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.’
DJ Trauma has livened up shows as Dave Chappelle’s official DJ for nearly seven years. Over that time, he’s seen how the greatest living comedian’s shows change lives.
“He invited all these people to come to Ohio. We’re all in a pandemic, but we have the mobile COVID truck, so we test people as soon as they land,” Trauma told REVOLT. “People are able to be themselves and be regular. Common, Questlove, Monie Love, Talib Kweli, and Erykah Badu were in town.”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the DJ takes us inside Chappelle’s famous private jam sessions, working with Tiffany Haddish on her shows and much more. Read below!
You were Ciara’s DJ for Reggae Sumfest 2005 before her first concert tour. What was that experience like?
It was the same day as Birthday Bash in Atlanta and we were all bummed we were going to miss Birthday Bash (laughs). We took a private jet to Jamaica and landed in the morning. We chilled all morning and our showtime wasn’t until maybe 1 a.m. We were like the first group and people were still coming in. By the time we finished performing, it was packed. Akon was the headliner. After the show, we went back to the dressing room, grabbed our stuff, and went to the airport because we had to fly to Seattle. We got to the airport, changed clothes at the airport, got on the jet, and we were supposed to fly back to Atlanta before flying commercial to Seattle. We were supposed to perform at The Gorge [Amphitheater]. I fall asleep on the plane. I wake up and I hear, ‘Cuba’s not going to let us fly over them.’ We have to turn back because we don’t have enough fuel to make it.
I’m like, ‘What?’ I fall asleep again and then we land in Jamaica again. It was the middle of the night when we were leaving, so when we get back, it’s about three in the morning. There are no lights on at the airport. We were supposed to be the last flight out, so they turned everything off. We land and the police come rushing onto the tarmac with guns out. Our tour manager is trying to explain that we took off and had to turn back around. They wouldn’t let us off the plane for two to three hours in July in Jamaica with engines off, no A/C. Baking.
How was Ciara dealing with that?
I think back then she followed the lead of other people. She was young. So, when that happened, her tour manager told us to stay inside so we all stayed inside. We were all half-sleep trying to figure out what was going on. We didn’t get off the plane until six in the morning. That was a tiny jet. It was an SUV with wings. There were four dancers, Ciara, myself, security, her tour manager. So, there were at least eight of us on this plane. Apparently, somebody messed up on the paperwork, but we sorted that out. Unfortunately, we were too late to make our commercial flight. So, a decision had to be made on if we’re going to make this show at The Gorge or pay for a big private jet. At first, they were thinking of saying she couldn’t make the show, but it was a radio show (KUBE 93.3 Summer Jam Show). It would’ve been a big issue. We ended up getting a plush G-3 private jet. We flew to Seattle, jumped in the car, drove 30 minutes, and then pretty much got onstage.
You’ve been the official DJ for Dave Chappelle since late 2013. How did you even link up with him?
On my 40th birthday, I had a big party in New York. A few days later, I find out one of my good friends, Bianca Mendez — BB gun— was in town in New York City. I bumped into my man Corey Smith when Bianca and I had brunch at the Soho House. Two weeks later, Corey hit me on a Wednesday asking, “Yo, can you do these shows for Dave from Thursday through Sunday?” I was on the “Coors Light Search For The Coldest Tour” with Ice Cube, Bun B, DJ Drama. I had to do that in Charlotte on Thursday. So, he said he’d get [Cannon] to do Thursday’s show and I’d do the rest.
They were doing two shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Atlanta. This is 2013. I look up the show and I see “Dave Chappelle” and I go, “Oh s**t, this is going to be crazy.” I show up and they tell me, “Just play. You’ll have to announce the different comedians, find songs they want to come out to and find out how they want you to introduce them.” I never met Dave, I just think he likes old school hip hop. I’m Mos Def, Biggie, ‘Pac, The Fugees, Talib Kweli, all of that. I’m going ham. What I didn’t know is they had my set streaming into the room. We talked after and he said, “Yo, your set is crazy. You’re killing it.” I’m hype.
How did that turn into you becoming his official DJ?
We were in Atlanta and, at the time, I was the king of Atlanta. I was doing all of the clubs. I bring him to the hot club on Friday, we have a section set up for him. He comes out on Saturday night to a show I’m deejaying at and we have it all set up for him. On Sunday night, there was only one club open. But, I knew the DJ. Even after the club closed, we kicked it there until about five in the morning. I was trying to show him a great time in Atlanta. After that run, I tried to stay in touch, but I didn’t want to just call Dave Chappelle. He had a bad show in Connecticut (August 29, 2013) and I called his tour manager the next day. He was like, “Yo, can you come to Pittsburg the next day?” It was at [First Niagara Pavilion on August 30, 2013] and it was a really mixed crowd. I’m rocking it and making sure I play s**t everyone knows. Towards the end, I stop the music and say, “I feel like we’re all friends. Y’all want to see Dave Chappelle and we’re all friends in here.” Then, I dropped the Cheers theme song. Imagine 20,000 people singing that (laughs).
