When Black Ink Crew, the VH1 series that follows the day-to-day operations of a Harlem tattoo shop, spawned a spinoff in 2015, fans thought the store’s owner, Ceaser Emanuel, might be opening a new location in the Midwest.
But, as it turns out, Black Ink Crew Chicago introduced us to a brand new cast of characters who are taking over the Windy City one custom tattoo at a time. Scroll down for more information about 9MAG and its rivalry with the Black Ink brand.
Does Ceaser own the tattoo parlor on Black Ink Crew Chicago?
Ceaser does not own 9MAG, which has been featured on the spinoff since Season 1. The studio was started in 2013 by Ryan Henry, who — according to his website — holds the title of Top Tattoo Artist in Chicago.
His staff includes brothers Phor and Don (who’s the shop’s resident piercer), manager Charmaine, and drama-inducing artists Van and Liliana. In a recent interview with Rolling Out magazine, Ryan revealed that he’s working to expand 9MAG into other cities.
Despite the show’s success, the businessman admitted that rifts within the core crew, namely with Van, have made the experience bittersweet. "I never imagined going into five seasons and I never imagined going into five seasons separated from people that I started with," he shared.
"We are so far removed from the genuine feel we used to have together," Ryan continued. "I’ve also grown into something way different than I was back then. It’s different but it’s a blessing all the same."
Ceaser was once interested in buying 9MAG.
Back in 2017, Ryan ran into Ceaser at a tattoo convention on an episode of Black Ink Crew Chicago and was surprised to learn that the New York-based artist wanted to open a shop in his territory.
"When you going to sell 9MAG?" Ceaser — who now owns four Black Ink locations, two in New York, one in Atlanta, and one in Orlando — asked Ryan, who replied, "9MAG ain’t for sale, man."
"Everything’s for sale," Ceaser responded, much to his rival’s annoyance. "I know Ceaser’s trying to build an empire, but Chicago? That’s off limits man," Ryan declared in a confessional.
At the end of the day, the 33-year-old likes to focus on why he got into the business in the first place. "I think the best part about tattooing is that we get to help people with closure, and you put people in a different spirit," he told The Source.
"A lot of people will come for memorial tattoos — they missing somebody, all these different types of things. That’s the best payment; somebody’s reaction to what you’ve created for them, especially when it comes to a loss."
Even after five seasons, Ryan said he’s still getting used to the fame that comes with having your own VH1 show. "People sometimes compare us to the New York crew. For one, us and New York are two different types of people. We’re just different type of dudes and [come from] way different cultures," he emphasized.
"As an entertainer, you’re a public figure now and you have somebody that people can look up to. The challenge is, you’re not going to always work with the real. Some people, even my producers, are not always going to be the most real people."
Keep that in mind while watching new episodes of Black Ink Crew Chicago, every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on VH1.