Ceaser Emanuel Teases All About Black Ink Crew: New York's Big Return - Exclusive Interview

"Black Ink Crew" has been keeping audiences enraptured since the early '10s, and it's back with more drama, stunning tattoo work, and energetic personalities. While the pandemic undoubtedly affected the show, it couldn't stop it from moving forward, and this resilience is, in fact, a lesson highlighted throughout the series. This was especially noted by Ceaser Emanuel, the New York shop's owner who we recently had the pleasure of sitting down with to discuss the show's new episodes.

According to The Source, fans can expect to see the "Black Ink Crew's" return to New York from Atlanta — as well as its aftermath — on full display this season. Emanuel's personal life will be on display, too, perhaps more than ever, while relationships between cast members grow in interesting ways following the return to New York — and to the small screen. Then there's the community in which they operate, to which Emanuel and the rest of the cast always want to give back. However, how has the pandemic impacted this work?

Luckily for us at Nicki Swift, Emanuel touched on all these matters in our exclusive interview with the tattoo giant. He revealed many ways in which the pandemic has impacted the shop and their work, how the move from Atlanta affected the shop's crew, and just what will unfold in the new episodes now that the show is back. (Hint: Emanuel may have been wary about retuning to the show.)

What can fans expect from the new episodes of Black Ink Crew?

First up, what can you tell us and tease about the new season of "Black Ink Crew" New York?"

Alright. "Black Ink Crew: New York," this season. As y'all [saw] from last season, if you watch the show, that basically we left Atlanta, because New York was opening back up, but no one [has] seen what happened when we came back to New York. Let me just put it like this. The crew gets crazy, okay. Half of them want to be here, half of them don't. I'm sorry I did that to them, brought them to Atlanta, show[ed] them that good old life, the spacious life. You don't [have] to live in an apartment, you [have] a big old house — a little bit of money gets you a long way. And it's hot.

Some of them start ... Once you start changing the environment, try to go back to your environment, a lot of things gets crazy, but you're going to see how we get through it as a crew this season. Also, you know we have the social injustice and all, and basically awareness for the vaccine, like we're doing a lot of things for our community. Even though the times have changed and a lot of things changed, we had to change with it and people [are] going to see [that] it's not the same partying and bulls**t that you['re] used to from "Black Ink."

Gotcha, gotcha. In that same realm, what did you learn, or the rest of the crew even learn, in Atlanta? And how did that maybe change your perspective on your career or the business as a whole?

Well, we learned in Atlanta that family's first, you feel me? Like Atlanta, we had to stick together, even though we had a shop out there, we had to stick together. And even now we [are] learning, like even through our trials and tribulations, we [are] still there for each other. Even though we agreed to disagree, we [are] still there for each other — and that's the most important thing about this crew, and that's what we really learned. It was like, "Yo, we can sit here and hate each other but as long as we know we [are] here for each other, that's what it is."

Ceaser on how the pandemic affected the cast's relationships

Yeah. I think that's really interesting. And I know the pandemic really affected the reason you went to Atlanta, but how has the pandemic affected the shop or the show on a bigger scale?

I mean, it affected it. It affected a lot because you have to understand we're feeling differently now. Like we [have] to wear masks. You [have] to take COVID tests all the time. You [have] to do a lot of things just to sit here and shoot a reality show that you're not used to before. So even that dynamic has changed. A lot of people even coming back, like a person like Puma, who has a family, he [has] kids, you know what I mean? He was skeptical on coming back because it was so much going on with the COVID thing, and so [many] outbreaks and the numbers going up. It was difficult. A lot of us [were] thinking, even myself, I didn't know if I wanted to come back this season because of everything that was going on. It was safer to stay inside.


But I felt like us showing we [have] the courage to sit there and get out there and do this show again and keep it going and being us is giving other people courage like ourselves to get out and do the same. Try to get the world back on track.

Yeah, definitely. How has the pandemic affected the cast's relationship? Did it bring everybody closer or can fans maybe expect to see more drama among everybody in the new season?

You're going to see some drama. You're going to see drama, because it wouldn't be "Black Ink Crew" without it. You know what I mean? Everybody [has] personality, but I think the pandemic made us miss each other more. You really don't realize how much you miss somebody until you are like, "Damn, I really ain't see you in a while. You [have] to understand I had COVID and the whole pandemic ... I didn't see my cousin Ted for a whole year.


And that's the longest we [have] ever not seen each other. We're cousins; that has not happened. We talked to each other every day, yeah, but for something like that, it was kind of different. So it was ... Everything was a learning experience, everything. It was something new and to learn new tricks at this, at my age now, man, that is more difficult than you think.

