Tour Tales | DJ Sidereal survived brain surgery and is now tearing up stages with Lil Keed
DJ Sidereal underwent brain surgery as a kid, but by age 23, he deejayed for Ludacris, RZA, Murs, and was introduced to Lil Keed — and the rest was history!
DJ Sidereal underwent brain surgery as a kid, but by age 23, he deejayed for Ludacris, RZA, Murs, and was introduced to Lil Keed. Since then, he’s toured around the country with YSL’s next hitmaker and has seen a side of him fans don’t get to.
“When we were on tour, my mom had a stroke and I was really nervous about her. Keed made sure everything was OK. He would FaceTime my mom. We’d ask questions to make sure she’s good. He would tell me, ‘If you need to handle that, go handle that,” Sidereal told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the DJ discusses jumping off balconies at Lil Keed shows, the rapper learning from Thug, and what’s next for them. Read below.
Who was the first major artist you deejayed for?
I’ve been around with Wu-Tang, G-Eazy, Waka [Flocka], Ludacris, and I’m forgetting some people in there. I was 13 when I deejayed for Murs and RZA at the Paid Dues Festival once run by this company Guerilla Union. It was in San Bernardino at an airport hangar. Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, and all of them were opening the show. This was in 2012. Before that, my dad brought me one turntable — Stanton T62 — when I was recovering from brain surgery. I picked it up so fast. It was almost destined to be what I was supposed to do. My dad drove me to this spot to deejay on a back patio. I was deejaying out of a crate on one turntable and an MPC. I would find the loop in the record, import it to the MPC, loop it, and then grab the next record and mix it in that way. Murs was there, saw me, and told me, “Yo, I’m throwing this Paid Dues festival and I want you on it.” That’s how it happened. I was deejaying at the festival’s VIP area and said, “You’re killing it.” It took off from there. It’s really been non-stop.
What was it like deejaying for RZA for the first time?
I went to Cheapo Records in Minneapolis where I’m from. I brought every Wu-Tang vinyl. I played them on repeat. I knew every title. I had the instrumentals and acapellas so I could get creative with them. I learned it. I learned spontaneity from them because they’ll say their lyric and expect you to drop the record. I learned a lot in those early years. There’s a lot more to deejaying than pressing play.
Who was the first artist you went on tour with as their DJ?
Keed. I got with Keed right on the “Drip or Drown 2 Tour.” It’s been up ever since. He trusts me with figuring out the set, visuals, and all of that. There’s a bond and a trust there. Keed and I situation is collaborative. My boy Ryan at 300 one day told me, “I got this new artist that’s signed to us I think you’d connect well with.” I went to the studio to meet Keed. He was like, “Yo, what’s up? You’re going to be my DJ.” That was the first thing he ever said to me (laughs). I was like, “We’ll see” because I didn’t know anything about Keed because that was right around the time he dropped “Blicky Blicky” and “Fetish.” For me, it’s deeper than the music. I want to connect with you as a person and not as an employee.
After he went on tour with Trippie Redd, he called me and said, “We’re doing the ‘Drip or Drown Tour’” a week before the tour started. I go to the first show and I had never deejayed for him before that. I did it, and the next thing I know I’m doing a front flip off the balcony. There were drinks in the air and motherfuckers flying. It was really a movie. It was pure chaos before Keed touched the stage. After the show, Keed, [Young] Thug, and Kevin Liles told me, “We love the way you deejayed, don’t ever switch.”
What mistakes did you two make that helped develop your chemistry?
From my end, it was my lack of knowledge of his song library. I was really embarrassed at first because I like to be prepared. But, I was thrown into this scenario, so I didn’t have enough time to prepare for it. But, after the first show, all I listened to was Lil Keed. I was listening to everything and it took three days to understand what this man likes to play and in what order. I had to learn when he liked to jump down on the barricade and talk to folk. When I first met Keed, he had a few hypemen and I told him, “You’re so new, people don’t know who’s Lil Keed and who isn’t.” He cut that down and it was just Keed and me on the stage.
How would you describe a Lil Keed show?
Absolute chaos. In the early part of the tour, it would be me going on first. By the end of my set, there would be so much chaos, when Keed came out, it didn’t matter if it was a fake Lil Keed. In the middle of the tour, Keed and I would go right before Gunna. You can ask [Gunna’s DJ] Taurus, “What was it like when Sam went on that stage?” He’ll tell you it was hard to match my energy. He’d tell me every night, “You gotta chill because, by the time we come out, it’s quiet (laughs).” I’m like, “I’m sorry, bruh. I don’t know how I get it so lit.” I’m chill in person, but when I go on stage, it’s an entirely different person.
