DJ Ari is one of the hardest working disc jockeys in Houston thanks to a persistence that helped her spin for artists like Money Man, Megan Thee Stallion and Ambré early in her career. Working with Money Man has opened her eyes to a rare brand of fan appreciation.
“They’d ask, ‘Hey Money, I have $100 to my name. What’s something that I can do to make it $1,000 or make it $2,000?’ I thought that was always different because, a lot of times, people just want to take pictures, and maybe they’ll give you stuff. You never really hear fans asking for advice,” DJ Ari told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Ari explained how she ended up on Kehlani’s first-ever tour after sending an Instagram DM, how Money Man helped her get in shape on the road, and working with Megan Thee Stallion before the fame.
Who was the first artist you went on tour with?
The first artist I ever went on tour with was Ambré Perkins. She’s an R&B artist who ended up on Kehlani’s “You Should Be Here Tour” in 2015. At that time, I was only deejaying for roughly three months. I DMed her saying, “If you ever need a DJ, let me know.” She hit me back and said, “Okay.” But a month later, she reached out to me saying, “Crazy enough, Kehlani asked me to come on her first tour with her. Would you be my DJ?” Of course I said, “Yes!” We did the whole East Coast. I had to get used to performing in front of many people, and I didn’t have any room to mess up.
How did you and Ambré develop your chemistry on stage?
We would practice when we would go to different cities, but we just had to match each other’s energy on short notice. It was both of our first times on tour. We had to figure out how we were going to put a show together and deliver.
I know she and Kehlani had a record together called “Preach” around that time. What was the crowd’s reaction when they performed it?
The reaction was always great. At this point in 2015, she and Kehlani linked up after Ambré put out “Tsunami.” I think Kehlani got ahold of it, loved it, and brought her on tour. Kehlani is one of those people that admires people that admire her, and I respect that about her. She was happy for Ambré to come on tour.
What do you remember the most about Kehlani’s tour?
I remember the vibrance and the fans. The fans knew the songs word for word. She didn’t even really need to sing her lyrics. Fans were crying and the whole nine. This was her first tour.
What show really stuck out to you from that tour?
One thing about the New York show that stuck out is that I was a new DJ, so I didn’t know too much about multiple boards or turntables. I had a beginner’s board. I wasn’t familiar with going into big venues that only had CDJs or big turntables. I had a moment in NYC where they were like, “Well, this CDJ is all we have. We’re not going to really be able to hook up your board.” I wasn’t ready for that, but I had to be prepared. We ended up making it happen. That made me go harder for other shows.
You’ve been around some major artists before they blew up like Megan Thee Stallion.
I met Megan in college. We went to Prairie View A&M University together before she ended up at TSU. We met when we did a fashion show together for one of our friends. After that, we were friends before she even started rapping. So, when she started rapping, I was like, “Oh, you can rap?” We did a few shows together. Whenever she needed me, she hit me up. When Megan’s mom was alive, that’s really who I would talk to and connect with a lot. I remember we went to Grambling [State University] in Louisiana. We were in front of a college crowd and we took a sprinter there. This was in the early stages. “Big Ol Freak” blew up six months later. I got a plaque for that song too.
Moving on, how did you connect with Money Man?
I’ve been a Money Man fan since 2016. I’m connected with a few different labels, especially Empire. So, one of my people called me up from Empire in March of this year saying, “Are you available to DJ Empire’s SXSW showcase?” Money Man and Babyface Ray were headlining. After the show, I meet Ghazi and Money Man. I introduce myself and he says, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen you on Instagram.” I was hype, thinking, “Money Man knows who I am. I’m lit.” A few weeks later, he DMs me on Instagram saying, “I have to get you on the road with me.” His “Blockchain Tour” was two weeks away. I had already bought my tickets and everything because I was already a fan. He asks for my number, calls me, and everything happened so fast. I actually I missed the call. He called me three times and I was thinking,“Who is this calling me?” He texts me after saying, “This is Money Man.” I called, and he asked me if I wanted to go on tour with him, and how much I’d charge.
I told him I’d call him back about that because I hadn’t been on tour since 2015 and didn’t know how much to charge. I called Megan Thee Stallion’s DJ, Jay Bone, and some other tour DJs to find out how much to charge. After that, I called Money Man back, told him my price, and he called me right back, and two weeks later I was on tour with him.
How has your live show involvement developed over the years with Money Man?
I feel like we grew together in a way. I remember when we were at the Empire showcase, Money came on stage with a hood on, rapping, and his DJ was saying stuff every now and then, but Money really didn’t talk that much. We started to grow together to where we thought we really needed to put a show on for the fans. So, we went from Money Man putting on the hood and just rapping the words to him saying stuff too. He started engaging with the fans because that’s what they like about him. Money Man will teach you how to do crypto. He’ll teach you how to make some money and all of this stuff in his songs, and these are the people that are coming to the show. I feel like we grew together.
What were some interesting fan interactions you’ve seen at these shows?
On the Money Man tour, his fans showed a lot of gratitude and respect. They would come and show their crypto accounts to him. They would paint pictures. They’d ask for advice. They’d ask, “Hey, Money, I have $100 to my name. What’s something that I can do to make it $1,000 or make it $2,000?” I thought that was always different because, a lot of times, people just want to take pictures, and maybe they’ll give you stuff. You never really hear fans asking for advice.
What sort of impact did Money Man have on you personally?
I would get crypto and money advice. One thing we talked about a lot of times was the whole vegan thing — dieting, fasting and stuff like that. Sometimes artists have crazy riders where they might want bottles of 1942, chips and pizza. Money’s rider is nuts, water and watermelon juice. Money helped me lose a lot of weight. Every time we would be on tour, he would be working out. It was inspiring. So, I would always be saying, “Bro, how do you be so disciplined to do these?”
What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
Hopefully, he’ll be going on tour again. Other than that, I deejay every single day in Houston. I’m staying consistent and deejaying the hottest clubs and doing what I do, traveling as well to different cities, consistent networking, getting my name out there and stuff, and doing stuff on the side. I’m ready to go to the next level.