The Real Reason Van Johnson Left Black Ink Crew: Chicago

Many fans of VH1's Black Ink Crew: Chicago were disappointed to find out one of the original cast members, Van Johnson, wasn't coming back for Season 6. Johnson wouldn't be the first castmember to depart from the franchise — Dutchess Lattimore exited her main role on the show after season five and Tiffany Perez bailed from her recurring spot on Black Ink Crew after the same season. But the rumblings on social media reached a fever pitch after the season premiere on Dec. 10, 2019, with one viewer tweeting, "wtf bro why u not on black ink." Johnson didn't miss a beat responding, curtly telling the fan, "Ask VH1."

We can't imagine VH1 is going to spill the beans on Johnson's exit anytime soon, so we put on our investigative hats to uncover the real reason Van left Black Ink Crew: Chicago and the popular 9MAG tattoo parlor behind. We have a few interesting theories to share with you, including a scandalous rumor involving a certain cast member, as well as some troubling legal situations involving the tattoo artist. Although we're not ready to hang our hat on one idea just yet, we think you'll be intrigued by what we've uncovered so far.

Is Van Johnson a legal liability?

It's pretty strange for an original cast member to leave any successful show after five seasons, so we suspect this situation has got to be a bit complicated. One possible reason for the change? A June 2019 lawsuit involving Van Johnson and his other Black Ink Crew: Chicago cast members: Ryan Henry, Don Brumfield, and Junior Diaz. As TMZ reported, a man named Ronnie Spates accused the crew of attacking him at a December 2018 party filmed for the show. Spates didn't know why he was allegedly beaten, but he alluded to producers encouraging Johnson and co. to incite violence for ratings. It's possible VH1 cut ties with Johnson to avoid potential legal issues, although that wouldn't explain why Henry and Brumfield remain on the series. As for Diaz, he isn't credited as a Season 6 cast member either.

But this isn't Johnson's only legal problem — in August 2018, he filed a lawsuit against the brothers of his former business partner Suraqah Shabazz. The siblings — Faheem and Falaah Shabazz — allegedly tried to damage the reputation of his clothing line, CHICAGOrilla. It all started when the Shabazz brothers sent VH1 corporate parent Viacom a letter, "claiming they own the rights to the CHICAGOrilla logo design and could not air it on the VH1 reality series without paying," according to The Blast. But Johnson claimed the design was his property, as he continued the line solo after cutting ties with Suraqah.

Bottom line? Johnson comes with a lot of baggage.

Van Johnson's love life is complicated, too

In addition to Van Johnson's tricky legal predicaments, his romantic situation is also complicated. What are we talking about, exactly? Well, we mean Johnson's alleged involvement with Black Ink Crew: Chicago cast member and owner of 2nd City Ink, Charmaine Walker. 

During the Season 5 finale, Walker was accused of hooking up with Johnson, creating a tense situation for everyone involved, as Atlanta Black Star noted. For starters, the accusation occurred shortly after Walker's now-husband, Neek Bay, proposed in front of her castmates. Walker then angrily confronted her crew, demanding to know who believed the rumor. The answer? Just about everyone, including a producer named Manny who said, according to a VH1 clip, "Something physical probably happened between Charmaine and Van." In the same clip, Manny also alleged that Johnson told castmember Don Brumfield, who then told the producers that Johnson apparently confessed the supposed secret to him in private. Yikes.

We don't know whether the rumor is true or not, but it's possible the work environment became too uncomfortable for Johnson. Or maybe Walker, who is now married and pregnant with her first child, asked VH1 to boot Johnson for her growing family's sake. Hmm.

No matter what happened here, it's clear Johnson will be missed by his most loyal fans. And if you fall into this camp, take a minute to check out the untold secrets of Black Ink Crew as a consolation prize.