When Rihanna was gunning for a new tattoo, she knew exactly who to call.
“I think it’s very empowering, very protective," tattoo artist BangBang, of Eastside Ink in New York, tells E! News exclusively about the singer's latest marking, under her right armpit. "I think the gun is very strong and very powerful.”
BangBang says he suggested the design based on a piece of jewelry the singer was sporting.
“She had a necklace that had the same little gun on it, and I loved it. I told her she should get it tattooed."
Despite the violent connotations, BangBang insists the new ink is not a reflection of Rihanna's recent troubles with Chris Brown.
“I think that if anything did happen with her that the tattoo has nothing to do with it,” he says. “I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened, but she’s very much herself. She’s very happy, and she loves getting tattoos. I don’t think it has anything to do with it.”
Rihanna has adorned her body in the past with BangBang's craftsmanship, including such artwork as Roman numerals on her shoulder, Sanskrit script on her hip, a few stars and the Shhh... on her finger.
As for Brown, BangBang tells us he knows him as well, and even did some work for his brother about a year ago. He was actually supposed to do a design for Brown, but ran out of time.
“We thought about doing a portrait of someone,” reveals BangBang. “He might be a little mad at me if I tell you who it is, but it was supposed to be someone’s face.”
Though BangBang says he is close to Rihanna—she flew him out to L.A. last Thursday to get the tattoo—he does not know the status of her and Brown’s relationship.
“That’s her personal life, and I am her friend,” BangBang says. “She’s perfect. She’s doing great.”