Tour Tales | DJ VIP has seen Nipsey Hussle's evolution and the rapper's infamous slap altercation
Anthony Orozco, better known as DJ VIP, has been deejaying for Nipsey Hussle for years.
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.’
The best shows are the seamless ones imbued with an illusive image of being organic — instead of the pre-planned productions — by the DJ and artist’s synergy. Any lull moment to discuss the next song or fix any technical issue runs the risk of losing the crowd to their phones. Thirty-year-old Anthony Orozco, better known as DJ VIP, has been deejaying for Nipsey Hussle for so long, he’s developed a level of telepathy that keeps that from ever happening.
“I can already tell by his physical demeanor and his body language when he’s going to switch it up because I’ve done over 100 shows with him. It’s probably closer 150 now,” DJ VIP told REVOLT TV confidently.
For this installment of “Tour Tales,” DJ VIP let’s us in on just how close Nipsey Hussle’s 2018 BET Awards performance came to not happening following his infamous slap, how VIP helped change the dynamic of Nipsey’s live show, and why he’s pretty sure Nipsey won’t be performing at the Grammy Awards this year.
First, let me say congratulations on the Grammy nominations. Are there any talks about Nipsey performing at the Grammys?
No, there haven’t been any discussions of that yet. It would obviously be a blessing. But, with all of the politics behind even getting nominated, to get him on the stage to perform would be surprising. Obviously, I’d be ready at a second’s notice and we’d be put on a great show. But, with all the politics behind it, I don’t see it happening.
When did you start deejaying for Nipsey?
I had done some events with him before I became his official DJ in 2013. I was getting him booked at clubs that I was deejaying at, and since he didn’t have a DJ and I’m the one who booked him, I’d do playback on the songs. I actually went out and did my first show with him November 2013 at the House of Blues in Hollywood.
What was the first conversation you had with Nipsey about how the live show was going to happen?
At the time, he was just doing regular two-track playback. That’s when I got him over to show tracks, and that changed the dynamic of the show a lot. Show tracks are basically the song without the verses in there. You just have the instrumental, so that you can really hear the artist.
How has that changed the show?
He just sounds much more intimate because now, he’s not trying to rap over himself. He’s speaking to the people. Now, he’s not trying to speak over himself, or speak with himself. You just hear what he’s saying clear and concise. A lot of artists that I still see to this day — not even on TV broadcasts — but, at festivals, are still performing over two tracks. For me, someone who enjoys live shows, it does a major disservice to the audience and the fans when you’re doing that.
Is there a show that fans don’t know came really close to not happening or being different?
There’s definitely two that stick out really vividly. One being [Power 106 L.A.’s] Powerhouse in 2015. We were at the hotel, we were all getting ready, and we were excited. It was our first time doing Powerhouse. Ironically, years after Nipsey had made his presence known in L.A., he still didn’t have a really strong radio presence. So, it was hard for us to book the radio concerts. We were at the hotel down the ways, waiting for our caravan. We didn’t know how long it would actually take us to get us into an arena. We weren’t used to that. That wasn’t our standard protocol. We just weren’t verse in that, at the time.
We end up getting there a little bit late and they wanted to not put us on. We ended up getting on. But, they end up cutting our set. It was one of those massive turntable stages where they have a 30-40 second turnaround. They turn the stage and they’re ready to go live. They turn the stage on us right before ‘Hussle in the House,’ and I looked at Nip, and he shook his head. I already knew he wanted me to run the record even if they were turning us. So, I dropped ‘Hussle In The House,’ and he was standing with one leg like Captain Morgan on stage, rapping, as the stage was turning.
Another moment was the day of the  BET Awards when that slap happened. We had to do the first day soundcheck, and then after soundcheck, we had to do a dress rehearsal and camera blocking. I did the soundcheck, and Nip was coming in to do soundcheck and camera blocking with me after. So, he ends up coming in and he parks in an area that wasn’t for him to park in. But, he was just pressed for time and I’m sure he figured if he just parked his car and there’s security there, they would watch it. One of the guy was acting all high and mighty, and everyone knows what happened then.
