A solid black tattoo isn’t necessarily tribal, in fact, a tribal tattoo doesn’t need to be black at all. And any design isn’t tribal. Any lacework design that is tattooed in black isn’t a tribal tattoo. A tribal tattoo was a tattoo that actually designated what tribe you were in, or your status in that tribe. The thing is, it meant something that you understood if you were apart of the tribe, of that culture.
Tattoos have passed through the mists of time... tattoos are seen in all corners of the world... tattoos that have deep cultural or religious meaning. Check out this collection of tattoo design pictures for a look at some amazing, early examples of 'real' tribal tattoo work -- images from around the globe and tribal designs drawn down through history.
What we think of as tribal probably comes from a poorly imitated Maori or other tribal community’s symbolic social structure. We take designs from African tribes, Pacific Islander tribes, Hawaiian, etc. It would be similar to an Asian country putting random letters of our Alphabet on their body just because it looked good to them.