‘ Cover Art Is Definitely An Ambition Of Mine’ – An MM Exclusive With Tattoo Artist Certified Letter Boy

Joe Simpson

By Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson

24 May 2024

Pablo, also known as ‘Certified Letter Boy’, has proven himself to be one of the most talented tattoo artists worldwide. Having learnt his craft in the slums of Peru by tattooing cartel members, CLB relocated to London and has since worked with esteemed clientele, inking everyone from the Beckham’s to Bryson Tiller. On top of this, the artist also provided the intricate detailing seen on Bugzy Malone’s latest album cover, ‘The Great British Dream’.

We spoke to Pablo about his time in Peru, his passion for music, and what comes next in what has already been an incredible rise to the top of his profession.

Can you talk to us about your upbringing in Peru? How do you think it shaped you as an artist?

Growing up in Peru, which is notably more hazardous than many places in the United States or the UK, I was constantly surrounded by an environment that, while challenging, was also rich with unique artistic expressions. The favelas and slums, often perceived as perilous, were vibrant with graffiti and Chicano lettering. This exposure played a crucial role in shaping my artistic vision. It ignited my passion for drawing and deeply influenced my appreciation and mastery of lettering, which are foundational elements in my tattoo artistry today. This challenging yet vibrant backdrop of my childhood not only honed my skills but also enriched my understanding of how art emerges from adversity.

At what stage did you begin to feel that tattoo artistry was your calling?

I’ve always wanted to tattoo since I was a kid. Mr Cartoon was tattooing all the rappers and I just fell in love with it.

CLB with Cruz Beckham
You also ended up tattooing some cartel members. What was that experience like?

Tattooing cartel members was an intense and unforgettable experience. In such high-stakes situations, the pressure was immense—every line and shade had to be perfect, as there was no room for error. This environment really sharpened my focus and precision, attributes that are crucial in tattoo artistry. Working under that kind of pressure was a unique challenge, and it taught me the importance of maintaining composure and delivering my best work under any circumstances.

What’s the meaning behind your name, ‘Certified Letter Boy’?

The story behind my name, ‘Certified Letter Boy,’ is quite lighthearted. While brainstorming Instagram handles with my creative director, we decided to play around with the idea of crafting a character identified by just three letters. As we were mulling over options, Drake’s album was playing in the background, and given my passion for lettering, “Certified Letter Boy” just clicked. We thought it was amusing and not meant to be taken too seriously—it simply had a catchy ring to it that we both liked.

Bryson Tiller
How would you describe your style?

I’m very versatile so I would say it’s delicate script, Chicano lettering and black and grey pieces.

What age did you move to London and how did you find that transition?

I moved to London just as the pandemic hit and that caused absolute carnage for me. It obviously halted my tattoo career and kept me away from my family and my soon to be wife in Peru.

When was your first real breakthrough moment after you got here?

Romeo Beckham reached out and certainly changed the game for me.

You’ve worked with some of the biggest names across multiple cultures. Who have been some of your favourite people to work with?

Bryson Tiller was fun to work with and I always love working with Sophia Hadjipanteli. She’s wild!

Sophia Hadjipanteli
Who have you worked with in the music industry and how do these relationships come about?

Bugzy Malone, Bryson Tiller, Wes Nelson and Liam Payne to name a few. A lot of the time it’s organic and they reach out to me and we take it from there. My creative director also introduces me to a lot of different people.

Moving onto Bugzy Malone, one of the most important figures in UK Rap for the past decade, what was the process like designing the tattoo for his latest album cover?

That was a very humbling experience as we’ve been fans of Bugzy for a long time. We listen to a lot of his tracks in the studio when we are working and he’s a serious guy. Bugzy had a very clear vision of The Great British Dream so he was a pleasure to work with as when ideas are crisp and have vision the execution is more fluid.

What is your relationship with music and are you interested in doing more work for cover art?

Yes absolutely. I love all Rap music. Larry June, Young Dolph and Hip Hop in general is always the soundtrack to my working life. Cover art is definitely an ambition of mine.

Artwork for Bugzy Malone’s ‘The Great British Dream’
What are your interests away from tattooing?

I love boxing and I’ve gotten focussed on that again. I love doing graffiti with other letter heads in London.

Do you feel like tattoo artists get the credit they deserve when it comes to being respected as an actual art form?

I think that’s certainly the case in America. In the U.K. I think we are a little bit behind in that sense but it’s definitely catching up in terms of recognition and respect for tattoo artists.

Having achieved so much in the relatively early stages of your career, what’s next for you?

I would love to do more collaborations with brands and design lettering for fashion houses, cover art for music and I’m also keen to explore other business opportunities as I grow■

CLB’s story and come up is certainly a unique one that is demonstrative to his innate talent and outstanding work ethic. From Peru to London, his style has translated and there is really no limit to his capabilities as he steps up his creativity.