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.'
“It starts as a script, but we’re going to make it a movie. We’re going Paramount on that,” Rapsody told REVOLT TV backstage at Dreamville Festival, as she spoke about her performance.
When you think of 40,000 people traveling from around the world to visit one place for a hip hop festival; Raleigh, North Carolina doesn't immediately come to mind as a destination. If anyone knows how rare Dreamville Festival was for the area; it's Snow Hill, North Carolina native and current Raleigh resident, rap virtuoso Rapsody. "It's dope to have something like [Dreamville Festival] here. In Raleigh, North Carolina, we don't have a lot of events like this."
For this special edition of 'Tour Tales,' we spoke with Rapsody after her Dreamville Festival performance, the importance of her live band named The Stormtroopers; and the possibility of a Jamla Records festival, a festival for 9th Wonder's independent label.
Outside of putting on for her home, the Jamla Records MC was dead set on performing at the festival of a label she considers “family in the industry” and highly respects. “I had to support. No matter what I needed to do, I was going to do it to support the festival,” she said. With hometown pride and musical camaraderie empowering her, the Laila's Wisdom MC put on a cinematic performance that was complete with a live band providing the score.
Rapsody is the sort of MC who hides deep messages in plain sight. She flipped D'Angelo's discography by proclaiming she was "Brown Sugar, the Black Messiah to all the new kids" before telling her competition they're "looking like pupils to what I (eye) is." That same predilection for metaphors predicates her performances right on down to the song arrangements. Before Rapsody uttered a single word on the mic, her outfit spoke volumes about her evolution as an artist, while the crowd probably just saw a fly fit.
“It looked good on the bed laid out, like I was about to go to school in the morning. I looked in the mirror and said, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ I’ve just become so comfortable in my style,” Rapsody said. “Before, early on, I was trying to search how… I’m a tomboy, naturally. But, do I want to fit into the cookie cutter rapper image? Or what women are supposed to wear? I got to the point where...I like to be comfortable."
The confidence that comfortability affords her was unmistakable onstage. She crouched down, shooting the crowd laser-like focus, as she delivered the opening bars to Laila's Wisdom title track before jumping up and bouncing to the rhythm of the pulsating trumpets of her live band. Rapsody's tour manager Chris Patterson once told REVOLT TV that Rapsody making 9th Wonder her DJ to incorporating a full-fledged live band "was a big transition for her" over the last few years.
“It’s dope to have that live element because the things you can do with a band that you can’t do with just a DJ and a record is…You’re kind of in a box when it’s just you and a record. You don’t have a lot of room to be experimental, to add to it, to make things bigger.”
That transition sounded complete during her performance. Rapsody's already commanding voice that cuts through any beat was amplified in a way that made her songs feel larger than life. Thanks to The Stormtroopers, those who caught her set at Dreamville Festival were gifted with special renditions of fan-favorite songs.
"With Laila’s Wisdom, there’s a part where the drummer changes up the rhythm of the drums a little bit. Or we might extend something out. Or, we might do a drop and have just the keys,” Rapsody explained. “It just adds a different element and feeling, and it extends the music that much more. It’s a blank canvas of all the possibilities you can do.”
The Stormtroopers' rapturous performance was so engrossing that even Rapsody got lost in the grooves and turned into a fan, herself, onstage. She's heard her guitarist Russell Favret shred on his guitar numerous times before Dreamville Festival, but that didn't stop her face contorting into a stank one, as she was entranced by the funk during his guitar solo.
“We practice it and he does it in rehearsal. But, it don’t matter how many times I hear it, that joint cuts through. It cut through even more because this is the Dreamville Festival at home. This is my first time doing a festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I currently live.”
Even with a live band, Rapsody’s chemistry with her DJ, super producer 9th Wonder, was still the linchpin who keept all the elements of this performance aligned. DJ Bonics previously told REVOLT TV about the important relationship between the artist and DJ. Rapsody and 9th's chemistry is impeccable and there were moments during her set where they were so in sync that they perfectly matched one other's movements without looking.
“I used to be in the studio recording and we’d both be by the board when it’s done, and people be like, ‘Y’all even got the same head bops,” Rapsody said. "Also, outside of that, we rehearse so much."
If performances are movies, then breaking the fourth wall by interacting with the audience is essential. At one point, Rapsody let a fan from the crowd know he was cute before returning to tearing the stage down. For a performer who plans all of the details of her performance, that was a refreshing moment of spontaneity.
"Nah, that wasn't set up. I was looking at him and he was smiling the whole time, and I love to see happy black men. My happy black brothers. That's why I said, 'Boy, you cute," Rapsody said. "It ain't nothing wrong with showing love to the brothers. It don't have to mean anything. It's just, 'You cute, man. Keep smiling.'"
While other artists at the festival performed their J. Cole-featured songs late in their sets, Rapsody purposely put her 'Sojourner' track closer to the middle of the set due to the energy and momentum, as well as her perception of how many people actually have heard the song. But, another reason was also the fact that she didn't have the headliner with her.
"J. Cole ain't here to do his verse. Now, if Cole was coming, that would've been last and we would've made it a moment moment."
After Rapsody exited the stage, she told us that she's "done a lot of festivals and I must say, this is probably one of the best ones." As great as performing at Dreamville's festival was, Rapsody is the crown jewel of 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records label, which is beginning to form a formidable lineup of artists similar to Dreamville. So, will we get a Jamla Records festival in the future?
"[9th Wonder's] been talked about [a Jamla Records festival]. He got a name for it and everything. He came up with this like three or four years ago," Rapsody said. "I remember three or four years ago, he sat us down and told us what he wanted to do. So, we're just waiting for the right time."
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