I didn’t get to do the rest of that tour, but a month later I get a call saying. “Can you come to Las Vegas? We’re going to go to the Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez fight (September 14, 2013). That’s when I met his personal crew and everyone he hangs out with. I deejayed his afterparty. We did an afterparty of the tour in L.A. and I murdered that party. Fast forward, and they were doing four shows at the First Avenue Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota (November 11, 2013 to November 14, 2013) where Prince filmed Purple Rain at. I go in there either Wednesday or Thursday night, and I demolish the crowd. In between shows, Dave was like, “Yo, would you consider being my tour DJ?” I was like, “Hell yeah. Let’s go.”
What is Dave like on tour?
If he’s doing something, his crew is doing something. If he’s staying at the Four Seasons, everyone on the tour is staying at the Four Seasons. That’s the type of person he is and how he gets down. He’s the only person I’ve been on tour who’s like that. Everybody else I’ve been on tour with would stay at four or five-star hotel and we’re staying at some regular s**t.
He’s had some amazing musical guests at his shows. Who was the hardest to get?
I’m never really on that side of things, but I don’t feel like anyone was super hard to get. For Kendrick [Lamar], we had to say it was a surprise show because we couldn’t announce it. De La Soul couldn’t do it because they had a tour in New York that was too close together. It was more stuff like that. Dave has this energy that people get drawn into. He’s a genuine person who is a real artist and people respect that.
How do you adapt to deejaying for surprise guests at a Dave Chappelle show?
When we did the private Comedian’s Ball event last summer, it was like, “Yo, Busta Rhymes is here,.” So, I drop “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See.” Then, Busta was like, “Q-Tip is in here,” so I drop “Scenario.” I’m trying to skip to Q-Tip’s part and Tip is like, “Skip to my part. Skip to my part.” We had a time when we did a show in Denver and John Mayer just pulled up. He and John are friends. John performed at the main show and had a jam session at the afterparty. They were like, “Trauma, just play joints.” Dave was hosting and John was playing guitar over everything I played. We’ve done so many. Just the one we had [a week before July 14] was epic. He invited all these people to come to Ohio. We’re all in a pandemic, but we have the mobile COVID truck, so we test people as soon as they land. People are able to be themselves and be regular. Common, Questlove, Monie Love, Talib Kweli, and Erykah Badu were in town.
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Ooooooooh I have em rocking!!!!! #chappellesummercamp #RP @ciphasounds After party vibes!!! “ as I combine all the juice from the mind Heel up, wheel up, bring it back, come rewind Powerful impact boom! - from the cannon!!!” Yes, I stole this move from @kardinalo... but he’s locked away up in Canada. Someone had to do it. #davechappelle by @candytman
So, Kweli and Common are here, so I played “Get By” and then I played “Respiration.” When Common jumps on and everyone goes crazy and Questlove gets on the drums. So, Common goes, “Trauma, drop another one for me.” So, I drop “The Light” and I was telling them, “Yo, I don’t have the hook.” Erykah was like, “I’ll sing the hook.” I drop “The Corner” next. Then, for the next hour and a half, it’s like celebrity karaoke. There was a part where I dropped the Isley Brothers and Erykah Badu sang “Between The Sheets.” Cipha Sounds was there too and was like, “Follow my lead.” Jon Hamm was there. He was like, “Jon Hamm and Michelle Wolf don’t know any of these songs. You need to play some white s**t.” So, I dropped Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Everyone loses their s**t and Jon Hamm walks on stage to start talking to the people and everyone starts singing that s**t. I ended my set with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Now, imagine everyone I mentioned just moshing onstage. Monie Love almost knocked Dave off the goddamn stage she was so hype. I’ve never seen someone able to cultivate those moments with such a wide range of people.
You also DJ for Tiffany Haddish. How’s deejaying for her?
It’s fun, too. She has a whole different vibe, but has a crossover vibe. Her crowd comes there ready to turn up. During my DJ set, these people are dancing in the aisles. I don’t even have to say anything. They’re ready to get lit (laughs). I moved to L.A. five years ago and I’m sort of like the comedy DJ now. I did a show in L.A. and met her, but she’s also been around Dave a bunch. She had a bad show in Miami [on December 31, 2018] and she was like, “Yo, we need a DJ.” They called me the next day. I talked to Dave and he was like, “It’s cool.” So, I started touring with her, too.
What is Tiffany’s personality offstage?
She’s cool people. She’s very generous and straight forward. She’s always supportive. If I’m deejaying at a club after the show, she’s going to kick it. If we don’t have any shows, then we’re going to play spades. She’ll talk mad s**t playing Spades and I have to spank them every now and then (laughs). It’s a very family unit type vibe.
What are her shows like?
Her crowds are 50/50 Black and white. Dave’s are more 70% white, 30% Black. Tiffany’s crowd comes to have fun. With Dave’s crowd, it’s a lot of guys. Her crowd is all women ready to have a girl’s night out. For her shows, I play more fun songs they can sing along to. I’ll go as far as play V.I.C.’s “The Wobble” and they’ll do the wobble in the aisles. It’s a totally different vibe than Dave’s shows.
What are some other fan reactions you remember from her fans?
There are those people who go crazy just to meet her. But, at every show, her meet and greets are to raise money for her foundation that buys suitcases for foster kids. So, when they have to travel from house to house, they have luggage instead of putting their clothes in garbage bags. Her fans are more endeared to her. They see her heart. I feel Tiffany is all heart and that’s what people feed off of.