At the time, he didn’t get in to do his dress rehearsal and camera blocking. So, I had to wing it for him, and additionally, tell him all that information to figure out on the fly. They have certain cameras coming in at certain places for the cuts. So, we had to make sure he knew where he had to be at [and] what times [he had to be] on the stage for what cameras. We had to relay that information.
We were dealing with all the stuff behind the scenes. All the social media and everything was cracking. All of this stuff’s going viral. They don’t want to let him in. Not only did he not get to do his dress rehearsal and camera blocking, he also had to do his final soundcheck. So, it was pretty much like going into something almost as blind as can be.
What was his mood like when he finally got backstage after the whole incident?
I mean, he was relieved. But, he was still obviously a little worked up from it. He didn’t really know what was going to transpire from it. But, we knew that we had to perform. I think we were supposed to go on at 4:50 p.m. for our part of the pre-show because they were going live at 5:00 p.m. to tape. So, they let him in the little area I was in. He got cleared from BET, he got cleared from whoever the LAPD’s supervisor was. There weren’t going to be any charges pressed. So, we got him in no more than five minutes before he had to get onstage to do that live pre-show. No lie, 10 minutes before the performance, he wasn’t even backstage.
You came into Nipsey’s career at a time when he was elevating from a relatively unheralded MC to him now performing at huge venues. Was there a moment that happened that you can say caused Nipsey’s show demand or crowd size to increase?
If you would just look at everything on a graph and say, ‘OK. What was the point in time where we were doing this many shows? There were this big of crowds and from this point on, we were doing crowds five to ten times larger with a three times booking rate.’ That point in time would be once the Atlantic partnership happened [in November 2017]. That’s when we had Atlantic onboard not only helping us with assets, but also standing behind the content that we brought them. [Victory Lap] was a fully curated Nipsey Hussle project. It wasn’t an ‘Atlantic Records Presents Nipsey Hussle project.’ It was Nipsey’s Victory Lap, as he wanted it to be.
Once that partnership had evolved and started to grow, that’s when we were doing these bigger festivals. That’s how we got to MTV’s ‘TRL’ in February 2018. We did the BET Awards. We were headlining big stages like Broccoli Fest with [Playboi] Carti. We had been at some of these shows before, on smaller stages. But, not the prime time slots.
Nipsey’s entrepreneurial talents may be as known as his music. He sold a mixtape for $100 and he put a “smart store” in the neighborhood he grew up in — to name a few of his moves. Is there anything on tour that Nipsey’s done that can speak for that entrepreneurial spirit?
On our last tour, Nipsey fully paid for all the LED walls and a lot of the special effects. That’s all stuff he’s invested in out of pocket to better the shows. The only way it’s benefited him was the audience experience. It was pretty costly. But, to him, he values that experience and the ability to give a Victory Lap show at a very high standard every single night, and that’s what it called for.
How far in advance was the planning for the ‘Victory Lap Tour’?
It was always a discussion being that Victory Lap had been initially spoke about, I believe in 2012, maybe 2013. That’s around when he brought out the name of the project and even teased some ideas for songs. Some of those songs weren’t recorded until long after. So, some of these songs are three to four years old. We’ve been cooking ideas for visuals, and just looking at other people’s shows and our own shows to see what we can improve on.
One of my favorite verses when see him perform live is on YG’s anti-Trump song ‘FDT.’ What were those performances like? Are there ones that stick out?
There was always a good response from the crowd, whether it was black, white, Asian, or anything in between. People of our generation haven’t seen any benefits of that yet, as far as Trump goes. They have that anti-Trump push, and everyone was turned up, having a good time wherever we performed it. A show that stood out the most? Without a doubt, Broccoli Fest in D.C. We found this picture of Kanye wearing the Trump hat 10 or 15 minutes before we were on our way to [the] stage. We changed up our visuals for that performance on a whim because we were like, ‘Yo, we’re in D.C. right now.’ That photo had just went viral that day.
