “And I believe the fourth surprise is the yodeling stick insect.” “Well done,” said Lu-Tze, beaming. “It’s very good, isn’t it.” “But I can’t find the fifth surprise.” “Really? Let me know when you find it,” said Lu-Tze.
talking bird (demo) - death cab for cutie || flightless bird, american mouth - iron and wine || be still my heart - the postal service || such great heights - iron and wine || it’s time - imagine dragons || this tornado loves you - neko case || destination - imagine dragons || (if you’re wondering if i want you to) i want you to - weezer || our song - matchbox 20
Chris Brown got his first tattoo when he was just 13-years-old. It’s a portrait of Jesus Christ with musical notes to represent his God-given gift to sing. Thirteen years later, that gift has allowed the Grammy-winning singer to become one of the most dominant forces in music.
Today, these two worlds, tattoos and music, continue to be an important part of his life, but there’s even more to celebrate. Now he’s a father to Royalty, whom he named his latest album after. He calls her “an amazing plus” in his life and beams when he talks about her. He’s also got a newly launched clothing line, Black Pyramid, an upcoming documentary, “Welcome to My Life,” and he’s balancing all of this while being one of the most-talked-about celebs in the game.
In the middle of his busy schedule, CB sat down with Urban Ink to talk about his love for Royalty, music, ink, art and fashion. He also discussed his fearlessness, his upbringing, and how he maintains a youthful spirit, thanks to his creativity.
Urban Ink: Art is a really important part of your life. Can you tell us about some of your early influences?
Chris Brown: As a kid, your imagination is very fertile. So, growing up in the early ‘90s, I was influenced by everything from “The [Big Bad] Beetleborgs,” “Biker Mice from Mars,” “Street Sharks,” Animorphs books and Harry Potter books. All that had an effect on my creativity, my music, my art, even down to what I wear. For me, it’s more about just having fun and living with an adolescent vibe.
You talk about how creativity influences not only your tattoos and your art, but also your fashion. You got the Black Pyramid [clothing] line going. What inspired that concept?
I was always one of those kids that equated fashion with the first day of school or Christmas or the last day of school. Looking at the Eastbay [catalog], I always wanted to be one of those kids that liked ‘90s urban hip-hop culture. Admittedly, I’ve always been a fan of that. I think, with my clothing line, I tried to grasp that kind of concept, but also give my fans and my core audience a chance to see what type of clothes I like, the type of stuff that I’m into and clothing that’s actually affordable. My price range is like H&M and Zara prices, so I’m not trying to crush my consumers. I want them to be able to build the brand with me. Slowly roll out pieces and hopefully some small collabs will come out. I’m just getting my feet wet in the fashion industry. I want them to be able to see that I’m actually authentic and genuine about it. Not just trying to do it because it looks nice.
And it’s unisex, too. Why was that an important point for you?
You never can count anybody out. I believe much of my success has been female-based. Recently I’ve started getting more male fans. I wanted to do a clothing line that everybody could wear. I tell people all the time, I’m not running for president. Just like when I do my albums, it’s a choice. So if you want it, you can have it.
Talking about Eastbay took me back to when I would look at it. We’d imagine, “If we can pick one shoe from every page…” What was the shoe for you that took sneakers to the next level?
When we were coming up, we were poor, so we only had two pairs of shoes. You would get either high top or low top, a white Air Force 1 and a pair of Timbs, wheat or black, or vice versa. And they were your shoes for the year and, hopefully, your moms made a little money so you could get some basketball shoes and just maybe you could customize them on Eastbay to be your school colors. I might have done that once. So the shoes for me were basic. You would get some regular Vans or Chuck Taylors and trash them and then go to school every day and be cool. We kind of made everything work for us.
Yeah. It took me back, too. You’d get that one shoe growing up. However, later in your (young) life when you can pretty much buy any sneaker you want is there a shoe you still are looking for? A holy grail of a sneaker?
I’m not really looking for a holy grail of a sneaker. I have always believed “fresh” is you either got it or you don’t. I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Cool. I can wear blue denims with this ripped up shirt.” That’s overthinking. Whatever you feel like emotionally, that’s the clothes you’re gonna wear. You wear the clothes; you can’t let the clothes wear you.
The big white T’s?
Yeah, the six-X. Everybody went through a phase in his or her culture. White T’s for our era is like bell-bottoms for people in the ‘70s. So you get to this phase and now you’re seeing everybody start to be more creative and figuring out their own kind of sense of fashion and style or even just trying shit out. Fuck it.
