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.'
Willie "DJ WillAye" Arnold has had Megan Thee Stallion's back from the DJ booth and beyond, while she electrifies the crowd. The twenty-four-year-old DJ from Dallas, Texas; who has been deejaying since 2011, was specifically chosen to be the Hot Girl Summer's official DJ a month before the trailblazer's late mother -- Holly "Mama Holly" Thomas -- passed away.
“She passed away in March. If I’m not mistaken, our first show after was at 97.9 The Beat's 'Spring Fest' in Dallas, Texas [on March 31, 2019]. It was different. I could tell Meg was still shaken up by it. I sent her some words of encouragement,” WillAye told REVOLT
On this installment of "Tour Tales," WillAye discusses how he made the “Sex Talk” beat live at a show, Meg meeting JAY-Z and why he's never driven the boat.
How did you first link up with Megan The Stallion?
I was deejaying at Rahe Ballentine ‘Put Yourself On’ showcase at The Prophet Bar [on July, 7, 2018] and then Meg walked in. I had known of Meg because we both went to Prairie View A&M University at the same time and we knew the same people. I knew she started rapping but to see the star power was like, 'Whoa.' ... [Initially,] she was only supposed to perform three songs, but they gave me a flash drive with five songs on it. We go through all five songs perfectly. She’s telling the crowd she’s getting ready to go and they’re like, ‘No, we want to hear the freestyle. Play the 'Stalli Freestyle’...
I ain’t going to lie, she put me on the spot. She was like, ‘Uh, uh, y’all. The DJ ain’t got my song.’ I got on the mic to speak my peace and said, ‘You just take off rapping, I got you. Don’t even worry about it.’ She didn’t even want to rap. The crowd started rapping, I caught the cadence and got the rhythm of how it was going to be. I hit the first 808 and I had been meaning to make a beat with an artist rapping live and she was the first. That beat I made live became ‘Sex Talk.’
How soon after that show did you become her official DJ?
Rest in peace to Mama Holly, I love her dearly. Her mom hit me up and was like, ‘We at least want you to be her DJ when we come to Dallas. Do you make beats?’ I was like, ‘First and foremost, thank you. I would love to be her DJ when she comes to Dallas and I do make beats but, I made that beat [at the showcase] on the spot.’ So, a week later, I sent the beat for ‘Sex Talk.’ So, that single was produced by me. They invited me to travel to A3C in Atlanta with her, her mom took a liking to me and we built really good chemistry... By the time February came around, Meg hit me up like, ‘WillAYE, I want you to be my DJ.’
What was it like for you and Meg performing after her mother passed earlier this year?
She passed away in March. If I’m not mistaken, our first show after was 97.9 The Beat's 'Spring Fest' in Dallas, Texas [on March 31, 2019]... I could tell Meg was still shaken up by it. I sent her some words of encouragement... After a while, everyone was telling her, ‘Mama Holly would want you to go chase your dreams. Go make it happen. That’s what we worked for. So, you can be sad about it, and you should be. But, be happy that [Momma Holly] is no longer suffering. We created this moment in time where [we felt like] the world is your oyster.’
It was definitely different but, she came back to life and it worked out. I never really got that deep with her [about it]. I don’t think she’s got that deep about it with anybody. Miss Holly was part of God, stepping in and saying, ‘We need him on our team.’ She gave me my shot. That was the one person I knew had my back. Over time people built themselves back up but, it was shaky. I’m glad it all worked out.
I’m glad as well because you and Meg put on a great show. What are some examples of your chemistry with her on stage?
At Rolling Loud, we had a whole set lit and it switched up in between because Moneybagg Yo popped up. I was able to [say], ‘Hold on, Meg. I want to bring somebody out.’ At Made in America, we didn’t plan to do the ‘Stalli Freestyle’ that way with me making the beat on stage. She pulled it out and I was like, ‘Ok, let’s do that then.’ That’s what set us apart. You don’t get the same show every time.
I’ve seen you in rehearsals speaking with Meg’s dancers. As her DJ, what’s your role with the dancers?
At this point, I’m the musical director. I’m the one who is making the call on [what] works or not. At Made in America, when I introduce her and I drop a song, there are storm and stallion sounds in the background... I came up with it with the choreographer, Megan Nugent.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve done with Megan?
'Warehouse Live' back at home in Houston. It felt good to go home and that show did it for me. To give you some insight on it, Kevin Liles [was there]. He walked onto the stage, shut down everything, said, ‘Turn off the music.’ We’re thinking we fucked up. Nobody knows what’s going on. He said, ‘I just wanted y’all to know [that] this is the greatest show.’
When the show is over, and the phones are away, what is Megan like?
When the lights and cameras are off, she’s the coolest person on Earth. She wants everyone to have a good time. She wants everybody to feel comfortable... She’s not faking it when she’s driving the boat. That’s really who she is. She is having everybody driving the boat (laughs). Dancers are damn near scared like, ‘I don’t want to drive the boat today but, we’re going to drive it because Megan wants [us] to.’
Have you driven the boat?
I have not. I’ve been too cool with it (laughs). Before this tour is over, I might let her pour me up a shot.
What are some things with the live show that you two have ironed out or are still ironing out?
The show is growing a lot because it has to [and] with [growth] comes pain. For the 'Legendary Nights Tour' in Chicago, I sent her the setlist and all of the mixes. When the intro comes on with the storm and all the horse [sound effects], ‘Realer’ drops in that intro. I don’t think she knew when that time came and said ‘Drop my shit.’ I was like, ‘Baby, you about five seconds off. It’s coming.’ But, it’s OK, we’re going to get it right.
How was it performing at the VMAs?
With it being a live performance, it was different. At BET Awards, I got to DJ live. But the VMAs [is] mimicked. So, we had to depend on the people in the trucks to make sure everything was right. It went well.
What do you feel is your central role in this phenomenon that is Megan Thee Stallion?
It goes beyond just deejaying and playing her songs. It’s actually having the insights of how the show should go... My role is the musical director. I make sure it sounds right and it’s timed well. When we had our first [Legendary Nights] show in Chicago, we almost went over because of the part with the crowd participation. So, I have to keep the show timed well.
Megan is one of the hottest and most in-demand rap artists right now. Who are some high-profile celebrities that have popped up on her?
People have seen it already but, JAY-Z was at the PUMA event [in New York City]. I did not expect [him] to be there. I ended up deejaying the show on accident because the opening DJ wasn’t there. I played ‘Big Pimpin’’ and [JAY-Z] walked in right behind me... Meg and JAY talked. I’ll put it like that.
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