But it's not just the record industry that's clamoring for Williams—the fashion world is also after the head N.E.R.D. Factories can't stitch his Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream clothing lines quickly enough to keep up with demand, and Williams has twice collaborated on signature collections with the distinguished French design house Louis Vuitton. In 2005, Esquire magazine named him the world's best-dressed man. Any one of these reasons would have compelled us to feature the producer-singer-songwriter-designer in this issue of INKED. But we also had to get to the bottom of the recent tattoo-related headlines he's been making. In case you missed it, reports surfaced that the N.E.R.D frontman was planning to have new skin grown for him in a laboratory as a way to cover his tattoos. What the hell?
INKED: So, we hear you're on the scientific forefront of tattoo removal.
WILLIAMS: I knew you were going to go there.
We had to ask, man. Can you tell us what you're up to? First of all, I was tired as hell when I did that interview. I had just seen this story on CNN about this pixie dust, which is something being worked on at the Wake [Forest] Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina. It's basically a process for burn victims where they blend your DNA with something from a pig—the dermis, I think—and use it to grow skin. I saw it and had the bright idea [to cover my tattoos with it]. I was kidding around, but the guy reported that I was serious. That said, if there is a procedure you know of besides laser, please let me know.
Why? Are there a couple of tattoos you're itching to get rid of?
Yeah, I have a big one that's total shit. It's a couple of angel faces, but they were really badly drawn, so I tried to cover them up with fire. I got it lasered, but it takes, like, six or seven goes, and I don't want to do it anymore.
What about another repair job?
Oh man, that's what the fuck got me into the position I'm in now. I tried to cover it with fire, and now it just looks like a big blur of shit. After that one is when I started getting tattoos from great artists. I met [Mister] Cartoon, and he did one on my leg, which is cool. And I met Anil Gupta, who to me is the king of all tattoo artists. He did the guardian angel on my neck.
What got you started tattooing?
DeVante Swing, who was an R&B producer from this group called Jodeci, he had tons of tattoos and I thought it was the coolest in the world. When I saw Lenny Kravitz's sleeves, I was like "Yo, I gotta have that." Then when I met Fred Durst. Fred had tattoos everywhere. I was like, "That's it. I'm doing it." All my friends thought I was out of my mind.