Today we were obviously listening to a lot of your music. You’ve got some straight R&B and some rhymin’. That’s something that’s evolved throughout your career. Can you tell us how you approach those tracks differently, from a traditional R&B song to a Hip-Hop track?
Well, it’s easy: fearlessness. It’s not arrogance; it’s fearlessness. People dog themselves before they give themselves an opportunity to fail. So I think they let other people’s insecurities bring their doubts down. I don’t let that stop anything I’m doing. It’s never worked out for me in the past, so I think that listening to myself and focusing on what I needed to do puts me in that category. So if I wanted to rap or if I wanted to yodel, I think I would have just done it anyway with the confidence of me saying, “I’m gonna do it.” People usually have a lack of confidence due to insecurities. Once again, it’s not arrogance. It’s just being very aware and fearless of doing things or willing to try.
You’ve turned some of your own art into tattoos. Can you take us through how that usually works for you, from conception to finish.
Usually, it just comes from us partying or being in some exciting environment. Mostly it’s just having fun. For me, I don’t try to focus too much on particulars when getting a tattoo. Granted sometimes it has a deep meaning, like a milestone, and sometimes it’s just a stepping-stone in my life. I’ll look at a tattoo and say, “Oh, I remember where I was at when I got this tattoo.” Those moments are captured within the tattoos. I believe overthinking is probably what most people do, so I just try to let it flow. I use that same philosophy when I am getting my own artwork tattooed on me. I give my tattoo artist a lot of freedom.
Is there one [tattoo] in particular that you remember getting when you look at it?
Everyone always remembers their first tattoo. My first tattoo was a Jesus with musical notes. Basically signifying that God gave me the gift to sing. I was 13, but my mom didn’t know I got it. When she saw it, she went crazy, like, “What are you doing?” I showed her. I said, “It’s Jesus, mama, look.” So she kind of cooled down, but I still got in trouble.
What’s the latest ink you’ve got?
The latest ink I’ve got is probably my head.
That was big news, but based on this interview you strike us as someone who just got it spur-of-the-moment.
It’s just whatever. People want shock value. If I went outside butt-naked tomorrow, it would be headline news. But for me, the bull symbolizes the Taurus I am and the Aphrodite, the Goddess of all women. My stubbornness always makes me attracted to those types of females. So that’s me (the bull) chasing Aphrodite.
At some point, are you going get your back done? That’s a spot where you’ve got some space.
Yeah, I’ll probably get my back done. I’ve got a couple artists that I’m looking at. I’m gonna put my daughter on my back, her whole body. I’m trying to make some ill portrait shit.
Do you have a favorite artist?
Nah, man. Art is what you make it. I can appreciate everybody’s art. Tattoo artists are like fine artists and there’s no first place in the art world to me. Everybody has his or her own unique style. It’s almost like there’s no first place in music. You may get a number-one record, but everybody’s got a shot at the next number one spot. That holds true for all types of artists, too. I travel a lot. I’ll roll into a city and see a strike-up and it was done by some regular local guy. Yet its got so much can control and the execution is done so ill that you’ll be like, “I like that more than what I just saw in the gallery down the street that had an $80,000 price tag on it.” For me it’s all about expression, man. If I can feel the energy through the painting, then I’m fucking with it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on some back alley wall or a posh Fifth Avenue gallery.
You have the reputation of a rebel. What would you say to your fans about that?
I would just say that I would rather be an inspiration and not a role model. Make your own decisions. You don’t have to rebel just to rebel. You don’t have to accept just to accept. If you want to get a tattoo, if you think that’s your thing, then that’s cool. I personally think that now, not having a tattoo is kind of like a statement in itself. Our generation is gonna be old, tatted, and we’re gonna look so dope. So, it’s a choice. When my fans can say, “I want to get tatted or I don’t want to get tatted.” I don’t look at them any differently.
Now that you’re a dad, we know a lot of fathers who say you’re just never the same after you see your baby. What has Royalty taught you?
When I look at her, I see myself. I see a better version of myself. I just see her future. There’s no need to go backwards. At the end of the day, you learn that life is all about choices. Life is about responsibility and, actually, life is about love. Seeing my daughter embodies everything that I need to feel a sense of fulfillment and believe in myself. Being able to have her in my life, it’s just been amazing.