What were Keed’s tour hits?
To this day, we start almost every show with the “It’s Up Freestyle.” That song was a throwaway for him. Every time we do it, those kids know every line. Cuts like “Real Hood Baby” from Long Live Mexico still goes crazy.
Speaking of Long Live Mexico, that album came out a month after the “Drip or Drown 2 Tour” ended. Did any of the album get recorded on the road?
Yes. All Keed wants to do is perform and record. So, if there’s a studio in town that was available, he’d be there cutting records. Or, he’d hop on a flight and go to L.A. or Atlanta to record. He would get off stage and change into some fresh clothes. He might do a meet and greet at the merch booth. If he had an afterparty, he’d go there. After that, he’d go right to the studio. His work ethic is unbelievable.
How did you see Keed interact backstage with Gunna and Thug?
Amazing. He really soaks up game. Comparing early Keed to Keed now will show you two different individuals in terms of how they act, move, cut a record, and record a record. He really took advantage of the knowledge.
What was one show that sticks out to you?
There was this venue in Santa Cruz where there was so much chaos. Those kids were ready to go, and the stage was 10 feet above the crowd. Those kids went so crazy, I climbed the VIP balcony above the crowd, jumped off, and lost my shoe in the process. The whole room was a mosh pit. I got pushed back on the stage with my shoes off. The kids gave me my shoes back and I threw them back out. These kids were crowd surfing. It looked like a grunge rock concert.
A month after dropping Long Live Mexico, you and Keed were back on the road for the “Talk To Em Tour.” Did you have any discussions on how you wanted his first headlining tour to go?
If you let Keed tell it, he wasn’t nervous. You let me tell it, I was nervous as shit. I knew the anticipation for his tour would be high. The show had to be perfect. The energy had to be insane because we just did so many dates on [the] “Drip or Drown Tour” and it was crazy every night. It was starting to be that Keed’s show is crazy and you couldn’t miss it. Every night of the “Talk To Em Tour,” we took that motherfucker from 0 to 100.
What was different about his stage show between the two tours?
We had the massive wall, lighting tech, and I made sure to get the lighting and visuals correct. If you look at the visuals, the metal skull with the snakes coming out is a scan of my head (laughs).
What were some memorable fan moments on the “Talk To Em Tour”?
Kids had Keed’s album title tattooed on them. Kids would start crying and shaking. It was really beautiful to see how much love was unfolding for him so fast. At the beginning of the tour, the meet and greet would be thin. At the end of the tour, these kids were lining up to meet this man and say their piece to him. Kids were saying, “You helped me through this.” It was beautiful.
Touring usually creates bonds between a DJ and an artist. How do you feel the road affected your relationship?
We would go shopping because the drip is very important. On tour, it’s hard not to get on people’s nerves because you’re essentially living in a bedroom with somebody since it’s just a bus with bunks, a bathroom, and a lounge. There really isn’t much space. Being an only child, I really appreciate my space. So, aside from the time of our bonding, I’d be on my own because the last thing I wanted was to get on anyone’s nerves.
What was on the rider?
Hennessy and Popeyes (laughs). In Salt Lake City, we discovered they diluted the liquor because it’s a Mormon law or whatever. They gave us a liter of Hennessy, and we drank it between four heads. I don’t feel liquor unless I stand up. I stood up, started walking around, and look at Keed like, “You feel this shit?” He said, “Nah.” Our tour manager looked on the back of the bottle and saw it was a low percentage of alcohol. We had to go through three liters of that shit to feel anything. It was crazy.
What’s Keed’s personality like offstage?
He’s gentle and cares. When we were on tour, my mom had a stroke and I was really nervous about her. Keed made sure everything was OK . He would FaceTime my mom. We’d ask questions to make sure she’s good. He would tell me, “If you need to handle that, go handle that. I’ll never knock you for that.” He cares about everybody around him. And he’s smart as shit.
The pandemic shut down tours in mid-March last year. Were you two on the road?
We were supposed to go on tour for Keed’s new project. But, when COVID broke, they had to dub it. COVID was a pain in the ass. It pushed everything back and slowed everything down. We didn’t know when it was going to stop. Unfortunately, for my situation with my brain, I couldn’t go to the studio because COVID caused brain swelling. I only have 3/4 of a brain. So, I was at home making beats, sending them to Keed, having Keed sending them back, and everything. I know Keed had to build a studio at his house because there was no known method of vaccination at the time. Everyone was getting nervous as hell.
What do you have coming up?
We’re finishing Keed’s album. The album is colossal. When the album drops there’ll be a full tour.
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