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.’
Power 92.3 DJ/personality DJ Hot Rod has deejayed for major artists like Chance The Rapper and Queen Key, and he knows firsthand that up-and-coming Chicago MC OG Stevo brings a level of energy unlike anything he’s ever seen.
“What I see in Stevo is way different from what I see in Queen Key and Chance. He’s a lot different than any Chicago artist, that’s what makes him stand out,” Hot Rod told REVOLT. “He has a bunch of hood niggas on stage with him but he got them doing dances with him. It reminds me of Duke Deuce.”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” DJ Hot Rod and OG Stevo discuss deejaying for Chance at Nickelodeon SlimeFest, performing at a festival during the pandemic, and lessons learned from Polo G. Read up!
We’ve been in a pandemic for 18 months and this performance at Summer Smash is your first festival show since. What was it like?
Stevo: It was so turnt. It was so crazy. We just turned that bitch upside down. That shit was live as hell (laughs). I still can’t believe I went out there and did that shit like that.
What does it feel like doing your first show during a pandemic?
Stevo: It’s crazy. In the last Lyrical Lemonade show [in 2019], I snuck in the backstage. Now, my homies and them got artist passes around their necks and shit. I’m backstage right now under a fucking tent instead of under that hot ass sun (laughs). They’re treating me like a fucking priority. It’s wild and I love everything about this experience. The crowd was lit, but you can only be turnt for so long. So, when it started to calm down, I gave them a breather and then turned their asses back up. I started throwing the gear because everybody loves free gear. And their ass was going bonkers. “Salsa” and “Be Something” had the best crowd reactions. “Be Something” had the moshpits happening. I didn’t know that shit was going to happen.
It took 4 songs into Summer Smash before the fans were hopping VIP gates. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN INSIDE FOR TOO LONG!! pic.twitter.com/TWa23NOpUG— Keith Nelson Jr (@JusAire) August 20, 2021
What did you do to prepare for the performance?
Stevo: I made sure to have this weed strain called Rollins from this brand called Cresco. I got this over at Sunnyside Dispensary. I also smoked this dab pen before I got on stage, so it would have me in this brunch, mimosa vibe, and lit. I was banging that motherfucker and went out there super energetic. Now, that the performance is over, I got this Sativa right here, which is an upper so I’m able to still be able to move around this motherfucker and not get drowsy and shit.
Did you fell the effects of the pen on stage?
Stevo: I feel like I felt the effects of the pen but it could’ve also been adrenaline too because that shit was crazy. The feeling I felt was like none other.
Hot Rod, you’ve built a name for yourself deejaying across Chicago for everyone.
Hot Rod: I’ve deejayed Nickelodeon SlimeFest in 2019 with Chance The Rapper. I deejayed for Queen Key, as well. Stevo hit me like, “Can you deejay my set?” Compared to an artist like Chance, Stevo brings that street energy. The chemistry is natural.
How’d you connect with Chance for that show?
Hot Rod: Chance is one of the guys. I’ve been around Chance since the beginning of his career when he was putting out 10 Day. I was one of the personalities who broke him on the radio. As far as Nickelodeon SlimeFest, my initial goal was just to go and do media by covering the show. It would be a blessing to host it, and he was like, ‘Yo, let’s host this joint.’ He tweeted out, ‘Let me and Hot Rod host Nickelodeon SlimeFest.’ Then, the president of Nickelodeon followed me. The vice president of Nick Jr followed me. From there it was history. I thought I was going to host one day and they said I could do both days. That was my first time deejaying for him.
Stevo, have you ever run into any artists backstage after a show?
Stevo: Yeah, I ran into Chance the Rapper backstage at Summer Smash. I was chopping it up with him for a bit. I was also talking with Yung Bans for a little bit, too. I was telling Bans how he was going crazy out here, and he told me to pull up to his set. It was a small conversation, but we were on some chill shit. I told Chance I liked what he was doing for the city. It wasn’t any crazy conversation.
Hot Rod, what’s it like deejaying for Queen Key?
Hot Rod: Yeah, I deejayed Lyrical Lemonade’s Summer Smash for Queen Key. That’s sis. It was different deejaying for a female because if you know Queen Key’s music, I can’t hype this up saying, “Eat my pussy” and all of that (laughs). That’s why with Stevo, I’ve seen him start from the bottom and grow to now starting to get this recognition in Chicago. That was a show to remember.
How would you compare Stevo’s live show to any of the major artists you’ve deejayed for?
Hot Rod: What I see in Stevo is way different from what I see in Queen Key and Chance. He’s a lot different than any Chicago artist, that’s what makes him stand out. I’ve seen Stevo since he was at NIU, rocking out smaller shows. He brings energy on stage with his music. He has a bunch of hood niggas on stage with him but he got them doing dances with him. It reminds me of Duke Deuce. He got all the GDs with him, and they’re dancing, but they’re also making the music fun.
How did you two develop that chemistry on stage?
Stevo: It’s because we’ve been locked in for years. We’d go hoop every so often on the weekends, and just be bonding and kicking it. When you do that, you build that camaraderie. It’s easy to perform with him.
Hot Rod: That’s the key to this city. I think every artist in Chicago needs to get on the court, and whatever beef they have they need to squash that shit because that’s how you build.
What was your first show as OG Stevo?
Stevo: The first show was at this club in Harvey, Illinois. There were old ass, grown ass motherfuckers in that bitch having a regular night. You know how these grown-ass old motherfuckers be at the bar? I’m thinking, ‘Ain’t nobody in this bitch going to be rocking with this shit.’ But, to see that from then until now in just three years makes me thank God. When I first got on stage, I used to stay in one spot. I didn’t dance or any of that shit. Now, I’m ripping and running through that shit. I have to be on that treadmill now to keep my cardio up when I perform.
What was your most memorable performance before Summer Smash?
Stevo: Two years ago, NIU homecoming, I opened up for Polo G and that shit was wild. There were probably 1300 people in the crowd. That was fall 2019. “Salsa” was the song everyone was rocking with at that show. I went to NIU and that song had the whole school in a frenzy. Queen Key was on that bill, too.
Since you were early in your career, did you watch Polo G’s set to learn?
Stevo: I picked up a bit from that performance. What I took away from it was how well everybody was in tune with Polo G. I saw how he had all of his guys on stage and I saw the way they were moving and stuff like that. He’s not a rapper who jumps around on stage or gets lit. He really just raps his lyrics and everyone in the crowd be locked in.
Do you make songs with the intention of seeing how well their live sets will be?
Stevo: A lot of my party songs be short because I’m not going to perform a party song for three minutes. If I did, I’d pass out on that stage. “Salsa” is a minute and 50-second song. “Be Something” is a minute and 50-second song. I make sure of that because replay value is a motherfucker.
What’s coming up in 2021?
Stevo: I’m doing a little tour in Illinois at a few little small cities starting on Sept. 11. I know Hot Rod and I are locked in for life.
Hot Rod: Whatever he got going on, I’m with. I’m trying to help the city out. My main focus is really the community and the youth.