Atlanta artist creates world’s largest tattoo, honors Migos rapper Takeoff

The artwork took six months to complete.
Tattoo artist J.R. Outlaw poses for a portrait after Guinness World Records officially announced his art piece is the worlds largest tattoo which is of the late rapper Takeoff at Atlanta Ink in Atlanta on July 5, 2023. J.R. spent several months on the tattoo, with the help of others. (Michael Blackshire/Michael.blackshire@ajc.com)

Credit: Michael Blackshire

Credit: Michael Blackshire

Tattoo artist J.R. Outlaw poses for a portrait after Guinness World Records officially announced his art piece is the worlds largest tattoo which is of the late rapper Takeoff at Atlanta Ink in Atlanta on July 5, 2023. J.R. spent several months on the tattoo, with the help of others. (Michael Blackshire/Michael.blackshire@ajc.com)

When Takeoff, one-third of the Lawrenceville rap group Migos, died last year, J.R. Outlaw wanted to design a mural in the artist’s honor. Takeoff was one of three people shot outside of a Houston bowling alley in November. He was 28.

“I think he was just a big influence in the city and the culture of Atlanta, like in general,” Outlaw said. “It was really the whole group. They made a real lasting impact on the city, so we just wanted to do something to memorialize him, and that’s really what it was about.”

After talking to friends at Atlanta Ink, Outlaw, an artist at Iron Palm Tattoos & Body Piercing, swiftly changed his original idea of making a mural to designing a tattoo of Takeoff. The result? A roughly 7 square meter design of Takeoff that is now a Guinness World Record holder for largest tattoo artwork.

Iron Palm Tattoos owner Marlon Blake (from left), Atlanta Ink owner Christian Verrette, and tattoo artist J.R. Outlaw listen as Guinness World Records employee Michael Empric, announces the world's largest tattoo reward for an art piece design of the late rapper Takeoff at Atlanta Ink in Atlanta on July 5, 2023. (Michael Blackshire/Michael.blackshire@ajc.com)

Credit: Michael Blackshire

icon to expand image

Credit: Michael Blackshire

The record was made official on Wednesday at Atlanta Ink during a presentation from Guinness World Record adjudicator Michael Empric. Empric measured the artwork to ensure it met all of the requirements, which included the design being at least 2 square meters and created on silicone skin with professional tattoo inks, among other guidelines. Outlaw’s design was 7.395 square meters.

“I really love that it celebrates the community,” Empric said. “It’s not like he just did something in his head that was random. It celebrates Atlanta, the music scene, and it’s more impressive in person than I expected. I saw a picture of it yesterday, and I was like, ‘Ok. We’ll see.’ Then you see it in person, especially when it’s standing up and it’s just astounding. Here’s the thing that happens all the time is that someone may see this and they say, ‘Oh, I could do 8 square meters, I can do 9 square meters,’ and that keeps me very happy.”

The design is adorned in orange and brown hues and features the slain rapper in a spacesuit, nodding to Takeoff’s first and only solo album “The Last Rocket.” Outlaw said he felt a sigh of relief about making a historic artwork after rigorously working on the design for so long. Although Outlaw finished the bulk of the design in two months, getting the appropriate silicone skin took longer.

“As it was coming together, the skin just kind of started getting bigger and bigger, but it was just like, once we started, once we committed to doing it, it was like, well, how big is the biggest one?”

It was then that Christian Verrette, co-owner of Atlanta Ink, knew that what they were creating could be monumental. He later contacted Guinness about achieving the world record. Verrette said getting the right silicone skin to fit the design was the most difficult part. The final design was the fourth skin that they used. Verrette also said that they had to get more equipment to work on an artwork of that size.

“We bought some less expensive machines because tattoo machines are like $2,000, so the ones that we use for our work are really expensive. A piece like this — it’s so massive. You spend 30, 40, 50, 60 hours straight tattooing it, and we didn’t want to wear out our expensive machines, so we brought some $400 or $500 machines off Amazon.”

People help place J.R. Outlaw art piece outside of Takeoff which was recognized as world's largest tattoo by Guinness World Records at Atlanta Ink in Atlanta on July 5, 2023. (Michael Blackshire/Michael.blackshire@ajc.com)

Credit: Michael Blackshire

icon to expand image

Credit: Michael Blackshire

As the master tattoo artist of the group, Outlaw designed most of the Takeoff tattoo. He said he worked on the design every day leading up to the Guinness presentation. The 35-year-old Decatur native has been a tattoo artist for 15 years.

As for next steps with the artwork, Outlaw said that customers can get the design on their body, but he’s contacted local art galleries about exhibiting the work. Creating a record-breaking design was an afterthought for him after conceiving the idea for the tattoo. He just wanted to honor an artist who left an indelible impact on Atlanta.

“It just means, that me personally and the artists that helped me with it, that we just did something special, but we didn’t do this for our own recognition. Even though people are starting to see us about it, it really was just to memorialize him.”

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