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.’
When you’re born into royalty, you move differently. Born Paul Huston Jr., DJ PforReal is the son of legendary DJ/producer Prince Paul. His father imbued his son with the discipline of a DJ since he was nine years old, helping teach him the tricks of the trade. The 27-year-old DJ, who has been behind the board for two-thirds of his life, has been the official DJ for Lil Uzi Vert for more than three years — he’s even seen enough, at one point, to know when the Philadelphia rapper once needed some time to rest.
“I know him as a person and I thought maybe he needs a break. We’ve been traveling hardcore for about three years, like shows every month. I don’t know if I took it as retirement, but I took it as a break,” DJ PforReal told REVOLT TV.
For this installment of “Tour Tales,” Lil Uzi Vert’s longtime DJ explains the dynamics of his shows, the lessons learned on tour with The Weeknd and how Uzi’s upcoming album will sound.
When did you link up with Uzi?
I think 2016 when ‘Money Longer’ came out. At the time, I was in Atlanta and I deejayed all over the city and I went to school: Clark Atlanta University. There was this guy named [Patrick Afeku] from Generation Now Records, he used to manage Playboy Carti. He was close to DJ Drama and Cannon. He hit me up like, ‘Yo, we need a DJ for Uzi.’ Back then, Uzi just started coming up, so I heard ‘WDYW’ and I knew of him. I was like, ‘Cool.’ I knew Cannon and Drama because they knew my father. They came to my school before and they were a big fan of my dad’s.
First, coming in, I didn’t know too much about Uzi. I didn’t know the excitement he had. The first show, I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous. That show had to be the craziest show I had done up to that date because of how crazy and active he was. He was throwing water, stage-diving.
‘The Starboy: Legend of the Fall Tour’ in 2017 with The Weeknd was a pivotal tour for Uzi’s career.
Yeah. It was the best tour I was ever on.
What did y’all learn on that tour?
It got Uzi and Weeknd super close. For Uzi being a new artist in 2017, looking at The Weeknd do arenas overseas that are 30,000 people; he learned a lot. Uzi’s always been a rambunctious type of performer, but you can tell after he saw that he learned how to put on a show. It was a learning experience.
During that tour, he released ‘XO Tour Lif3’ and pretty much changed his life overnight. How did things change on tour after he released the song?
Funny story. After a show [in Zurich], we were all sitting down in the dressing room and Uzi was like, ‘I’m about to drop some songs. I’m going to drop them on SoundCloud.’ So, he’s going through songs, wanting to get our opinion. He then drops the three or four songs. Honestly, we heard ‘XO Tour Lif3’ so much before it came out. I didn’t think he was going to put it out right then and there. I thought he was going to wait for the album. It turned out to be the best thing he ever done.
It was night and day. He actually used my laptop to put the songs out. He uploaded the songs and then, walked out of the room (laughs). He didn’t tell nobody. Only people who knew were me, security and his homeboy. Back in the day, he would just drop songs on SoundCloud. The song got 1 million plays in 24 hours. We had two or three shows, but when we got to London [at the Electric Ballroom on March 6, 2017] for a Lil Uzi show outside of the tour, the crowd knew every word. I didn’t even know the song word for word (laughs).
My only gripe with Uzi’s performances is that sometimes he lets the backing track do most of the rapping. What is your view on that?
I think he be tired (laughs). The reason we have that backing track is because he does a lot. He’s jumping. He’s singing. He’s rapping. He’s talking to the crowd. Besides R&B singers who dance and sing at the same time, it’s a lot. I’ve seen The Weeknd do an hour and a half of singing and dancing. It’s hard. To be a rapper, that’s a lot.
That’s why rappers have backing tracks. The ones that don’t have backing tracks have TB tracks. TB tracks might have some words and the hook, but mostly it’s the instrumental. Most rap artists who have that, like JAY-Z, they don’t do much. They don’t really move around the stage. Uzi is jumping up and down, jumping into the crowd, and by that time he’s like, ‘I need a breath.’ That’s why we have that backing track.
How do y’all come up with the setlist for Uzi’s show?
There’s always a setlist, but it always changes (laughs). A lot of sets are not really planned. He might look at me or say a few words, and I’ll know where to go.
