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.’
Back in 2012, DJ Oreo was immersed in the Chicago hip hop scene that birthed Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper’s careers. For nearly a decade, he’s deejayed for both stars.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” he describes how Chance’s show has evolved over the years, the water gun fights and debates between Chance and Mac Miller on the “Space Migration Tour,” and turning mistakes into greatness with Vic. Read below.
How did you connect with Chance?
I was deejaying for Alex Wiley and Kembe X. Alex, Kembe, and Chance used to do these show packs together where you could get the three of them for a flat rate. Basically, for three to five months, Kembe, Chance, and I would be on the road together. That’s all we did. Every weekend we’d hit the road, Kembe and Alex would open up, I’d deejay for them, and Chance would be the closer. I ended up learning Chance’s songs and routine because we were all hanging out. When you see the show so much, you pretty much know what’s going on.
One day I was sitting at a friend’s house when Pat [Corcoran] calls me like, “Chance wants you to come to Boston with him to do a show.” This was the March 1, 2013 show at Boston University where he opened up for Joey Bada$$. That was my first show with him. It was a really small show with maybe 200 people. Then, after that was the “Kids These Days Tour” into a bunch of one-off college shows into the Mac Mill tour into the Macklemore tour. Acid Rap dropped while we were on the road and the skies were the limit.
Acid Rap dropped on April 30, 2013; a few months after your first show as Chance’s DJ. What were you doing on the road around the time of its release?
I remember we were in Europe during the peak of it all. I’m almost sure we were traveling because that was Chance’s first time getting the full Complex spread. I remember him wanting to be home because all of the Complex stuff was happening and we couldn’t really do what we wanted to do because we were overseas.
How did you put your show together with Chance?
I saw the show so many times and, at that point, it was still a 10 Day show for a super long time. Around this time, it was “Juice,” “Brain Cells,” “Prom Night,” “Hey Ya,” and “Fuck You Tahm Bout.” The set was only 20-30 minutes long and he would perform mostly his 10 Day tracks. We had good chemistry because we both had pretty strong stage presences and I knew how to catch his pockets. We rehearsed about one or two times. We understood each other. I was there to be the DJ. He was there to be the rapper.
You two were around Kendrick Lamar, Joey Badass, and J. Cole in 2013. What were those early interactions like?
It was really cool because we were all just hanging out. J. Cole happened to come in town while he was doing one of the “Dollar and A Dream Tours” and was back there hanging with us. That’s when I met Ib [Hamad] and all of J. Cole’s team. I still talk to some of those guys this day. It was a cool experience because everyone was in a new place in their career at the same time…
What was Chance’s SXSW 2013 like?
Nice Kicks show was a big show. The official SXSW and Complex shows were big. We actually performed right before Kendrick did his famous Illmore performance of good kid, mAAd city and it was crazy. That was all in one setting. That run was endless. There were no throwaway shows for us. It was back to back to back.
What are some moments on the road between you and Chance that show how close you two are?
It’s like sharing a bus with your brother and friend. We’re only working for an hour on the road. We’d watch “Rosewood” every day. We’d go to a theme park or go play basketball. That grew into us playing NBA 2K, Fortnite, and UFC every day. Everything we’d do at home, we’d do on the road.
What mistakes have you fixed during a show with him?
When we first got on the road with Macklemore in Europe [during Fall 2013], I had no idea how to get these people hype before he came out. I think it took me four shows to figure it out. For those first four shows, it was hard. We had just got off the Mac Miller [Space Migration] Tour and were killing it every night.
We landed, were tired, slept at the venue for four hours, and did the first show. I remember he left the tour to go film a video with James Blake and ended up missing that show. I had to do that show. That was the show where I figured out what to do because Chance wasn’t there. I’ll never forget that day because the tour manager Max was like, “You’re going to have to go out there and DJ until they get back.” I was so afraid because I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I said, “The only way I’m deejaying without him is if Chance or Pat tells me to deejay.” He got one of them on the phone to tell me and then I went and did an entire 30 minute set by myself.
