Straight outta Compton takes on an entirely new meaning with the emergence of Danny “KP” Kirkpatrick and his crazy hot tattoo collective from Black Ink Crew: Compton, currently featured on VH1. Kirkpatrick’s career under the persona of iAmCompton is highlighted by a three-part identity as a tattoo artist, musician and TV personality; to his family and friends, his creative pursuits come as no surprise — even as a child, art was always calling him.
KP was in the first grade when his teacher called his mother, not because he was in trouble, but because she saw his drawings. “I guess she wanted to tell my mom I was good,” he recalls. But I didn’t realize until I was older I had a real talent.”
He kept drawing, adding music to his repertoire, but football dreams eclipsed his artistic endeavors for a while. Dominguez High School and a competitive environment introduced KP to the value of community praise. “People saw my name in the newspaper and once your name is in the paper and people are impressed, it’s a good feeling,” he shares.
But fate is fickle. As an art major at Lincoln College, he continued following his passion for writing rhymes and drawing, but in 2005 on a trip to Florida he and some friends got stopped by the police. He was in possession of purple kush, which he’d been selling on the side to make extra money. While saved from doing serious time because it was his first offense, he lost his football scholarship, had to move back to Compton to live with his mom, and suddenly he had a probation officer to answer to. He knew he’d let his community, and himself, down. With football taken away he wasn’t sure what to do next, and he had just 30 days to figure it out, get a job and show a paycheck or he was going back into the system — “to a halfway house, aka, a center for troubled youth,” he says.
One of KP’s friends happened upon him one day as he was planning his next moves and kicked over an old mental rock: “Man, you still draw?” the friend asked. “You can sell your artwork.” The floodlight snapped on. He started selling his drawings, but then realized if he could reproduce his art, he’d sell more drawings. He ordered a tattooing kit and started tattooing his own legs. Then he sequestered a buddy and tattooed his whole body, walking him around the neighborhood as advertisement.
“He was my walking canvas,” the artist remembers. People started ordering personalized tattoos almost immediately and at the end of his 30 days, KP showed his probation officer his receipts, receipts which thereafter started adding up.
His reputation as the number one tattoo artist in Compton sparked and his business took off, scoring him clients from the hip-hop community, including Diddy and Nas. So when the popular VH1 reality show Black Ink Crew reached out to him and asked him if he wanted to start a franchise on the West Coast, it was a no-brainer. In May of 2019, after a year of searching for the right building in a traditionally underserved neighborhood, he opened his Ink Art Music Shop (named after his Ink Art Music record label); the reality that he was a business owner, with four employees, hit him: “It was like, ‘wow, I’m official.’”
With a mission to “create a movement in Compton through their creative collective by celebrating the talent, passion and rich culture of the community,” the Ink Art Music shop became the first black-owned tattoo business and art collective in Compton.
The family man, business mogul and multifaceted artist has built a following on social media too, with Instagram pics and music videos featuring songs riddled with a sense of exuberance, creative synergy and especially deep gratitude for his loyal friends and family — particularly his girlfriend, actress Kyla Pratt — all of which he says helped him succeed. The community raised him up again as a leader and a role model for Compton youth, and he serves as an example of finding, honing, promoting and monetizing one’s skill.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t look at drawing as a gift or something I could make a living at, but it was my own god-given talent.” Talent yes, but don’t forget the hustle.