To say Jayceon “The Game” Taylor is a man of many contradictions is an understatement. An example: He grew up in Compton, CA, gangbanging with the Bloods even though his own mom was once affiliated with the Crips. He’s a cocky son-of-a-bitch who’s never been afraid to publicly champion himself as the greatest rapper alive. At the same time, he exhibits near-monk-like humility when it comes to thanking his friends, family, and hip-hop predecessors for paving the path of his success.
Even The Game’s trajectory from Compton delinquent to international rap star has been riddled with paradox. He’s as hardcore a representation of West Coast as they come, and yet his first album, The Documentary, was a collaborative lovefest between geographical opposites Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Nate Dogg, and Just Blaze. Despite such diplomacy, The Game is probably best known—at least in the mainstream—for his very legendary and very public beef with 50 Cent and G-Unit, a squabble he had memorialized in ink with a tattoo that reads “G-Unot” on his elbow.
In fact, Game’s whole attitude towards tattooing is at odds. Some of the work he’s had done is incredibly profound—particularly the pieces dedicated to his fallen rap heroes. Others seem to be of little or no importance to him at all. When asked about the “L.A.” emblazoned on his right cheek, the best The Game could offer was, “I don’t know. I’m from L.A. Go figure.”
INKED: How many tattoos do you have these days? Do you even know?
THE GAME: Actually, the other day I was like, ‘How many tattoos do I have?’ So, I counted them up and I have 49. That’s some freak shit. I messed up counting a couple of times because some of those shits are connected. I had to keep recounting, but I got it: 49 total. I’m going to get number 50 tomorrow— me and Travis Barker.
You’re pals with Travis Barker?
Yeah, we’re both just crazy tatters—that’s my boy. So, tomorrow I’m going to his house. We’re going to have the tattoo guy come over and whatever happens happens.
How did you and Travis hook up?
Shit, you know, we’re both musicians. I’m a big fan of his and he’s a fan of mine. We met years ago, and that’s been my dog ever since.
He’s covered, man. He’s got you beat.
Yeah, but once you’re covered, you’re covered. I’m going to catch up.
When did you start getting tatted up?
I got my first tattoo when I was in the eighth grade. But some of my first tatts you can no longer see. You get older and those tattoos get whack, plus you start getting real work done by real people and you cover them shits up. My first one was on my right arm—a man holding a globe in his hand.
And what was the significance of that?
That the world is mine. But you covered it up? Yeah, cuz I figured out that the world wasn’t mine. I had to share it with three billion other people, so I covered it up. I have a mural of Tupac on there now.
You’re big on tribute tatts.
The right arm is the tribute arm—that’s just the way it turned out. I have a bunch of rappers that have passed on: I got Eazy-E, Big Pun, Biggie, Jam Master Jay.
What does ink mean to you, then? On one hand, you’re a guy who gets all of these meaningful tributes. On the other hand, you just said that tomorrow with Travis, “whatever happens happens.”
It’s all my grandmother’s fault, man. When I was younger, she told me that tattoos weren’t all that bad because your skin is just a costume you borrow from God while you’re here on earth. As soon as you leave, you gotta give God his costume back. So, she told me I could write whatever I wanted on mine, I’d just have to return it with scribbling on it. That’s a crazy analogy, but if anybody calls my Grandmother crazy, we’re going to have a problem.
Do you get all your work done by the same dude?
I don’t give a fuck who does it. I’ll just walk into a tattoo shop off the street and say, ‘My name is Game and I want a fucking tattoo. Now, which one of you bastards can do it?’