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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.'
Brandon "DJ Bonics" Glova is not new to this, he's true to this. The 20+ year veteran DJ has been a part of Wiz Khalifa's career before a teenage Cameron Thomaz (the rapper's real name) even knew he had one. Through his close relationship with E. Dan -- founder of the ID Labs production team that's worked with Wiz since his 2006 Show and Prove mixtape -- Bonics was able to form a relationship with the MC that grew into him becoming the burgeoning rap star's official DJ. The 38-year-old DJ virtuoso has been studying the art of deejaying for decades and Wiz Khalifa's shows are better for it.
"I was born in the 80s, so I watched the 90s and the DJ was a part of the shit. So, I always came with the approach of, 'I'm making sure everything is right for Wiz,'" DJ Bonics told REVOLT TV.
On this installment of 'Tour Tales,' Bonics let's us know the most creative measure Wiz has taken to smoke on tour, the brotherly bond of Curren$y and Wiz on the '2009 Tour,' and why the rapper is a master at what he does.
How did you and Wiz link up?
I remember E. Dan specifically saying these exact words to me: 'Yo, there's this kid who comes to ID Labs Studio afterschool with a group of kids. He's pretty tight. His name is Cam. The other guys stink, but he's real good.' This had to be between 2004-2006. His first manager was this guy Chad Glick. Then [Rostrum Records' founder] Benjy [Grinberg] came in, and you know Benjy from Rostrum Records. When I was dealing with anything with Wiz, it's not like I would ask a 15, 16-year-old if he wanted to open up for T.I. or whoever. I would deal with Chad and Benjy.
I had gone to the University of Pittsburgh and I was that guy on campus deejaying. I curated -- I hate to use the word curate -- these shows. I had Wiz perform at one of them and I'd like to think that was one of his first shows ever. No one showed up. His mom showed up. But, he was the opening, opening, opening, opening act. I hate to say it this way. But, I was on before Wiz was. I was also eight years older. I was on the radio and at the clubs. So, I would play his songs on the radio and have him come to the clubs I played at when he was underage.
Did you guys have any early shows that illustrate how far your live show and chemistry have come?
He did a double show to open up for Wale at the 930 Club [in 2010]. They were like, 'Bonics, we need a DJ for that show.' I was like, 'Heck yeah.' I did it and this was the time where I was still playing cuts with [the drop] 'DJ Ill Will!' So, motherfuckers thought I was DJ Ill Will (laughs). Literally, the drops were still in the song. That might be an obscure detail. But, for someone who grew up watching De La Soul and other people, it's like, 'Why do you have drops in your fucking show tracks? Why are there lyrics in your performance songs?' Back to the 930 Club, I remember Wiz saying this to me, 'Honestly, that was the best deejaying I had ever had.'
How has the business of touring changed since you started with Wiz in 2010?
That's a good question. Let's talk, technically. You have DJs doing BET Live at the Staples Center using controllers with RCA outputs. The same outputs you use for a toy. For me, I will always say deejaying is about the people, not the person. It's not for self.
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#TBT (I think this was 2007) People ask me how I became @wizkhalifa DJ. I always give the short answer. He was the best at what he was doing and I was the best at I was doing at the time in the Burgh. And that’s it. When you put in the work it doesn’t go unnoticed. And work is better noticed without words. It’s actions. We didn’t know at the time this picture was taken that he and I would do the things we’ve done and seen the places we’ve been. You just never know what will happen but we always worked like we did. Another tour tomorrow and I’m thankful for the blessings. #2009tour
Clockwork DJ told me that brotherly bonds develop between DJs and artists on tour. What are some memorable moments between you and Wiz that fans have never seen?
Recently, I walked into the dressing room after this '2009 Tour,' and Wiz and Curren$y had a bottle of champagne for me, and toasted me on this tour. They were like, 'Yo, Bonics you really stepped it up.'
Speaking of that '2009 Tour', Wiz and Curren$y were smoking a lot of weed onstage at these shows. Did you face any pushback from venues?
Oh, yeah. There are some places that are really hardline about that. There were a couple of cities like Ontario, Canada where you couldn't smoke onstage. As long as you have a place for Wiz to do it, whether the bus is parked out back or they allow you to do it in the dressing room, it's OK. There would be a lot of college shows where you obviously can't fuck that up because of the contracts. There were a lot of tours in the beginning where we couldn't smoke at all, college tours.
What are some of the most creative measures Wiz has taken to smoke?
I've seen Wiz hit the joint on the field at the Dallas Cowboys stadium when they bought us for a tour (in November 2014). I swear, if my memory is right, he just hit it real quick. The Cowboys used 'We Dem Boyz' for a season or two as like the anthem. So, the Cowboys invited us down there. They gave a tour, we were able to throw the football around. I remember him taking a hit real quick. Maybe my memory doesn't serve me right. This may not be a fact (laughs).
