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.'
Arthur "DJ Ace" Dobson first touched turntables in 1993 when he was 11. More than 25 years later -- after hundreds of shows and club dates, and receiving a 2015 Global Spin Award for Regional Club DJ of the Year for the south -- he's now the official DJ for Jeezy. Deejaying on tour with the rapper for the last three years has given Ace a look into how Jeezy's ceiling-rattling performances all start with a high level of professionalism.
"Jeezy takes it super serious. He's in the gym before the show. Recently, he left the stage at Funkfest in Birmingham, Alabama and went back to the gym... He doesn't smoke before the show," Ace told REVOLT TV.
In this installment of Tour Tales, the south Jersey native breaks down Jeezy's most memorable shows, gives insight into the rapper's former relationship with Nipsey Hussle, and reveals when we can all expect to get Jeezy's "last" album, TM104.
How’d a boy from south Jersey end up in Atlanta?
In September 2007, I was still in south Jersey working at a collections agency and deejaying at the nightclubs in Philly. I just decided to up and move. I had a friend who lived in Atlanta, who kept telling me, 'Move to Atlanta. This is where it’s at.' Me and two of my friends, who were brothers, took a shot in the dark. I had a [Chevrolet] Avalanche, a couple thousand dollars, my dirt bike, my turntables and that was it. I took a shot in the dark and moved to Atlanta.
How and when did you link with Jeezy?
I would deejay at Diddy’s restaurant Justin's, and at the end of the BMF (Black Mafia Family) wave in 2008, Jeezy and his people would come in 50, 60 deep and keep the whole restaurant open. They would lock the doors and I’d be the one in there deejaying. From me being in Justin’s, I became the DJ for Alex Gidewon from AG Entertainment. He’s a popular promoter here in Atlanta. I was down with Desert Storm by being the DJ at Room Service, which was [Fabolous'] late night, after-hours lounge out here. After doing all of these clubs, parties and being on the radio, Jeezy would see me day in and day out.
Baby Yu was Jeezy’s DJ, but he had a lot going on. He’s Asian, so his demographic is more of a Top 40, mixed crowds. So, he moved to L.A. But, him doing that made it hard for him to move with Jeezy the way he needed to move. So, he stepped away and I was next in line.
What was the first show you deejayed for Jeezy like?
Man, before the show, I had smoked. I get onstage and I’m all pumped that I’m going to kill this show. I was on one side of the room and Jeezy was down on the stage. It wasn’t a big thing, it was a club performance. I remember playing 'Who Dat.' Two or three songs go by and I play 'Who Dat' again. I was up there high, nervous and had a bunch of emotions running through me. Jeezy pulled me to the side at the end of it and said, 'Look, young nigga. You have to take this shit serious. If you don’t go up there and give this your all, you’ll be back there in them clubs. Ain’t nobody going to care about you. Go up there and focus.' From then on, I don’t smoke around him and I don’t smoke before shows. He sets the tone.
What was your first tour with Jeezy?
In 2017 for the 'Trap or Die 3 Tour.' It was amazing going out there with a superstar. I remember I had to step onstage and take a deep breath because it was a big deal. We did The Fillmore in Philly. I remember coming out in Philly and hitting the sound effect, they had my logo on the screen, and then I dropped 'Standing Ovation' and everyone erupted.
I know that ATL Homecoming show during the tour had to be amazing.
The ATL Homecoming concert was dope. But, I’m going to be honest with you, nothing touches Detroit. When I walk through Detroit with him, it’s like I’m walking with Obama. The crowd is following him and it’s amazing. We do an all white party up in Detroit.
You think Jeezy gets more love in Detroit than in Atlanta?
Yes. I hate to say that, but yes. Jeezy is the president of Detroit. Just say Jeezy is going to use the bathroom and there’s going to be a line of people standing there to watch him.
How much time and energy does Jeezy dedicate to getting ready for a show or tour?
Jeezy takes it super serious. He’s in the gym before the show. Recently, he left the stage at Funkfest in Birmingham, Alabama and went back to the gym. There’s no smoking. He doesn’t smoke before the show.
So, what’s on Jeezy’s rider?
Ten bottles of Avion, sliced lime, two bottles of Tito’s, three bottles of Rosè, grilled fish and shrimp. Then, there's wings and fries for the team. It’s been consistent since I’ve been with him.
What have you done onstage that shows the sort of chemistry you and Jeezy have?
He can say a word and it can trigger something for me to do. Or, I can say something and he’ll know where I’m going. Hypothetically, if we’re in the middle of a trap set and we’re playing 'Trap Star' and 'Trap or Die,' I might hit the bomb and go, 'Hold up, Snow. I’m looking around and I see a lot of day 1’s here, but I want to talk to my day 1 ladies.' That’s the audible right there that we’re going to turn the corner and go to the female songs.
