DJ Champ has seen it all with Lil Baby. He’s watched him take choreography advice from Teyana Taylor, perform in front of a replica of where he grew up, and handle fans running on stage with poise and grace.
“I’ve seen a fan run on stage and not even know what to do because most artists will have their security do something. [Baby] really looked at that dude and put his hands up like, ‘What you want, bro?’ Dude was star-struck, but he didn’t know what to do,” DJ Champ told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the respected disc jockey discussed the album he wants to put out, Teyana Taylor helping Lil Baby’s live show, how the “It’s Only Us Tour” changed after a shooting at the Memphis stop, and more. Read the exclusive chat below.
How would you say Lil Baby’s live show has evolved over the last three years?
Our chemistry has evolved, and his show has more artistry. He was a bit more shy at first when he was coming up. He relied on me a little bit more. It’s less work for me now because he will give it to you. He’s going to talk to you. He’s moving around the stage. I’m just there for backup and to support him. As far as our chemistry, I can know his mind without even seeing him on stage. His production is so big, and most DJs rely on seeing their artists. We have little signs for when to cut songs and stuff like that. So, you must get your chemistry down when you can’t see him.
Baby’s stage design has become more intricate after the pandemic — at 2022 Coachella, he appeared to recreate the Oakland City apartment complex he lived in.
That was crazy. They had a rehearsal for it, but I didn’t get to make it because I had to do two shows with Jack Harlow. I came into the show not knowing how the production would be fully, but I relied [on my chemistry with Baby] and just worked around it.
Lil Baby has fans who’ll rap every lyric of songs like “Freestyle,” regardless of age. What are some interactions you’ve witnessed with his dedicated supporters?
I’ve seen a fan run on stage and not even know what to do because most artists will have their security do something. [Baby] really looked at that dude and put his hands up like, “What you want, bro?” Dude was star-struck, but he didn’t know what to do. He just shook his hand and got up out of the way.
He rolled around on a clothing rack while rapping at Summer Smash 2021 in Chicago. What’s the concept behind production decisions like those?
A production team often comes in and tries to go off of his ideas, which is hard sometimes because he’s a rapper, and his mind might not be aligned with theirs at first. He might not like their ideas at all at first. You have to be able to sell it to him. Over the years, he’s opened up a bit more to stuff. He won’t do a whole bunch of super dance moves, but he’d be on point with his choreography. He’d just switch it up. We had a couple of things he did during a couple of songs, but he switched them up for this tour, so that people wouldn’t be expecting it. Teyana Taylor came in this time and did a lot of the choreography for him for this tour. She’s doing a great job. Most people are timid when it comes to an artist. They might have great ideas, but as soon as an artist shoots one idea down, they get scared. She has the confidence and brains to pull it off how she did.
Sometimes the production team is used to pop artists doing that stuff. So they have to remember he’s still a rapper. He’s not an R&B artist. He still is a street n**ga. So, just her having an experience with rappers and having that background helped. He was able to listen to her, take her guide, and then add his own swag.
You and Lil Baby have done at least three tours in the last few years. How much sleep do you average on the road?
I may get two or three hours of sleep in a day. There is only a little sleep going on. I make beats. I do after-parties. So I might get done, leave the venue at 12 [a.m.], go do an after-party around 12:30 [a.m.], and do that until 3 or 4 in the morning. I fly, so I’ll lie down, but the flight usually leaves between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and you must be right up. Then, once you’re rolling and get to the venue the next day, it’s hard to go back down and get back up so much to keep yourself going. Your body gets used to it.
The “It’s Only Us Tour” has brought the stars out. What was it like meeting Erykah Badu at the Dallas show?
I was drunk, kicking it backstage. That was one of our littest shows ever. Baby was lit, too. We were both drunk. We are back there just chilling. EST Gee was back there just talking to us, telling us how we did a good job. The next thing I knew, I turned around, and she was right there. I didn’t even realize it. EST Gee took my phone like, “You have to take a picture.” Most of the time, I hop out of pictures. It wasn’t expected, so I don’t know if [Baby] expected it. He appreciates the love, but he’s a normal person. He doesn’t get super excited about all that.
Gunshots were let off in the crowd during the Memphis show. What changed after that? What was your reaction?
I think the only thing it really changed was being smarter about these loose doors and stuff like that. It really wasn’t on our security or anything. We really were tight about what we did. Maybe there shouldn’t be that many people around the stage, on the side of the stage. We just reduced all of that to just Baby’s people. There are no extra people on the stage and stuff like that. I really just got behind the speaker. I knew what it was.
You did a small college tour with Jack Harlow. How’d you connect with him?
I’ve been cool with Jack for a long time. Believe it or not, I’m from Indianapolis. He’s from Louisville. It’s pretty close. I’ve known Jack since he really got popping. Around the time he signed [with] DJ Drama, I used to pull up on him and check out his music. When I first started making beats, he called me over there to make some beats for him and stuff like that. Drama and them told me he needed a DJ. I just told them I’d do it whenever I’m not busy with Baby. It was a college tour for a couple of months. He went on tour right after that. And even I told him, “You don’t even need a DJ.” He’s a real entertainer, almost like an actor. He knows how to keep the crowd involved the whole time without anybody. He doesn’t need a dance or anything. He’s going to stand there. He knows how to entertain the crowd even without his music.
That Lil Baby and Friends birthday celebration in December 2022 had huge guests like Drake, 21 Savage, and many others. Did you know all of them were coming out?
They gave me a list of artists right before the show. It was almost 20 artists. I had to find a way to put all these artists inside of his show, and you have to know what songs they’re performing, so I can already be loaded up and ready on top of that. You can’t let the artists get mad about the spot they’re performing in. So even artists were playing games by saying, “Oh, I’m coming,” but they weren’t there. They might be outside, but they’re waiting on somebody else to perform before them because they see the list, and their ego is like that. It really is like that. So, you don’t want it to be on you.
What do you have coming for the rest of 2023?
I’m just cooking up. I’m trying to drop an album. It’s just hard to put together [with] how busy I am. I pretty much got the music, but I’m putting it together. We’re getting Baby’s album out soon. He’s about to drop soon. I have a couple of songs with him on there. I just did some stuff with Lil Uzi that might be on an album. I started signing producers and helping artists get publishing deals and their business together. I want to find a way to be positive, make some money, and have fun doing what we’re doing.
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