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.’
Kandi Burruss has been active in the music industry for 30 years. So, when she wanted to return to the stage after a lengthy hiatus, DJ AONE helped bring the legend to the new generation.
“We had to adapt to new things and how the business was at the time. I remember she told me, ‘I’m just going to use a DAT.’ I told her, ‘DATs don’t exist anymore.’ It was those types of things. I was catching her up to speed and being her right hand,” DJ AONE told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Kandi’s DJ of more than a decade explains how wild her Dungeon Tour shows got, what really happened at Xscape and SWV’s Verzuz, and why Sammie deserves more respect. Peep the chat below.
You deejayed for Lil Scrappy and Trillville in 2003 before they got signed. What were those pre-fame shows like?
I was the first cat to play their records in the club. That’s really how they got their deal. Crime Mob, as well. It’s crazy they all ended up signing to Lil’ Jon and I was an intern for Lil Jon. It was all by fate. The shows were pandemonium. We were fresh out of high school. We were kids. We were doing high school, teen parties. That’s when clubs used to be huge in Atlanta before the lounge era. Dope clubs used to have teen nights and there were 1,500 teens at these shows. Scrappy and Trillville were the shit before Lil’ Jon touched the records.
Did you deejay for them after they got signed?
I deejayed for Scrappy and Trillville after they got signed. I think I may have done one or two shows with Crime Mob. I went on the road with Scrappy when he had management at the time I didn’t get along with. So, I stopped deejaying for Scrappy on, let’s say, a Tuesday and by Friday I was on the road with Trillville.
With Scrappy, how did you see his stage show evolve after he was signed?
Nah. See, Crunk was a thing, man. It was an energy. We didn’t have to change much. The production value and stages got bigger. The names that were on the ticket were bigger. But, we brought the same energy we brought in the teen clubs in Atlanta to new turf.
You also deejayed for Future before he got big, right?
Yeah, while he was on the rise, his cousin Rico Wade put us together. He was becoming successful in the south. He had local hits and right before I stopped deejaying for Future, “Racks on Racks” came out [in 2011]. Fast forward a bit, I had to choose between either go on the road with Kandi or Future. I chose to go on the road with Kandi. I don’t think I made a bad choice even though Future is still moving. I don’t think I’d still be in that program right now.
How did you meet Kandi?
We went to the same high school, but she was a little older. Xscape, Jagged Edge, Outkast, Kenan Thompson all went to my high school, Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Georgia. I ended up deejaying for Kandi because I was deejaying in the strip club and used to deejay for Future. His shows got slow, so his manager put me in the strip club. That led to me meeting Kandi’s godbrother who had me deejay for Kandi’s Mother’s Day cookout at her house 13 years ago. That’s how I met Kandi.
What were parts of Kandi’s live show did you two have to figure out?
Kandi’s never left the music business, but I’ve been with Kandi since she got back into doing shows. I’ve been with her since the very first show she did to come back. I think she took an eight or nine-year hiatus from being in front of the camera before coming back to doing music again. We had to adapt to new things and how the business was at the time. I remember she told me, “I’m just going to use a DAT.” I told her, “DATs don’t exist anymore.” It was those types of things. I was catching her up to speed and being her right hand. Whatever she needs, I’m helping to show her how we’re going to do things up until we went on tour with Fantasia and Eric Benet [in 2010].
What’s the most memorable show you’ve done with her?
The “Back To Me Tour” with Fantasia was our first tour together. We had done so many shows and were on the road for so many years because she was on “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” which allows access. Our very first show on the tour was memorable. Then later, when we went on her tour, “The Dungeon Tour” [in 2019], that was memorable as fuck because half the room is naked and everyone in that bitch getting wild.
Explain those shows.
“The Dungeon Tour” was Kandi, myself, Tamar Braxton, a male stripper, Trina, Plies, and Deelishis hosted it with Kandi. She put this tour on herself. You come and women are dressed in burlesque and sexy. We toured the country that way. We’d have games people would play where you may kiss this or kiss that. We’ve had a couple of women pull some dicks out and suck ‘em live on stage, we had to stop them (laughs). We had a couple of niggas eat some pussy live on stage, we had to stop them (laughs). That’s not allowed!
Those sound like the wildest.
Then, there was the time when we were in New York and we brought out Foxy Brown. This actually went viral for me. So, Foxy came to perform but she didn’t do a soundcheck. She sent someone to do her soundcheck. Shit was crazy. So, they were saying Foxy can’t hear. Foxy comes out and she’s rapping but not rapping on beat. She’s rapping lyrics to other songs. At this point, it’s not a hearing situation, but I can’t really say that because I don’t know. She makes me cut the music multiple times and she starts freestyling. She starts calling the audience bitches and shit was getting out of hand. We’re in New York at Terminal 5. Wendy Williams was there, the show was huge. The crowd starts booing the shit out of Foxy Brown. They were going crazy. I didn’t know what to do, so me being the showman I am, I just dropped Lil’ Kim. The place went crazy.
