There aren’t many easy paths to making $350 or more per hour. Tattoo artist Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy found one way. Unfortunately for most of us, it involves being so good, you impress the likes of LeBron James into becoming a regular customer.
Bang Bang’s also the preferred tattooist for Odell Beckham Jr., who rivals James in the number and quality of his many tattoos. So how does one become the top choice for some of the most famous athletes in America? Read on to learn Bang Bang’s story, and what his biggest clients think about his work.
How Bang Bang became one of the most sought-after tattoo artists
Bang Bang’s Pennsylvania upbringing, according to an NPR profile, was about as far from his current celebrity-adjacent lifestyle. His mother had him at 17, after dropping out of high school. She kept their household going with a minimum wage job at Domino’s Pizza. His father was largely absent. She moved to Delaware, became an exotic dancer in hopes of earning a bit more, but still struggled to provide much beyond the basics.
Flipping the usual script, it was Bang Bang — then simply “Keith” — who begged his family to send him to boarding school. When he made the honor roll, he was given the gift of his choice at just 15 years old: His first tattoo. It put his life on a new course.
His specialty was technically graphic design. In practice, though, he was honing his skills towards his newfound obsession with tattoos. He started on himself, with a home tattooing kit. From there, he worked his way up, apprenticing at various shops and quickly moving on as his skills developed. When he landed in New York City, he caught the eye of pop star Rihanna. That 2007 session, as Vogue reports, went so well that she spread the word around.
LeBron James and Odell Beckham love Bang Bang’s ink
When Rihanna gets excited about someone, the upper echelons of American celebrities and athletes are the ones hearing about it. With work like Bang Bang’s to back up the hype, it makes perfect sense that this century’s most accomplished NBA player would head to NYC to get his ink done right, Inked Mag reports. After all, James can easily afford the $350-500 hourly rate that Bang Bang charges.
James is covered in tattoos, many of the most prominent by Bang Bang. That inspired a younger generation of athletes to seek work from the same source. According to B96.5, he’s also Beckham, Jr.’s favorite artist. Whether it’s the complex mural pieces that Bang Bang specializes in, or even simple text finger tattoos, he gets all the work he can from the accomplished NYC artist.
The many athletes and celebrities who swear by Bang Bang’s work
Bang Bang’s tattoo resume is so chock-full of recognizable names, it might be easier to list the inked public figures who aren’t adorned by at least one of his pieces. In the Observer, the celebrity-favorite artist opened up about some of his favorite clients. These are all immensely famous people that most of us can’t imagine even sitting in the same room with, never mind permanently marking their skin.
He did the feather that adorns pop star Rita Ora’s hand. The lion that cameos in the many paparazzi shots of actress/model Cara Delevingne, is of course another Bang Bang piece. He tattooed various, personally meaningful words on singer Adele, and she returned the favor by tattooing the number “21” (a reference to her album of the same title) on Bang Bang himself.