Jeezy gives you that sort of power and trust to affect his show on the fly?
That’s right. With me being a club DJ, I know the songs, vibes and feel, and I can read the crowd. If I’m up there and I see something that’s not right, or they’re not reacting a certain way, he gives me the power to turn the corner. Before the show, every night, I put the set list together. I’ll go over the set list with him and he’ll ask me, 'What’s the crowd looking like?' Let’s say it’s a young crowd, I’m going to go young and may start with 'All There' or 'Dey Know (Remix).' If I’m going to an HBCU and it’s a 25 or 30-year-old crowd, I’m going to go with the classics that they were going to school listening to.
What’s the most memorable Jeezy show you’ve ever deejayed?
I feel like we did a Jeezy Fest [in Detroit]. I remember stepping out in one of those arenas. We played a song, I hit the bomb sound effect, and we stood there for about five to seven minutes, and took it all in. The crowd was chanting. He turned around and gave me the hand [gesture] like, 'Don’t say nothing. Don’t make a noise.' It was an amazing feeling to see the people just feel somebody like that and show their appreciation for him.
Before you deejayed for Jeezy or were a club DJ in Atlanta, you were close with the early 2000s R&B group City High. What was that like?
We started with City High in ’99. It was me and one of my friends Lanell. He was their official DJ. I was their friend. I would go and do little shows with them here or there in the area. We all graduated from high school together. Around 2000-2001, when the album [City High] dropped. They were really moving around. We were doing the press run and performing at Six Flags Great Adventures.
What was the effect of their biggest hit 'What Would You Do' dropping?
Everything changed when Wyclef [signed them] to Booga Basement. Everyone was going crazy over Claudette [Ortiz]. My friend Ryan (Toby) was already in Sister Act II. When 'What Would You Do' dropped, everything changed, especially coming from a small town in south Jersey. Those were the first people to really get on and put on for the city.
What were City High shows like after they hit it big?
City High had a dope show. I remember being with them at a few shows and they would have a part where they would break the show down into an acapella, and do [Bill Withers'] 'Lean On Me.' They'd have the whole crowd singing the song acapella. They were talented. Their shows were well put together.
Going back to Jeezy, how far in advance do you know about the surprise guests he brings out at shows?
With me being his road manager and DJ, I set up a lot of plays because I have a lot of relationships with artists. So, I’ll usually be with him orchestrating like, 'Yo, we're in Florida, we need to bring Plies out.' I remember starting the 'Pressure Tour' and we brought Nipsey out, we bought Diddy out and OT Genesis all on one set together. That was a dope one. Nipsey is the homie.
Do you remember anything about Nipsey and Jeezy’s interactions at that show?
At that show, they sat in the back and had their little gang pow-wow (laughs). They were genuinely friends before anything. Nip would call [Jeezy] for advice. He helped walk Nip into his first deal. I don’t know the exact story. But, [Jeezy] told me that when Nip was about to sign one of these deals, he called [Jeezy] and he put the play together. I wouldn’t say afterwards Jeezy got overlooked, but a lot of people probably don’t know the influence he had on helping Nip get signed when it happened. Jeezy didn’t do it all on his own. But, he definitely helped influence it and was one of the first people that really believed in Nip and was telling people that Nip is fire.
What are some fun things you and Jeezy did on tour?
Jeezy and I, over this time, have built a nice friendship outside of [me] being his DJ. When we were in Dubai, we went on the safari tour together. We rode in a Land Cruiser off-road. I have a son and we take our kids to Dave & Busters. When we out on the road, he makes sure his team is good. If he does something, the team is going to do something. We’ll rent out a room in a bowling alley. We were in Vegas and were all kicking it at Top Golf.
What’s coming up next?
I don’t want to speak too much and give away too much. But, TM104 will be here within the next month and a half (as of May 30). We have big features. I’ve helped with a few joints. We have a few of the hot, young guys in the street right now. We have some classics. We got it. We got the Trap or Die sound and the new sound.
When did he tell you that this was going to be his last album?
Being all the way honest, if anybody knows, this is his last album... wait, let me see how I can put this (laughs).
Is it his last album on a major label?
He told me this was going to be the last hurrah. I don’t really want to speak on it and give away too much. I’ll put it like this, my boy Jeezy ain’t going nowhere. He’s working on films and acting. He’s got his hand in a lot.
Is there a collaboration on TM104 that you think is going to shock people?
Yeah, I’m not going to reveal it. But, there might be more than one. My brother’s been working and he’s been strategically doing what he needs to do. He takes pride in his project. Please believe when it comes out, it’s going to be right.
What are y’all doing next year for the 15th anniversary of the album that started it all: TM101?
We’re probably going to hit the road. I know we got two tours coming up, then the TM104 tour. Then, we go overseas to Europe at the beginning of the year. It’s going to be a busy year. I want people to be on the look out and be ready.
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