Walk me through what happened at Rolling Loud 2017 with Uzi stage-diving off the 20-foot tent? Did he tell you he was going to do it?
Here’s the thing, he don’t tell me nothing (laughs). Nothing’s rehearsed. I think he was doing ‘Money Longer.’ For the span of about 20-25 shows, he was doing this crazy stage-diving. He used to do it back in the days, then he stopped. I guess because of all of the jewelry he used to wear. But then, he started to do it again. That might have been the first stage-dive from something other than the stage.
How has his live show evolved since 2016?
It’s always been intense. Now, it’s to the point where the production is as intense as he is. The last tour we were on with G-Eazy, the production was on point. He had the skull, he had the LCD wall. It made the entire show better.
What are some regular things you and Uzi have done outside of touring while on the road?
While on the road, we would just walk around. It’s spontaneous. Nothing’s ever planned with Uzi (laughs).
Y’all were in Amsterdam. Y’all didn’t partake in any of the Amsterdam festivitiies?
(Laughs) Nah, we chilled out. I mean, there was a lot of weed going around. In Amsterdam, we went to these coffee shops that sell weed. We went to this one shop that looked like something out of a movie. It was mad dark and when you went inside, they have all the finest weed. They had cabinets of weed. We were all like ‘Yo!’ We never seen no shit like that.
Tour hits are songs that aren’t the big Billboard hits. But, when they are performed, they get reactions like they are. What are Uzi’s biggest tour hits?
There’s a few of them. When we first started, we had ‘Super Saiyan Trunks,’ which was intense. It was huge when it first came out. That was before ‘Money Longer.’ This song called ‘Sub-Zero.’ When that first came out, we used to sing that song all the time.
Like you said, Uzi’s an unpredictable person. Did you know he was going to retire when he announced it?
I didn’t know at all. I know him as a person and I thought maybe he needs a break. We’ve been traveling hardcore for about three years, like shows every month. I don’t know if I took it as retirement, but I took it as a break.
He’s now signed with Roc Nation. Have y’all talked about how the live show will be?
We haven’t talked about anything yet. We’re still developing. I’m sure new music is coming up soon.
Have you seen him record any songs for any projects on the road?
I know for Luv Is Rage 2, he recorded [‘UnFazed’] with The Weeknd. Also, the first collaboration he had with Nav, [‘Wanted You’]. I don’t know if this is true. But, I believe Nav and Uzi met for the first time overseas on that ‘[Starboy] Tour.’
What’s the most unglamorous part of touring?
It’s not so much that it’s hard, it’s about getting adjusted. You’re with the same people for two months straight. It’s about getting adjusted to people’s emotions and how people are because they ultimately become your family. You’re also traveling all of the time, going to different states and hotels. You could be doing soundcheck for two hours a day. It’s a lot. It’s a lot of wear and tear on the body. It’s not easy.
Who have you seen give love to Uzi after a show?
I don’t know if this is true, but I believe I saw JAY-Z and Beyonce at his Coachella set. I know they’ve spoken before. There’s been so many people.
What is a bucket list performance you want to do with Uzi?
You know what’s crazy? I think we’ve done all the shows that we’ve wanted to do (laughs). It’s hard to top Coachella. It’s hard to top Rolling Loud. It’s hard to top the Wireless Festival in England. These are huge festivals. One place we have not been that I think we both want to go is Asia, in Japan. We haven’t been to Japan.
We’re less than two weeks away from ‘Something in the Water.’ Have y’all discussed the set for the festival?
Nope (laughs). It’s going to be one of those types of shows. We’re going to get there, I’m going to say ‘Yo, I think we should come out to this song.’ He’s going to go, ‘Nah, I think we should come out to this song.’ Then, during the show, I’ll throw in the songs that I think make sense. I go off the crowd.
From what you’ve heard from Uzi’s upcoming music, how will you say it’s going to translate onstage?
It’s going to be great. The reason why I say it’s going to be great is because he hasn’t put an album out in two years. The songs that I’ve heard… I think he has a lot of songs with a lot of people that are going to have fans like, ‘Wow.‘”
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