6LACK’s longtime DJ, Tonee, took his time in pandemic purgatory, honing his skills and growing his fan base while the singer was crafting Since I Have A Lover. Now that the two have linked back up for the “Since I Have A Lover Tour,” they’re already creating classic moments.
“We got about a quarter of the way through the show, and I heard, ‘Cole’s coming! Cole’s coming!’ Off the rip, I’m like, ‘Oh, s**t!’ We really made some R&B Avengers-type s**t,” DJ Tonee told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” he also discussed 6LACK fans loving the B-side shows, sacrificing time with his son to deejay, and which Since I Have A Lover songs resonate with fans live. Check out the exclusive interview below.
The “Since I Have A Lover Tour” is your first with 6LACK in five years. How did you two work during the pandemic?
When things opened back up during the pandemic, I wanted to focus on myself for a little bit and get things going. I did my own college tour. I went to eight or nine different SEC schools, among others. I was the headliner. I drove to the schools and everything. They helped build a lot of things out for me as far as building my own fan base. As far as 6LACK, I feel like he was working on an album around then. We [would] have little one-off shows or a festival here and there, but nothing tour-wise.
Do you remember the first show you guys did once things opened up?
It was Day N Vegas in Las Vegas. There was so much love there. We all felt like we were a little rusty (laughs). There was nothing that somebody in the crowd could point out. But we might notice something like, “I missed a certain part” or “My voice stands out right now.”
Did you hear Since I Have A Lover early and plan on how the album would translate to the live show?
I never really heard the full album. I would hear different songs. For instance, let’s say we have a show in Denver. We’ll get there early, kick it, go out to eat. During that time, he’ll play me four or five songs. He’ll tell me, “This might potentially go on the album. This is where I was when I made this.” Around October of last year, we heard a skeleton of where he was. Then, we built that album up from there. [There were a] couple of songs that didn’t make it that I loved.
How involved are you in making the “Since I Have A Lover Tour” setlist?
Oh, I’m 100 percent involved. Me and the band essentially create it. We have a pianist/guitarist named Slim. Our drummer’s name is David. We all get in rehearsals and get the vibes. We listen to the songs and figure out what songs flow with what. We figure out what sounds good. We figure out what we want to convey to the audience. We just break all that down, and then we’ll start from there. But we don’t start doing that until rehearsals.
What’s 6LACK’s involvement?
It depends. Sometimes, it depends on what the show is. For this particular tour, I think we just put it together. He had written down his thoughts of what he wanted. He wanted to do the story of what happened to him, his situation with his lover, and how they met. We [brought] his vision together with ours.
How do you balance new music with the fan-favorites?
His fan base is very passionate about his music. Even if a song is considered a B-side or a low song, they love those types of songs. And they’ll tell us. A lot of the songs we performed did great on the album, but they might create a better performance than what they would if you just listened to them. He doesn’t have all slow music. If we’re going to do a festival, we’ll adjust the setlist. We might not need to have that many slow songs. Maybe we add more energy-driven songs. But, being in front of our home crowd [on] our own tour, we can throw in the songs we know our fans want to hear. Not just the biggest.
It’s still early on in the “Since I Have A Lover Tour.” What songs are connecting?
I remember on the last tour, we would perform FREE 6LACK. Those songs were going crazy. That was when East Atlanta Love Letter just came out. Now I realize we’re on our next tour, so the songs from East Atlanta Love Letter have grown on our fans. A lot of those songs are going crazy on top of some of the new songs off the album. Songs like “Since I Had A Lover” and “Fatal Attraction” go crazy. “Tit For Tat” goes crazy. “Inwood Hill Park” goes crazy because that’s the intro.
The LA performance was one of the most talked about from the fall. You had Jessie Reyez, Khalid, J. Cole, and so many others come out. How last minute were those guest appearances?
I wouldn’t say they were last minute. The only one who was last minute was Cole. But Jessie and 6LACK have a really tight vibe. I’m assuming she probably tapped in with him a couple of days before. Snoh Aalegra came out, too, and he actually contacted her a few days before, and it actually worked out on her schedule. We talked about all of this a few weeks ago. They were theories. That’s what we call anything that’s a mystery. We didn’t hear anything about Cole until the day of, but we had a nice little lineup. We got about a quarter of the way through the show, and I heard, “Cole’s coming! Cole’s coming!” Off the rip, I’m like, “Oh, s**t!” We really made some R&B Avengers-type s**t.
Since Atlanta is 6LACK’s hometown, do you already have guests planned for that set?
Oh, yes. We definitely do. You just have to know it’s going to be a movie. It’s the hometown, so we got to put on for the city. We had three shows back-to-back-to-back on our last tour in Atlanta. We did three shows and brought people out every day. We brought out Ludacris, T.I., Jeezy, and Travis Porter. It felt like Atlanta as hell. Not too many artists can do State Farm Arena, so we will make a movie. The city supports him. You never know who might pop out.
6LACK is a very health-conscious artist. How does that show up?
We don’t really get to see that part. If he’s on his own time, you won’t see him. If he wants to be around others, he’ll pop up in our dressing room and chill. If he’s meditating or he needs to think, he stays to himself.
Are there any sacrifices you’re making to be on the road?
Yeah, absolutely. I had a son during the pandemic. I’m missing that time with him. I’m a full-time dad, so I’m figuring out what it feels like to go on tour and still be responsible for somebody. But I FaceTime him every day.
How have you seen 6LACK balance fatherhood and touring?
His daughter, Syx, is a little bit older, so she understands what her dad does now. She kind of understands him being on tour and being away. And I know he always pops out, and goes to see her and figure out what’s going on.
How have you gotten better as a DJ?
I think I got better at learning how to master the crowd. Back then, I was just playing music and having them turn up. What I’ve learned from college tours is being able to control the crowd longer instead of playing 1,000 songs. I could play fewer songs and learn how to control them with my presence on the microphone.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
I’m really locked in with 6LACK. The last date on the tour is Dec. 5. After that, I will go on a cabin trip with the fam. Then, my son’s birthday is on Christmas. After that, we’re just riding the rest of the year out until next year. We have the whole month of January off, and then we start the European side of the tour in February.