How do you get through tour days when you’re booked back-to-back and don’t have a minute to yourself?
It’s a self-motivating drive. I don’t know I kinda just push myself a little bit more and try to do more than my competition, that’s one of my motivations. I could be exhausted before the show but as soon as I hit stage I just feed off of the crowd’s energy and I gotta give the same energy back or they’re going to die too.
Describe what’s going through your mind when you’re on stage. Do you notice the fans in the front row?
I remember having a show in the beginning of my career and a fan—just one fan, everyone else said they had a great time, but one fan—was like, “Kid Ink didn’t seem like he was paying attention to anybody.” That really bothered me so even when I’m in my zone I always try to make sure that after the song is done I incorporate the fans into the next song before it starts playing just so they feel like they’re in with the whole thing and it’s not just me doing my own thing on stage. Once they really feel a part of it the closer I get with them, the wilder they go and the more they appreciate the show.
Do you get sick of talking about your tattoos?
It is what it is. I can’t really get too sick of it when I did it to myself.
Is there anything off the table you’d never get inked?
I wasn’t too big on getting any names at first, whether it be my girlfriend or homie’s or anything like that. It always usually represented the death of a relationship and at the same time; what if you’re just not friends anymore? Stuff happens. Those are the only ones I really think about, everything else goes as long as you’re conscious before you pick the tattoo. It’s okay to be drunk while you’re getting the tattoo but not while you’re picking the tattoo.
Are you into girls with tattoos?
I was asked that question the other day and it’s not that I like them any more or differently, I just think that certain girls can pull it off and other girls don’t necessarily have to if they don’t want to. You look at people like Rihanna who is getting fully blasted but it fits with the way she carries herself. I feel like as long as it fits your personality or your style to an extent then it’s cool but if you go to a nine-to-five in a cubicle everyday and you have a fully blasted neck and hands it might look a little more awkward with your clothing, you know what I’m saying?
You have said that many rappers are not humble. What made you take issue with that and how are you trying to be different?
It’s just from experience and being around people. Even when I was a producer and more behind the scenes I was able to pay attention to a lot of the artists and really see how some artists’ careers fail. Not because they weren’t talented or they didn’t have the connections or the money it was just because they weren’t humble. It got to a point where they burned a lot of bridges and relationships and got blackballed just because of a situation where they might have just made the wrong person angry or because early on they made someone mad who then became the president of their label. You never know where people are going to be or who you’re going to run into [later in life]. I’ve found it happen with myself as well, people who weren’t humble coming back to me for things later on in life.
Lil Jon said the same thing to us, “Learn the power of relationships because the person you see on the bottom today might be running the company one day.”
I’ve run into people who were working for me [in the past] and now they’re head of the radio station, now they are the person who chooses which artists get played. It’s one of those things where I could have been mean to that person and acted like an asshole celebrity but now I need them and we have a cool relationship and I don’t have to grind as much.
Do you ever miss the days of just releasing mixtapes when there wasn’t as much of the pressure that comes with being signed on a label like RCA Records?
Yeah, I think there was a lot less pressure [before I got signed]. I’d release a song, take in the feedback and get back to work and just have fun. I think with the label I’m a little bit more conscious of the work and the music and what I need to do in the time frame. I don’t have much time to waste especially because you don’t want to get overlooked or let the momentum die so much that they don’t feel like you’re important. Once you reach a spot of importance at your label you gotta stay there and keep it consistent because they have thousands of artists so it doesn’t really matter to them. I probably don’t make them the most money right now but I think if I show them how hard I work that changes things.
How has fame changed your relationship with your girlfriend of six years, Asiah Azante?
Luckily we were able to experience a lot of it together so it has been a learning experience together. She understands things because she’s been able to see them firsthand at the same time as I’ve been learning them. I get to use that as an excuse sometimes because I get into situations that I’ve never been in before so I don’t know how to handle them 100 percent and if I don’t handle something the right way I definitely learn what not to do the next time. Whatever the situation is, whether I take pictures with groupies that I thought were fans or let fans kiss me on the cheek, just certain little things like that you learn and pick up on how to manage. But other than that I feel like we haven’t had too much [that has changed].
When you’re on the road how do you pass the time?
Whenever you’re staying at hotels you watch random things like National Geographic or the History Channel, all of the hotel channels that you never watch at home. When I’m on the bus it’s a lot of video games more than anything because everyone isn’t into the same TV shows. I’m into sports games and competitive fighting games. I think I’ve picked up on the sports games from being on the bus with the guys.
If you have one last meal, what are you eating?
Man, I’m the kind of guy who is never disappointed with a good turkey sandwich. Just bread, mayo, cheese, meat and pickles.
Do you get embarrassed to share certain songs with your mom that have inappropriate lyrics?
Probably with certain mixtape songs but the stuff for the album is a little bit more appreciated. My mom doesn’t cuss at all but she says she can appreciate cussing when it means something because there are certain times when cursing can add a little bit extra and add some affection to it. I also have my grandfather who is probably the oldest person in my life and the only grandparent I have and I think he’s cool about it. He wasn’t really too fond of tattoos but he kind of got over it when I got one of him on my chest.
Is your grandpa up on technology enough to be downloading your songs on iTunes?
Yeah, but I don’t like it because he’s on Instagram and stuff!
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
Let me think, who is somebody who thinks they can out drink me? If I could have a drink with anybody it would have to be… You know what man, I want to see how Jay Z drinks. I seem to always see Jay Z in the club with a nice bottle of champagne and I know that when I’m in the club I always drink the whole champagne bottle, I probably get through like two just to myself. I want to see if I can out-champagne-drink Jay Z. He doesn’t seem to ever be drunk though!
PHOTOGRAPHY: KIRSTEN MICCOLI