Was that Nipsey’s decision to put that Kanye West photo up there?
At the end of the day, everything is Nipsey’s decision. It was something that we all were joking about. We were all shooting shit in the car and we ended up throwing it up on the screen.
You’ve performed with Nipsey a lot over the last five years. So, I assume you know what he wants onstage without him saying it.
Exactly. Let’s say he changes the vibe and asks, ‘Where all my ladies at?’ I know he’s going to go to ‘4 In The Morning.’ If he says he wants to turn up, he’s going to go to ‘Bitch You Broke,’ and start running through some of the party records with YG. If he grabs a bottle of champagne, he wants ‘Rose Clique’ and he’s about to spray [champagne].
What song is guaranteed to get the biggest reaction live?
I would [say] ‘Fly Crippin’ is definitely a big one. We don’t do that as much as we used to. It was very heavy during the ‘Crenshaw Tour’ part of Mailbox Money. But, we kind of phased that out of the live shows. Now, we don’t do ‘Rosè Clique’ as much. But, that’s definitely another record. The main reason those records aren’t super heavy in the set is because those are older songs that we only have two tracks for. We want to make sure that we have the continuity of show tracks for the whole show.
How has Nipsey’s rider evolved over the years?
Obviously there’s more bottles on there. There’s a little bit more food because the travel party is bigger. The booking personnel is bigger. Before, there really wasn’t much of a rider. There were water bottles and hand towels (laughs). Now, there’s champagne, grilled chicken and shrimp. It’s not super extravagant, but it’s definitely evolved.
Have you seen him make records on the bus?
Actually, a lot of the Crenshaw leaks were recorded on the bus. But, there wasn’t too much music that was recorded on the bus because while we were on the bus, we would have issues with the power not being clean, or there just being little sounds you could hear. Most people couldn’t hear it, but we could hear it. So, that was something that we took note of. We were actively releasing a lot of records during the ‘Crenshaw Tour.’ The leaks that we dropped, those were actively released and pushed through the bus. But, we didn’t record too much on the bus. A lot of stuff has always been in the studio because even with a good mixing and mastering engineer, you’re only as good as your raw recording. If you have a shitty recording, then, it’s kind of pointless.
Tours are also places to connect the team through fun moments. Lauryn Hill took her crew out for laser tag. Janelle Monae took her crew out ice skating and bowling. Is there anything Nipsey has done with you and his team in terms of hanging out and bonding?
Obviously, I don’t have the same background as him. So, whenever I’m around him, I’m always hearing different stories. The other partner in All Money In, Adam [Andebrhan], he’s the road manger and has known Nipsey since he was five. They’re always telling war stories. So, I’m always hearing different things that help me know who he is and why he is the way he is. We also always engage in extracurriculars. We’re always trying to find stuff to do. The times where we just had time before the show, we’ve went to a movie. Other times, we’ve tried to find a place to go skydiving or some shit.
Wait, you went skydiving with Nipsey Hussle?
We didn’t. We tried to. It was a conversation. Nipsey was the No. 1 person who was with it. He said he was going to get Red Bull to sponsor it.
Nipsey is an artist. But, he’s also a businessman. Do you think someone like Nipsey would stop performing, if he started making more money from releasing music, as streaming revenues increase?
If you have a certain stream of revenue that requires less new time, you’re going to do what’s best for your time. If doing less shows — but on bigger stages — then, it’ll equate to better shows, in my opinion. I think that because they’re going to be that much more special when they do happen. I can see shows happening less with artists being happy with what they’re doing with their streaming money. At the end of the day, people will always want to see shows. As long as Nipsey is actively releasing music, we’ll have tours.
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