Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For 'Tour Tales,' we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it's still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on 'Tour Tales.'
Denzel Thomas was a year from graduating from Georgia State until the Athens, Georgia native decided to drop out of college. So, the now 28-year-old DJ, known as DJ Blakboy, had to check his priorities.
“I chose to focus more so on deejaying because it was hard for me to focus on studying for a test, passing the test, and doing all the stuff you got to do. I had all my attention on making money and deejaying,” DJ Blakboy told REVOLT TV.
The decision has been paying off. He's been on tour deejaying for Playboi Carti for roughly two years, and that started after a year of deejaying for the human energy boost that is Travis Porter. For this installment of Tour Tales, Playboi Carti's DJ spoke about how festivals ran by artists treat performers better than major festivals, how to sustain your career as just a tour DJ, and how he created a Kobe-Shaq relationship with Playboi Carti onstage.
How did you become Playboi Carti's DJ?
I was friends with his manager Pat at the time. He used to always come to the clubs in Atlanta. That was back when I was doing club gigs and stuff like that, and building a pretty big name for myself in Atlanta. He actually put my name in the pot to become [Lil] Uzi [Vert]'s DJ at first. But, I chose not to do that because that was when I got the Travis Porter gig. After that, he came to me again and was like, "I got Playboi Carti for you. Do you want to take it?" That's when I took off from there with that.
What was the craziest thing you've seen at a Playboi Carti show?
At the Camp Flog Gnaw show, people were in the trees and a kid in a wheelchair crowd surfed. It was amazing. That was crazy.
You also did Drake's OVO Fest in 2017. Is there any difference between a festival ran by an artist, as opposed to bigger ones like SXSW?
Yeah, there's a difference. When you're going to an artist festival, you pretty much know your crowd. Most of the people that come to those festivals are for the artists that are on the bill. As opposed to SXSW, where you have so many different genres, so many different names. It's also a film and arts festival. So, you got a bunch of stuff. I feel like big, major festivals are oversaturated now. I like the artist-run festivals. Camp Flog Gnaw is dope because it's a little more intimate with the fans. It's a little bit more organic. It seems like they take a lot of time planning and everything. You feel a lot more cared about at an artist festival as opposed to other festivals that are bigger.
Why do you say that?
You could see a crowd of people on one stage for one performance, and a bunch of people might stay there for that one performance and then, everybody leaves. As opposed to Camp Flog Gnaw, where the people stay at that one stage where they see the people they want to see. The lineup is also made for the other artists. So, we performed at Camp Flog Gnaw, and when our set was done, you still had a good amount of time to run over to catch Rocky's performance. They try not to overlap performances, as opposed to these bigger festivals that are strict on their schedule. They have so many people, they have to get in.
Ever since Carti publicly started dating Iggy Azalea, have you noticed any changes in who comes to the shows or paparazzi presence?
Not really. Me and Carti [are] on a brother type thing. Me and his brother is around the same age. So, we bonded a lot on that tour last year. We created a different type of bond. When me and him are around each other, you don't realize the superstar effect. Stuff just move so fast.
Do you think mosh pits have taken over hip hop shows with everyone asking for one at every show? You've ordered your fair share.
Of course, a bunch of people are being on that mosh pit craze. That was something that Carti liked. Carti's fanbase's mosh pits create a punk rock atmosphere with so much rage. This is not me being biased to Carti. But, that was before I remember seeing Travis Scott really pushing that mosh pit thing. I know Carti was doing it.
I remember the first time we performed together, Carti jumped in the crowd. That was our first show in February 2017 in San Francisco. Seeing how the fans react to the energy of the songs, I would compare it to heavy metal. You could just feel that energy build in the crowd. When it feels like the crowd is coming down or getting tired, I get them more pumped to keep them going.
I interviewed DMX's DJ of 15 years, DJ Nonstop, months ago for Tour Tales. He said after a while, he and DMX had a chemistry where they didn't even need to speak to have a great set. How has your onstage chemistry with Carti developed?
It kind of popped in as soon as we started working. Before Carti, I was working with other artists like Cyhi [The Prynce], Travis Porter. So, I got the experience of knowing when to come in. So, I was able to jump in; and help create that Kobe and Shaq, Mike and Scottie type thing, just from working with other artists. Being with Travis Porter, it's more of a challenge because you have three artists and you don't really find much time to speak in. But, I still found that time.
Speaking of that, you are one of the more vocal DJs. You even get onstage from out of the booth and damn near perform for the crowd yourself? Was that something you spoke with Carti about or just chose to do on your own?
That was just something I chose to do on my own. I watched my peers DJ P For Real, who's with UzI; and DJ Champ, who is with Gucci [Mane], do that before me. Even my other homies, Marc B, who is with 21 Savage; and DJ Tonee, who is with 6Lack, utilize their time to go out there and perform for the crowd and get the crowd hype. That's what a DJ does. Keep the crowd hype. It's different when you're just sitting up there onstage behind the table. I feel like some DJs like to stay in their comfort zone, and I'm always trying to challenge myself to go to a different level. I thought that was something that I could do to create my own lane, and [have people] remember who I am.
What's on Playboi Carti's rider? What does he like backstage?
Two bottles of Hennessy, of course. We get a bunch of snacks, like Hot Cheetos and candy. Most of the time, we don't eat that. It's for the people with us.
You deejayed for Travis Porter between 2016 - 2017. That group was huge in 2008, 2009. Did their songs from nearly a decade ago still ring off live?
Yeah. "Ayy Ladies," "Bring It Back," "Make It Rain." All those classic hits that we turned up to in college still have the same effect now.
They're known for their twerk competitions during their shows. Do any stick out to you from over the years?
We had one in Alabama. The [college football team] won a championship and the football players brought girls onstage. It was crazy.
Do you think an upcoming DJ can sustain themselves by simply being a tour DJ for different artists or is there more to do?
There's so many ways that you can stay relevant as a DJ. But, as far as being a tour DJ, you can definitely do that. My mentor, DJ Aktive; he's worked on The Bad Boy Reunion tour, Kanye West, Marsha Ambrosius, Common, and so many artists. He's been able to move from artist to artist. But, he's also worked on the radio. The money is definitely in the tour DJ realm. Being a club DJ is cool. But, there's only a certain amount of money a club is willing to give out.
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