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.'
There are very few sure things in the music industry and Charlotte, North Carolina native photographer NDOH thinks he's one of them. As Gunna's official photographer during the star's rise, the shooter of Nigerian descent is confident he can get any shot he wants in any condition.
"If it's Rolling Loud [Bay Area in 2018] and it's raining a little bit or it's a tough situation, there's no excuses with me, really. I always get the shot. I always produce," NDOH told REVOLT TV.
For this installment of 'Tour Tales,' NDOH explains the bond Nipsey Hussle and Gunna shared, memories from last year's 'Astroworld Tour,' and when's the right and wrong time to take Gunna's photo.
Gunna was part of the 'Astroworld Tour,' which started in November 2018, weeks before 'Drip Too Hard' was certified platinum. As you were on tour, the Drip Harder mixtape with Lil Baby also came out. What do you recognize as the biggest difference in Gunna's show before and after the success on tour?
When the song dropped, they already knew it was going to be the one. When they got on tour and they started playing it in arenas at Astroworld, that's when you started to see the difference. Before, he was getting a big reaction. But, now it's people screaming and knowing it word for word, top to bottom. I'd say that was one of the biggest songs on the 'Astroworld Tour,' as far as a reaction.
What's the craziest thing you've seen a fan do in the crowd to 'Drip Too Hard'?
Mosh-pits every time. Somebody tried to jump over the gate, get pass security and get onstage. She actually almost made it onstage. But, as soon as 'Drip Too Hard' was about to drop, they pulled her off. Security grabbed her so late because they couldn't believe somebody would try that.
What was the most memorable show you've ever photographed for Gunna?
There was one early on in May. We went to Carrollton, Georgia. It was the first time we really, all the way, sold out wall to wall. When he got in the venue, everyone grabbed him. Everyone can't even get in the building. They played the music, he couldn't hear his own music playing. Everyone started going word for word. We didn't even need no music. It was all women there. This was when we were like, 'Yeah, this is it. It's going up.'
When you're a photographer on tour, you have to anticipate the shots before they come. So, you have to learn the artist. After countless Gunna shows, what are some things he always does that you can expect to get a good shot from?
I know the whole setlist now. So, I can anticipate when he's going to play certain songs. With the whole Drip or Drown 2 out, the song 'One Call' gets a big reaction. So, I know he's going to put his hands in the air and dance to that song. I know the fans are going to react to that every time. At the beginning of the song, I'm recording video. After the beat drops, I'm taking photos because the beginning of the song [has] the hypest moments.
When I hold my camera, I'm not even looking at my camera through the camera. I'm actually just holding the camera and looking everywhere else to look for the next moment. That's how I can get the next moment.
So you're taking photos of Gunna without looking?
Yeah, so I can anticipate what's about to happen next. I can take the photo. But, I have to catch the next photo. So, I'm looking at the fan to the left. I have to be a step ahead, especially with video. You can't just have it on him. You have to anticipate, 'OK, this fan is about to reach their hand out or they're about to put their phone out.' If I'm focused on the camera, I can't really see that. I have to see what the next three to five seconds are going to be like.
That's talented. How did you link up with Gunna, originally?
As a photographer, you are in privlieged areas in private times. Do you remember any personal interactions between Travis Scott and Gunna?
Not too much because they didn't meet too often. I know at that level of a tour, things are more secluded, and privacy is a high priority.
Speaking of privacy, that tour was during the ascension of Travis Scott becoming a platinum artist, while in a relationship with one of the most visible people in the world, Kylie Jenner. Were there extra precautions you had to be mindful of?
Oh yeah, very much. Very cautious when it comes to security. When you move around the venue, you had to be super sharp so there's no liabilities. Certain rules you have to follow when you're dealing with the type of caliber of an artist [as Travis Scott].
How has Gunna's rider changed as he's gotten bigger?
It changes all the time. I've seen everything from Popeyes to fish and shrimp, sometimes. Anything high-end. Cheesecake Factory, Benihana, stuff like that.
What are some personal activities Gunna does outside of touring?
Gunna likes to be in the lab. So, every time he gets a chance away from the tour, he's in the studio vibing out. He also likes to go to the malls and experience the city.
Can he still go to the mall?
Now, he doesn't go as much. But, last year we were going a lot. Now, he doesn't go to the mall as often. He might pop in real quick at, maybe, the Chanel store.
Bainz told me Gunna and Thug have enough songs together for a joint album. Have you see him record songs, while on the road?
Oh yeah, especially during the 'Astroworld Tour.' He would be recording very frequently. They had the studio on the bus the last tour. So, they made sure no work was getting interrupted. They were getting to it anytime they got a chance.
Paint me a picture of Gunna when the fans and the mics are gone. What's his personality like?
He's all about good vibes. He's about laughing and jokes. He's a people person. So, at the end of the day, he's going to be a genuine person.
When do you know when to take a photo of Gunna and when not to?
It's second nature. You can tell by just the way he's talking or communicating with people when it's a good time to take a photo. Sometimes, he just be chilling, relaxed, glasses off, and that's when you know he doesn't want to be photographed right now. But, jewelry and the glasses on, and you know that he might want some photos taken.
You recently did Irving Plaza and Megan Thee Stallion was there. Do you know when the guests are coming, so you can prepare for photos?
Not really. Sometimes it's a quick, 'Oh, Meg is here,' five minutes before she comes. I don't really get too much of a heads up because it's last minute. I didn't even know she was coming, really. I knew they were in town. Most times I just see and react because I'm already camera-ready. It could be five seconds, somebody walk in and I can grab my camera and be ready. There's not much I need to do. So, even if it's one second, I can still get the shot. I got it to the point where I can shoot and adjust at the same time, I don't have to look at the camera too much.
What is your greatest talent as a photographer?
Just getting it done in any condition, period. At the end of the day, I'm good for the shot. People know that. If it's Rolling Loud [Bay Area in 2018] and it's raining a little bit or it's a tough situation, there' s no excuses with me, really. I always get the shot. I always produce. There have been times where, early on, Gunna would tell me to come to the club or somewhere with no media pass or anything. I haven't even met them backstage or anything and next thing you know, they come out onstage and I'm right there in the photo pit ready. I don't need to be instructed too much, I just get it done.
The death of Nipsey Hussle really shook up the industry. I remember Gunna said on Instagram that he wanted to reschedule his April 2 show because of it. What were his feelings after hearing the news of Nipsey's passing?
They were crushed. I know Nipsey linked up with them a couple times. I know Nipsey came to show love at S.O.B's NY when we sold it out over the summer [in June 2018]. Then, again, on the 'K.O.D. Tour' [at the Atlanta, GA stop in August 2018 ] with J. Cole, Nipsey came and showed love there. Nipsey always been in the circle, always showed love. So, I know it's something very dear to them. It's definitely something that hurt them. But now, every show they do a tribute at the end.
What has improved about his live show on the 'Drip or Drown 2 Tour'?
Much more crowd presence. He'll even go in the crowd a little bit. He'll bring the energy. The way he delivers now is ten times better. He has good crowd control and getting the fans involved. Just the whole structure of the show is much better.
What is the importance of the photographer to a rapper in today's market?
I think it's critical, honestly. That's all you got to show for at the end of the day. You have a show that sells out and it goes completely crazy. If you have nothing to show for it the day after, it's like it never happened, the way social media is going nowadays. Your image and perception is everything.
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