DJ Von has known Latto since she was 14 years old and has been the rising emcee’s DJ for the most pivotal years of her career. He’s had Latto’s back when she needed to rehearse all night to get her stage show to stadium status and was with her when she enjoyed the fruits of that labor.
“It was crazy to have Lizzo at Freaknik (laughs). She’s one of the biggest pop artists out right now, and she was at Freaknik,” DJ Von tells REVOLT. “We had Lizzo outside in Atlanta at two in the morning. Lizzo rocks with Latto. We were actually bonding.”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Latto’s longtime DJ explains what it’s like being roommates with her on the road, Lizzo and Latto’s bond on “The Special Tour,” and how he helped elevate the rising superstar’s live show. Check out some rarely heard stories about Latto’s journey in our exclusive conversation below!
What has been the biggest change in Latto’s live show over the last few years?
I would say our stage presence and production have been on steroids. Two years ago, the budget and the production were on a rookie level, but then we headlined our own tour. Then, we toured with Lizzo. We know a lot more than when we started.
The “Monster Energy Outbreak Tour” was Latto’s first as a headliner. What did you two discuss to make it a success?
It was about what we could do onstage to make sure we keep her fans — The Jackpots — intact with us from now until infinity. Before that tour, her fans may have seen us at Rolling Loud and one-off shows. I didn’t think it would go how it went because we were onstage for an hour performing for 2,500-3,000 people. Usually, we do 15-20 minute sets at festivals. The conversations between us were about how we were going to entertain The Jackpots for an hour. We’re entertainers now. We’re not just getting onstage performing hit singles. We were performing Mulatto songs her core fans knew, not just Latto songs. You got Mulatto fans, and you got Latto’s “Big Energy” fans. It was amazing.
Her debut album, 777, came out during the tour. What songs did fans resonate with most?
“777 Pt. 1” and “777 Pt. 2” went crazy. I didn’t think those were going to go that crazy. They loved “It’s Givin,” of course. “Sunshine” actually was a lot of people’s favorite song.
What were rehearsals like as dancers and choreography were added to her sets?
The rehearsals were long because we had to figure out what we were about to do for the next 30 days. When we do one-off shows, we rehearse for a one-time show. For that tour, we rehearsed to put on a movie for an entire month. It was a lot of arguing and going back and forth, but only so we could get it right. We weren’t only rehearsing with dancers; we were rehearsing the production, when she leaves and comes back out of intermissions, what songs I’ll play in between, and what I’ll say. We didn’t want to give Nashville an eight out of 10 and Texas a 20 out of 10 show. We wanted to give everybody the same experience, so they could come back again and again and again.
How did she adjust to the reality of traveling with the same people for 30 days?
In the beginning, it was a bit rough because she was around the same 15 people for 30 days. The arguing is going to happen, and so are the disagreements. But, toward mid-tour, we got it all down. We understood the do’s and the don’ts. We understood the private times and quiet hours. When you do one-off shows, we fly in, see each other for a few hours, and then return home. For touring, we’re basically roommates for the next 30 days (laughs). The most bonding time we had was just sitting in the front of the tour bus chopping it up and recording content for YouTube. Latto didn’t sleep in the bunks; she had her own room in the back. For the majority of the tour, she was in her room. But whenever she did come out, it was an immediate team bonding. We never want our job to feel like work. Whenever it starts to feel like work, we take a step back.
What was your perspective of the “Prank Night” that pissed Saucy Santana off on Latto’s tour?
I didn’t know about Prank Night until it was brought to us. We’re already playful people. Latto didn’t know. A lot of people were saying Latto didn’t get pranked, but we had a prank for her. We couldn’t do it because our video wall was lagging. Her prank was supposed to be us showing a super old baby picture of her on the screen, and I was going to play a song she probably forgot she had.
Latto’s “Big Energy” later became one of the biggest songs in the world. What show solidified the track’s impact?
In my opinion, it was when we did Seth Meyers [on Nov. 17, 2021]. That’s when I knew it was taking off. When I did my research on Seth Meyers, you didn’t see a lot of hip hop artists on his late night show. They requested we do “Big Energy.” That’s when I knew that song was bigger than I thought it would be. I had the chills doing it.
Lizzo’s “The Special Tour” put Latto on one of the biggest stages of her career. How did you all adjust to that?
It was a big change because we were direct support on Lizzo’s tour. We had to switch up our entire set because the “777 Tour” was 100 percent Latto fans, so we could do the older freestyles from when she was a kid on “The Rap Game.” But with Lizzo, we stuck with more mainstream music to grab a bigger fan base. We were doing sold-out arenas every single night. We went from 3,000 people on the previous tour to 20,000 people every night. It definitely felt like a reintroduction.
How did you evolve?
I’ve always been onstage, but I did music direction for that tour. For the “777 Tour,” we came up with the set and just did it. But on the Lizzo tour, I was in charge of directing the music as far as when she came out, when she left, the lighting, and the dancers. I was more on the production side with the music direction. Going forward, I’ll be the DJ/production manager. I was in charge of the video wall, the lighting, and the cue points. So, if that video wall was off, it was Von’s fault. If the light wasn’t right, it was Von’s fault. If the sound wasn’t right, it was Von’s fault (laughs).
When Lizzo and Latto ended up at 21 Savage’s Freaknik event the night of their Atlanta tour stop and the day before their Nashville show, what was that 24-hour period like?
It was crazy to have Lizzo at Freaknik (laughs). She’s one of the biggest pop artists out right now, and she was at Freaknik. For that 24-hour period, we were thinking, “How are we going to make this happen?” We had Lizzo outside in Atlanta at two in the morning. Lizzo rocks with Latto. We were actually bonding. That night was long because Freaknik probably didn’t end until four in the morning, and we went right back on the tour bus to go back to work the next morning.
The whole thing was spontaneous. We asked Latto if she was going to come to Freaknik, and she said, “We’re in Atlanta; I might as well. Let me ask if Lizzo wants to come through.” Then Lizzo said, “Hell yeah, I’m coming.” We had one of the best parties of the year. The love on that tour was 100 percent genuine. Lizzo’s whole team loves us, and we love them. We would always be backstage kicking it, taking shots. Lizzo is a party animal. She’s just like us (laughs).
What’s on Latto’s rider?
The rider is nothing but fruits, water, and Don Julio 1942 (laughs). The snacks are gone. The food is gone. She might have her salmon, but it’s all healthy. It’s 95 percent healthy.
She just dropped her new single “Lottery,” and you all are hitting the road for the second leg of “The Special Tour” this year. How are you preparing?
I want to create a new show with the new single dropping. I think we will go a whole new route with “Lottery” being the lead single now. It’ll be a bigger and better production.