Mario Judah is hip-hop’s bull in the china shop. After just a few months of prominence in the rap scene, Judah decided to strike up beef with one of the biggest artists in the game—Playboi Carti. It’s a bold move for a rookie to call out a heavy hitter; however, all the feather-ruffling has now placed all eyes on the Atlanta-based artist.

Judah, like many longtime Carti fans, greatly anticipated the release of Carti’s second studio album. After two long years of waiting, he grew impatient, deciding to call Carti out over Instagram live. Judah declared to his fans that if Carti didn’t release “Whole Lotta Red,” he would do it himself and, in a way, he carried through on his word. Judah didn’t hack into the mainframe and steal Carti’s unfinished album, but he did drop his own EP, aptly titled “Whole Lotta Red,” just two weeks before Carti dropped his album. Judah announced his presence with authority, proving to the world that he doesn’t play around and will do what it takes to make a bold statement.

“I was genuinely upset he hadn’t dropped the album and the whole thing turned into promo,” Judah says. “I just listened to a lot of Carti, knew that this was something he would make, and I made it. I didn’t really want to do it at all, because I prefer listening to his music, but he was pissing the world off for not dropping it for two years—so I had to do it.”

Judah may be blowing up the rap game right now, but his primary influences couldn’t be further from the hip-hop world. “My dad got me really into metal,” he says. “We listened to a lot of Pantera growing up. As I got older, I still listened to Pantera, but I also got into Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold.”

Photo by Dany Huertero JR.

Photo by Dany Huertero JR.

When he started making his own music, Judah had an extensive background in both hip-hop and metal at his disposal. Instead of picking one or the other, he decided to blend the two genres together. He certainly wasn’t the first to do this, but Judah does so in a way that feels undeniably current. He’s chosen to break all of the rules set before him and has approached his career not as a rapper that dabbles in metal, but as a true rockstar.

If he were to truly become a rockstar, Judah knew he couldn’t just act the part, he had to look the part. This meant popping his tattoo cherry. While visiting Miami the perfect opportunity presented itself. Tatu Panda, a tattooer whose regular clientele includes Jake Paul, Marc Anthony and Lil Pump, saw the energy Judah was bringing to hip-hop and wanted to be first in line to give this star-on-the-rise his first tattoo.

“I’d been talking about getting tattooed for months, so I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m a rockstar, I’m just going to do this shit,’” Judah says of his first tattoo, intentionally scratchy lettering across his knuckles reading “Rockstar.” “Then after that tattoo, I went straight to the face. I fuck with it and I’m going to get a bunch of tattoos now.”

You read that correctly. On the same night Judah went under the needle to get his first tattoo, he bit the bullet and got his face tattooed as well. He didn’t just go for one small piece; instead he scored a lucky seven tattoos in one session—including the word “Rockstar” below his right eye, the rock ‘n’ roll salute below his left and a broken guitar on his temple.

Less than a year ago, Judah was a long way away from getting spontaneous face tattoos and stirring up the music industry. He’d been trying to make it as a producer for years, but the career he wanted never panned out. “I didn’t go into music trying to be an artist,” he says. “I was tired of writing hooks for rappers who wouldn’t apply themselves, so I decided to do it myself. When COVID hit, I got depressed and that’s how I started making music.” From that day onward, Judah made a commitment to give his career 110 percent and now there’s no going back.

Now, instead of writing hooks for rappers, he’s the one calling the shots and basking in all the glory. His all-or-nothing attitude has paid off beyond just a growing legion of diehard fans. “I’m currently working on some collabs with a few legendary rock bands,” he shares. “Slipknot and System of a Down are two of the bands I’m working with right now. They both reached out to work with me and that’s what’s insane. It’s a blessing to have these genuine people around me right now.”

Mario Judah has proven himself as a rockstar through his album, his body art and his presence as a powerhouse. After all, being a rockstar isn’t about where you come from or what kind of music you make, it’s a way of life, and for Judah, a life worth living.