Another time was when I was with Vic. We were at Wireless Festival on the same main stage Kanye West and Pharrell played that day. We were doing the song “Lovely Day” and he had moved the cue point without telling me. We’re going up to the crescendo like, “1, 2, 3, boom!” It’s supposed to be a big drop of most of the production of the song. But, when I hit it, it went quiet. It happened so fast, I was like, “Oh, oh, oh, what a lovely day. 1, 2, 3,” and brought it back in right on time. The crowd went nuts. When we got backstage, Vic was super pissed. He was like, “The only reason I’m not mad is because you saved yourself. I’m also mad because it went silent on me and we talked about this.” I told him, “We haven’t changed the cue point in forever.” He was like, “I get it. I’m mad it happened, but I can’t be mad because you saved it.”
You’ve saved the day for a few artists.
Even when I was deejaying for Megan [Thee Stallion] for that short period of time when I was filling in for her DJs, I had to deejay for Megan for an hour before she showed up because of traffic being so bad, she got caught up. I’ve always had to deejay for extended periods of time. That’s what people love about me. If the artist is late, I can literally start the show without them.
The “Space Migration Tour” with Mac Miller was one of the best of the last decade. What do you remember about those interactions between Mac and Chance?
Arguments about Lil’ B. We didn’t understand that shit and they were like, “Lil B is everything.” We were like, “Lil B is weak as hell.” Lil B is a great guy, though. I remember Vince Staples ranting about how Ray J is one of the most underrated people in rap. We had water gun fights. We also hung out. We were all in new places.
Who were some of the celebrity admirers at Chance’s shows?
JAY-Z, Beyonce, Kanye, Usher, J. Cole, Jaden Smith, everybody. I’ll never forget when they shut the whole stage down at Made in America to bring JAY-Z and Beyonce up.
What’s been on Chance The Rapper’s rider over the years?
His rider is so expensive now because he’s a headliner. I’ve seen Kodak cameras. He has wardrobe cases now. He has stuff sent from Polo. Back in the day, it was water, Grey Goose, gummy bears, graham crackers. It varied.
You also have your own festival: Oreo Fest. How’d it come together?
I started going to concerts and realizing the best parts were when the artist bring out someone the audience never expected they’d bring out. I thought, “What if I take the downtime and make it more of a surprise where you really don’t know who’s coming out?” That’s what we were able to do with the last one. I remember the first time we got Chance to come out. The first one I did in Chicago had G Herbo as the headliner. The one I did after NBA All-Star Weekend had Herb as the headliner. We didn’t even tell people Herb was coming. Oreo Fest is supposed to be a party where rappers come to perform certain songs.
What are your go-to songs when deejaying for Vic and Chance?
For Chance, “Hot Shower,” “No Problems” and “Baby Blue.” For Vic, it would be “U Mad,” “Liquor Locker,” “16 Shots,” “Vendetta,” and “Say I Didn’t.”
How’d you start working with Vic?
Vic and Chance are best friends, and I happened to be there when Vic needed a DJ, and Chance wanted to try something different. I started deejaying for Vic in 2014. We did so many shows. I did Lollapalooza, Coachella, every college across the country, Danny Brown’s European tour, and more with Vic. I was with Vic every day. I was with him when he signed his deal. I was with him when he met Hov…When “Down On My Luck” was out…
What are some fascinating fan reactions you’ve seen at his shows?
He did “U Mad?” at Oreo Fest. It was a full Chicago moment to have the whole crew together. Vic, Chance, Towkio, the whole Save Money crew, and I were on stage. Everyone who was on the bill was there. Everybody who was up and coming in the city was on stage. At the time, Vic was at the forefront of it all.
2020 made touring nonexistent. How did it change your career outlook?
It made me want to work on my album. Everyone has always told me to do an album. I wanted to knock down deejaying first. I’ve been producing with Lil Ju, who is behind Megan Thee Stallion, Spank, who is behind DCG [Brothers]; and DJ L who is behind the sound of Herb. I’ve been making beats with all of these guys who are good friends of mine over the years. Now, we’re putting together my album, which is going to feature Chance, Herb, Vic, Saba, and a few more people from the city.