Photo: Getty
  /  12.28.2022

TJ Banks has stayed ready to hit the road with artists like Future, Swae Lee, and Nav for nearly four years. Over that time, the accomplished DJ has also been part of big moments in hip hop, such as Travis Scott’s first post-Astroworld Festival performance at Rolling Loud. 

“Travis had yet to do his own show since then. We were the first ones to bring him out, so we wanted to make sure it was tasteful. You want to make sure you’re being sensitive to the situation he’s dealing with and the people involved in that situation,” Banks told REVOLT.

In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Future and Nav’s DJ explains how touring is helping him get into TV, how Drake and Future’s Wireless Festival performance came to be, and what we can expect from Future’s upcoming “One Big Party Tour.” Read our exclusive conversation below.

Can you tell us about your ties to Griselda and the late DJ Shay?

When I started, I was 12, so nobody wanted to give me lessons, but my father was willing to pay for my DJ lessons. Eventually, he asked Shay because they knew each other from being around the way, and Shay was with it. When I got in the studio to meet Shay, he first introduced me to Benny [the Butcher]. Benny was rapping in the studio. The first person I ever saw record in my life was Benny. The second person I ever saw record in my life was Conway [the Machine]. They were actually making a song that day. This had to be 2005. Shay was always hard on me about the fundamentals. So, I always think about Shay when I’m going through a transition in my career. We were starting from scratch with a lot of things, and the person that always is in my head is Shay. Shay always was big on fundamentals even before he transitioned. I miss him. 

Fast forward to when you started touring with Future roughly seven years ago. What fan reactions did you see during his live sets?

This past year, we had one of the [greatest] shows in [Montreal]. The energy that night was great. I stage-dived before he got on. I already felt the energy. Before we performed “Way 2 Sexy,” I looped the intro, telling the crowd to swing their shirts. I told the crowd, “I want to see who feels way too sexy.” Thousands of people took off their t-shirts and swung them in the air. I probably looped it for at least two minutes. Future didn’t even know I was going to do this. It wasn’t rehearsed; we just have that bond. 

 

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Weren’t you deejaying for Future when he and Drake performed “Way 2 Sexy”for the first time at Wireless Festival in 2021?

Yeah, that was dope too. That was super cool. It worked out for us in a great way because Wireless usually is in July, but that year, it was in September because of the pandemic. Drake dropped [on Sept. 3, 2021], and we had that show a week after Drake dropped. We had “N 2 Deep” and “Way 2 Sexy.” We had a show in Miami days before, and I remember us saying we were only doing “Way 2 Sexy” with Drake. It was in Future’s mind already. We knew he would pull up, and the energy was just crazy. Every time they get onstage, it’s memorable. That was the first time Drake had performed in years. 

During a moment like that, what is your role as a DJ?

It depends on the situation, but the biggest thing as a DJ is don’t take away from the moment. The biggest thing I try to remember is that it’s the artist’s show and time. You don’t want to mess up the song. You don’t want to do too much on the microphone or whatever the case. I have a rapport with Drake but in that situation, it’s just about connecting with Future The Prince on Drake’s side and talking to him about Drake’s idea for the performance. We know this moment’s going to go viral and be everywhere. We just want to make sure it’s for the fans.

 

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You always find yourself behind the turntables at major events like Travis Scott’s 2022 Rolling Loud Miami performance with Future.

That was another great moment, man. That was a great one. I got the chills onstage. There’s a deeper story to how we pulled that off. Obviously, it was Travis’ first time performing since Astroworld Festival. Before he came out onstage, it was just making sure it was right. Even with that moment, I was making sure to connect with his team and his staff, and making sure that Travis felt comfortable because he wasn’t doing the soundcheck or anything like that. 

Did the Astroworld Festival incident make it more difficult to pull that moment off?

Yeah because Travis had yet to do his own show since then. We were the first ones to bring him out, so we wanted to make sure it was tasteful. You want to make sure you’re being sensitive to the situation he’s dealing with and the people involved in that situation. But, at the same time, with entertainers, you want to make sure you put on the show and have a great moment for the people that came out to Rolling Loud. You want to make sure you do that. That’s a moment people won’t forget, man. 

How has TJ Banks gotten better since the pandemic started?

TJ Banks had to take another step in the right direction by being consistent with shows. Before the pandemic, you work for so many artists, you do different clubs, and you could live in the moment each time. But, during the pandemic, I sat down and figured out what type of sound I wanted to push forward, be involved in, and just worked on myself. It only can be as good as you are internally. I did a lot of work with myself and the type of music I wanted to make sure that I played and stood behind. Doing that internal work helped TJ Banks give out a better show.

 

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A lot of your touring career has been with Nav. Your first festival performance with him since the pandemic was 2021 Rolling Loud Miami.

It’s crazy because on that day, I had to DJ for Nav and Swae Lee. It was great because I knew I had some things to do. They were on the same stage that weekend. Nav and Swae were the perfect people to return to the stage with. My chemistry with Nav is at an all-time high. I’ve been with Nav since his very first show. Nav has never performed more than three songs without me. He keeps me around whenever he has to perform or do anything vocally — TV shows or whatever it is. He had the song “Turks” blow up during the pandemic, and I couldn’t wait to go out there and perform “Turks” with him and some of the new material he had. 

You two are going back on tour in 2023. What can fans expect? 

Nav has dropped about four projects since the pandemic. They can expect a lot of new music, high energy, and intimate moments from this tour. Nav just wants to hit it out of the park. His fans have been waiting. We haven’t toured since 2019. It’s been four years since we toured. 

You’re also hopping on Future’s upcoming “One Big Party Tour.” What can people expect from those shows? 

We have been planning this run for a while. I wasn’t surprised about the tour. I can remember us speaking about this last year around Christmas time. I remember us speaking about us doing this at the top of 2023. We just wanted to see how the touring market was going to be. We have been developing this for a while now, exploring this concept. You can go on tour with two or three people and still do an arena. But, when you’re bringing on like eight to 10 people you do music with, that you’re in the studio with, you also want to create moments and experiences with [them] onstage where it’s the most fun. 

 

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Future has already announced a few guest appearances. Do you all have plans for last-minute additions too?

We definitely left it open for last-minute guests. Even the way we structured the way we’re going to do this tour and Future’s set is to make sure we create these moments. We’re just bringing our people to create these moments. It is going to be a lot in store. We’re already going on tour with some dope people like Trippie Redd, EST Gee, Babyface Ray, Kodak Black, Real Boston Richey, Polo G, Lil Jairmy, Lil Double O, and Doughboy. That’s why we’re doing big markets. We were strategic with where we wanted to go with this thing. I can’t say too much, man. 

What else can we expect from TJ Banks in 2023?

You can expect a lot when it comes to the media. I have got something in the works that is more TV-related that gets me away from being a DJ. I got something in the works that will give people great insight into what happens in the music industry and how things get done regarding some of these records and tours. I’m sitting down and talking to some great people. I’ll be dropping a single by the summer of 2023. I’ll do my TJ Banks tour in 2023 and tour with Nav and Future. They’re both doing two tours this year. So, it’s looking like one or two tours a piece. Be on the lookout for me touring, being at a club near you, being at a TV near you. 2023 is going to be a great year. 

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