Back to the '2009 Tour.' Wiz and Curren$y did songs from the pair's 2009 mixtape How Fly and songs from their recent album 2009, right?
They opened up the show with How Fly. They do a few joints of that and then 2009. The best parts of the tour were when they would tell stories like in 2009 when Wiz flew down to New Orleans and slept over at Curren$y's place. Wiz was editing videos. They told these stories on the road and it gave the shows this depth. There was one review for our show in Pittsburgh that went, 'If you were expecting hits, this is a disappointment.' I was like, 'Yo, what y'all aren't seeing is this is a culture piece.'
Wiz has always been a step ahead of everyone, to the point that it made people uncomfortable when he dyed his hair purple. But, guess what? He made it uncomfortable when he was wearing tight clothes. But, guess what? He made it uncomfortable when he was like, 'Put the blunts down.' But, guess what? Hip hop took that weird turn in 2009 that gave birth to the Kendricks, the [J.] Coles and all of this stuff. Wiz was a part of all that.
Be honest, on tour, which project had the songs that get the biggest reactions? How Fly or 2009?
I would say How Fly. But, you have to understand, the first day of the tour was the first day the album came out. So, people didn't know the lyrics until about the 10th day. But, actually; the third, fourth, fifth, sixth day you could see people starting to know it and you knew it was hitting.
This seemed like the best tour for what I call 'tour hits,' songs that were not pushed as singles but get live reactions as if they were. What is Wiz Khalifa's biggest tour hit?
'Mesmerized.' 'Car Service.' Dude, opening the show up with 'Car Service.' 'Clear the runway baby.' Yoooo! A lot of the things they would say on the tour would be, 'In 2009, I didn't have these cars.' Curren$y says on How Fly, 'I put the picture of my Porsche on the wall.' He says that shit. Then, 10 years later [on 'Stoned Gentleman'], he said, 'I showed you fools how to turn the internet rhymes into residuals."
The best thing about Wiz's career, to me, is how fans have been able to watch his maturation. How has Wiz's rider changed over the years?
The first tour, every night was pizza and wings, Papa John's and wings. We had the Bombay in the beginning. But, now Wiz has his own gin, McQueen. Cities like Minneapolis just started selling McQueen.
What's the craziest reaction you've seen Wiz receive from a fan at a live show?
They had this guy crowdsurfing in a wheelchair. Or, just going to a different country like Africa and they're wearing a [Pittsburgh] Pirates hat. What? You go to another country and they're wearing a Steelers jersey, that's crazy.
You seem very capable of adapting at any time at a show. Has there ever been a show that you saved?
Wiz will never know the amount of times and it's not his job to know that. Things like when the band playback went away, and stuff like that, and I had to cue the song up right at the right moment and needle drop it on. There's lots of times I've saved the show where things went out.
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Last day of #2009tour ! I got to bring in #2009 every night in 23 cities. From rehearsals to this last day every part of this experience has been amazing! @wizkhalifa and @spitta_andretti trusted me this tour to make it the best show we could and every night had its own surprise or spontaneous moment that made it memorable! We made history with this one. Even off the stage it was an adventure. I did my radio on @go953mn for the last 4 weeks on the road every morning and hit an after party almost every night! I also got to connect with some old friends and met some new ones. I got to visit local boutiques and support local business and people keeping the street fashion and culture alive. This is my life right now. I chose this. But remain humble because I want more. Thank you for coming along for the journey. To be continued...
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I'm an Assistant Program Director in Minneapolis [for 95.3 GO Radio]. But, you might catch me at a radio station. But, if I am, it'll be something special. You might catch DJ Bonics on his DJ Khaled shit. That's long overdue. I just got this TV audition. I'm trying to keep it authentic and let music be the vehicle. I need to help people see they can fulfill their purpose, too. I don't want to say I'm going to be a CEO because none of that really matters. The only thing that matters to me, at this moment, is putting myself in the way of joy.
You seem to know all of the ins and outs about deejaying on tour.
To be a master of it, you have to. I'm not going to name names. But, there's DJs that just deejay. That's the problem with the social media part of it. They think they're getting a reward by likes. But, are you truly impacting your city? Are you impacting your community?
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Ahmad Jamal is a pianist from Pittsburgh, Pa. in 1970 he released a song called “I Love Music” from the album “the Awakening.” The song “I Love Music” was sampled in Nas’ song “The World is Yours.” Today while in the Burgh my man @native_412 asked me to be apart of a video he’s producing about Ahmad Jamal’s influence and asked me and some Pittsburgh musicians @buscrates and @cscott412 to recreate “It’s Yours.” Keys, Bass, drums and I cut up Scott La Rock’s “It’s Yours” on the deck.
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