Few people know what goes into a BIA show like her longtime DJ, DJ Papadon, who’s had her back for nearly a decade. “She’ll test the crowd to see what the energy is like. If they’re ready on that first time she gets into it, we’re throwing money when the song comes in,” Papadon told REVOLT.
How long have you been working with BIA?
I’ve been working with Bia for almost 10 years. I’ve had mutual friends who have known Bia from the city before I was deejaying. She used to work at Foot Locker and I’ve seen her around, but we didn’t have a personal relationship at the time. After I started deejaying, she had a song I liked called “Take My Picture” in 2012. I was pushing it by playing it. We built a relationship from that. Fam-Lay discovered BIA and brought her to Pharrell. Around maybe 2015, she called me randomly looking for a DJ. I became her official DJ that year.
What was your first show with her?
She called me saying she needed a DJ and told me the first show was in Hong Kong for this flagship Adidas store opening. I didn’t have a passport at the time, but I was like, “I got you. We’re out.” Two weeks after that call asking me to be her DJ, we were in Hong Kong for the first time. I got on the last flight out of Boston during a snowstorm.
How did you two develop your onstage chemistry? Were there any mistakes at shows that helped with that?
We had a prior relationship. She trusted me because I genuinely supported her. It just naturally happened because our first time working together was at a show. The mistakes do have to happen to build that chemistry, but my prior deejaying experience allowed me to circumvent a lot of issues. We’ve had our music cut off before. We had our music cut off at Made In America during her biggest song, “Whole Lotta Money.” A lot of the time, I try to accept responsibility for it so she doesn’t have to and she just has to go and perform. That takes weight off her shoulders and helps with our chemistry.
What was your first tour with BIA? What about tour life did she have to adjust to?
The “Darkest Before Dawn Tour” with Pusha T [in 2016]. We learned a lot from just being around Pusha T by just watching his crowd control. We learned about being work-related. We couldn’t have fun because we were traveling by car and didn’t really have a budget, so we were toughing things out. We were both working for free and trying to make it work. That tour was an experience to learn the ropes. G Herbo was on that tour, and that’s how him and BIA have a working relationship now. On that tour, she got the call from Pharrell saying, “Yo, I got J. Balvin here. Let’s record.” She recorded [“Safari”] in one take and now it has almost one billion views.
After that tour was Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman Tour.” What was that experience like?
I believe through recording with Pharrell, BIA met Ariana and they became super good friends organically. I can’t speak too much on how it transpired, but I got a call saying, “We’re going to do the tour with Ariana.” In terms of notoriety, Ariana was huge on Instagram, and still is, so her production was next level. She had like 30 18-wheeler trucks. We were doing arenas every show.
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What are BIA’s “tour hits”?
She had a song Pharrell did called “Around The World.” Also, her song “Gucci Coming Home” was another one. She did that song when Gucci was still in prison, but I think we knew he was coming out. We were performing that a lot. We actually opened for Gucci at a college show. They got to meet and he showed her love. It was pretty dope because it was around the time “Gucci Coming Home” was out.
How has your role in her show evolved?
My role has always been the same, but the trust has developed more. I can do engineering, [be a] hypeman, visuals, and anything I can so she can just come out and perform. Now we have people we can delegate those jobs to.
What’s the most memorable show you two have done?
Probably Lollapalooza in Chicago. The crowd was amazing. We never had a crowd that knew every song and were so engaged like that crowd. We didn’t have to work to make them believe.
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What’s an interesting fan interaction you’ve seen?
She’s had some crazy fans. This one dude was in love with her, and turned into a stalker. She had a show in Boston, and when she pulled up we went to smoke. I don’t know if he knew she was in that car or if she saw me, but he was across the street on the bench randomly. I ain’t no ho, but dealing with crazy people is different. He might’ve had a bomb or something. That shit was nuts. I’ve seen people break down. I’ve seen her sign girls’ titties.
At Day N Vegas, money was shot out at the crowd during her “Whole Lotta Money” performance. When did you both decide that?
That started on tour. During our club hostings, we throw money when the song comes on. At the last five or six shows of the tour, we threw money up if the crowd energy was up. If the energy isn’t there, we aren’t throwing any money. She’ll test the crowd to see what the energy is like. If they’re ready on that first time she gets into it, we’re throwing money when the song comes in. Security has the money and throws it in the air when you hear the chorus come in.
— Keith Nelson Jr (@JusAire) November 14, 2021
What is on her rider?
Before, it used to be Henny. Now, we do 1942. She needs grabba leaf or some rolling utensils. Also, weed if we can get it. Tea, honey, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables has to be on the rider. Pharrell requests a picture of someone on his rider to see if they’ll bring it through, and that’s something she wants to implement just for the fun of it (laughs).
What is coming up for you both in 2022?
Some big features and tours. There’s not much I can speak on, but know there are some big things coming. Look out for her to explore with her sound. People know her rap side, but she has a dope R&B vibe. Look out for those songs.