On how he handles the mixing of the show and his personal life

Yeah. Speaking of those relationships and everything, this show really focuses on community more than probably most other reality shows. Right. So tell us a little bit about what community ultimately means to you and why it's so important to represent that on the screen.

People don't ... What a lot of people have to understand is "Black Ink" is basically based in the community. Most of the shops are based in Black, mostly what people would call "the hood" communities. And it's something that I strive to do because I could have sat there and put my shops in like malls or high-end places. But to me, I like showing my people and showing people that I grew up with and grew up like me, that there's opportunities besides just the regular normal playing basketball or being a rapper or just being something of [an] entertainment stature. Yeah, I did that, but I did that to show y'all like, you could still study in the hood, like think about 10 years [later]. I'm still with my community.


There's not too many celebrities 10 years strong on television, still saying, going back to that community, feeding their community, doing stuff with their community, talking to the community, talking to the people in school.


I still do that because I remember I was looking for somebody to do that when I was that age, when I was in the community, when I was struggling. So that's why you [are] going to see a lot of that in "Black Ink" this season.

That's amazing. With you personally, how are you handling the mixture of your personal life and career or how has having your personal and family life on TV affected you?

I mean, I think it's affected me in a major way, but not in a negative way. With a lot of things, a lot of things that people go through and it never gets brought to light. I feel like a lot of things that I go through, people find similarities or basically could see that, "Yo, I went through the same thing." I've been through a lot of things with my family and a lot of things with friends, a lot of things with people in general. And it's funny how I run into people in the streets all the time. It's like, "Yo, I have to deal with the same thing like you." "Yo, keep your head up." I know what type of stuff that, you know what I mean, people go through and people don't shed light on it.

I just appreciate that everything I do, or said about me, or [the] portrayal of me, people could see through certain things and know really who I am. Because of my longevity on TV, I've never changed.

Ceaser's biggest challenges he's faced over the years


I've always been the same. So when people say stuff about me like, "That's not even him," and a hundred percent of the time, it's not me, it's just sometimes you can't give people everything they want. When you say no, that's when you turn into the bad guy.

Yeah. Well, "Black Ink Crew" has been on the air since 2013.


What are the biggest challenges that you faced over the years through the show and how does the pandemic sort of rank in that?

I mean, juggling my personal life and my career, I used to have a problem separat[ing] it. And it was like one and the same until the pandemic. And it made me able to slow down and realize I need a personal life. I can't just work, work, work. And honestly, it kind of felt good not to work for a year. Just to lay [around] and ... just watch TV and eat Ding Dongs and play video games and just ... It was like a break that I needed, but I didn't want. And from that, I felt like it made me a better person because now I don't have to be grumpy because now I'm always working. This is just my life. Now I could sit there and separate like, "Aight, I'm at work, this da-da-da, but I'm going to go have fun, and this da-da-da-da." And now it feels like I have two lives because it is very hard to juggle that.

Yeah, definitely. In the new season, are there any particularly exciting celebrity visitors that fans can expect to see on the show?

Whoa, I had a couple celebrities on this season. And why I can't remember them now? Because you ... It's like, I don't want to say wrong names because–


So many people [are] on here and I [am] like, "No, that was last season." Whoa that's ... Aight, put it like this, we['ve] got some celebrities. Yes, we do.

Well, in that same vein, who are some of your favorite celebrity visitors [who have been] on the show?

Hm. I was just thinking about that. My favorite ... See, because I['ve] done a lot of tattoos. My favorite celebrity client ... I remember Desiigner.

Ceaser Emanuel reveals what's next for him


I remember when he came in with his pandas. He was funny.

Yeah. That's a really good one.

Desiigner was funny cause he had his pandas and they [were] all dancing and I was at concert. That was a memorable day. Because I'm remembering now we [were] always dancing with the pandas because pandas [are] bad.

Oh, I love it. What's next for you, and for the shop and the show?

Well, I'm one of the people that likes looking into the future. So, right now, I'm building shops and I'm doing all this like ... I already see my vision as far as the tattoo industry. I got "Tattoo Titans," it's about to come out. I got "Black Ink" about to come out. I feel like my next step is developing shows after this. I've been [an] executive producer of "Black Ink Crew" for a minute now. I think I want to step out and try that. And this whole "Tattoo Titans" was something I summed up and put together. So, I think my next step is trying to really get out there with the big boys and putting out some big, big shows. You know? I don't know. Who knows? Maybe.

"Black Ink Crew: New York" airs Mondays on VH1 at 8pm ET/7pm C.