Were there issues after that show?
Foxy called Kandi and said, “I heard the DJ played Lil’ Kim.” It was genius. They weren’t and I was told, “You can’t be doing that. If this had been back in the day, we would’ve had to get niggas the fuck up out of here. Shit could’ve got crazy.” I understood it but I don’t give a fuck. I did what needed to be done. And now everyone’s talking about “The Dungeon Tour” — “The Breakfast Club,” Wendy Williams, Hot 97. Everybody was talking about how not only did Foxy get booed off stage, but the DJ played Lil Kim and Foxy wasn’t even two feet off the stage yet. That erupted the place. That’s a memorable performance.
How has your involvement with her show evolved over the last decade?
I’m basically Kandi’s musical director (laughs). I set the show up. Of course, she has her hand in whatever she does because that’s just who she is. But, for the most part, I set the show up and the tone.
How did the taping of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” affect touring?
It affected it very well. We were able to tour because she was on TV. Financially, it worked very well. Sometimes she has to tape and we can’t go places, and that used to affect me until I wised up and got my business right. It would be like we aren’t touring for six months because Kandi has to film, so I had to figure something out for six months. I remember when white people started noticing Kandi. We were at a Baltimore Ravens game and all of these white people ran up on her. I was like, “Oh, you’re famous on another level now.”
What songs have got the biggest reactions on stage?
“Don’t Think I’m Not,” which was pretty big. Around the time when she was doing a lot of touring on her own, she had this song called “Fly Above” that was featured on “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” It was a favorite. In our shows, we would do an Xscape medley. Most people don’t understand that on most of Xscape’s biggest hits, Kandi sang lead on them. People don’t put that together. Believe it or not, I didn’t put it together until we got back with Xscape. For 10 years, I’m playing Xscape edits. Then, you put me in a room with all four and I’m like, “Oh shit. Kandi was singing lead on all those songs.”
When did you learned Xscape was getting back together?
I believe Essence [Music Festival in 2017] was the glue to bringing them back together. We had two shows in Detroit during the 4th of July weekend. It’s been four years this weekend. Kandi hit me and said she was agreeing to do a reality show with them. I said, “So, this is a real thing?” Kandi was like, “Yeah, it’s real.” After taping that, did I think we were going to do a tour? Hell no. I was like, “This was fun.”
How did you have to adjust to deejaying Xscape as a group?
It was a pretty cool and easy adjustment. It was just me learning the ladies. Now, I’m cool with all of them.
Let’s talk about Xscape and SWV’s Verzuz.
I was very nervous for Verzuz. I didn’t think it was going to go how it went. I was told I had 30 minutes. [DJ] Spinderella was supposed to be a surprise and I was going to open up the show. As we’re walking to the stage, they tell us, “Spinderella is going to come out now.” So, I went from 30 to 15 minutes. We get closer to the stage and it became 10 minutes. By the time I got to the bottom of the stage I was told, “You’re going to do five, Spin going to do five, and then you just open up the show to introduce the ladies.” Now, my mood is thrown off. I go from leaving my dressing room prepared to do 30 minutes to having five minutes. So, I was like, “Fuck this shit.” If you look at the tape, I just did my one-two. I did enough to appear energetic but I was like, “Fuck this. Can we get to it?” Then, they asked if I could do another five. I just did what I do and it worked.
How did you link up with Sammie?
I knew Sammie in the industry for a few years in passing. I had a podcast and I asked him to do it. He had a show the next day in Omaha, Nebraska. I asked him who his DJ was. He told me, “I don’t have a DJ.” I flew myself to Nebraska to do his show. We went from there and just stayed down. We did the “Savage Tour” with Tank [in 2017] and then he had his own tour, “The Everlasting Tour.” He was left off the first “Millennium Tour” [in 2019], which he shouldn’t have been because he was the first child star of the millennium. Now, we’re on the Millennium Tour 2021. He’s opening the tour, and it is what it is. I told him, “I’d rather 15 minutes than no minutes.”
Did Tank give any advice to Sammie on that tour?
Of course. That’s the big bro. We would go watch Tank’s show every night. Tank would give pointers and tips. It would be normal conversations and learning shit.
Sammie has a core fanbase. What are the wildest crowd reactions?
They’re throwing their panties and bras on stage. Sammie would collect bras on tour.
What do you have coming up for 2021?
We got “The Millennium Tour” coming up and I’m pretty sure Sammie is going to go on tour. I know Xscape is going to come back with a big tour, as well. I’m going to try to get my podcast, “The Famous Kickback” podcast, going again.