Dre Black was deejaying for Lil Tjay when they would barely get pizza and a bag of chips backstage as openers on Juice WRLD’s “Death Race for Love Tour.” Now, all he sees are blinding lights from the appreciative crowd whenever the 22-year-old MC steps onstage, no matter what country they’re in.
“This kid, Tjay, is a superstar. I want the world to know that this young man is amazing, and he’s got fans across the world,” DJ Dre Black told REVOLT. “He sold out back-to-back shows in Australia. We did two shows in Sydney, two shows in Melbourne, and one show in Brisbane. All five days were sold-out shows, and they were singing his new and old songs word for word.”
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the DJ explains how Juice WRLD’s “Death Race for Love Tour” helped him and Tjay grow, water fights onstage with fans, and what Tjay’s first show was like after being shot. Read the exclusive chat with Dre Black below.
How did you first link up with Lil Tjay?
I linked up with him early in his career in 2017 or 2018. His manager at the time. We did a show at SOBs. I could tell he was special, and it just took off from there.
What are some growing pains you two experienced while developing your onstage chemistry?
We did a show in 2018, and we definitely had the wrong set list (laughs). We had to learn each other. We had to learn different cues and take it from there. You have to read the crowd. A lot of times, we have different cues. I can now say a word or phrase, and he can think, “Okay, I know what song he’s going to go to next.” Say we’re doing a big festival; he could be on the left side of the stage, I could be in the middle, and he can’t see me. I can say two words. And he can know the song coming next.
There were photos of Pop Smoke and Tjay chatting backstage at Soulfrito Music Festival in 2019. What were their interactions like?
I think that was the first time Pop performed in an arena. It was a special moment to see them two together. They were very young in their careers, man. Their interactions were 100 percent love. To be honest, Tjay may have invited Pop out for that. They were very close. They were joking and laughing backstage.
You’ve been with Lil Tjay for as long as he’s been touring. What did you learn together?
Our first tour was with Juice WRLD [on the “Death Race for Love Tour”]. We opened up for him, so we had to learn the crowd and what you have to do. Once he did his own tour, we learned rest is important (laughs). We realized we needed to eat and sleep when we could.
Tjay has a lot of fun with his fans. Didn’t he have a water fight onstage with them at a show?
That was on the “True To Myself Tour.” We give the fans water bottles and then go crazy. At one of the shows, fans started getting crazy and throwing water on us. We were just having fun interactions with the fans because we don’t just come to put on a show and leave.
What is Tjay’s biggest tour hit?
That’s easy — it’s “Hold On.” If you go on my Instagram, you’ll see a photo where the crowd has all the camera lights out. That was the song that Tjay was performing. I think we were in Massachusetts, and it was the first time we performed it. The reaction we got to that song was crazy. He came by and said, “Yo, cut the beat.” The first time he did it, he got a big response. The song’s not a radio hit or a Billboard hit. It’s just a fan-favorite.
How was Tjay’s first show after being shot?
I think the first show we did was Rolling Loud. I remember the crowd had a lot of positive energy and showed a lot of love. Those fans were there when he was down and when he was back. They were there. He was going down. They were there when he was back… Shout out to the fans. Shout out to the fans.
Touring is usually when the artist and DJ grow their bond. Do any bonding moments stick out to you?
Yeah, we’ll hang out in the mall, or the amusement park or something like that. We joke around, go out to eat, and share stories. It’s natural. We don’t even realize we’re creating a bond. I remember when we did Rolling Loud Germany. We usually put water bottles on the stage; this time, they gave us sparkling water. How the stage is set up, I couldn’t yell to him, “It’s sparkling water” (laughs). I can see him take a sip of water, and I’m thinking, “Oh, that’s sparkling water. He ain’t going to like that.” He took a sip, looked at the bottle, and I started dying laughing (laughs).
Speaking of that, how has Tjay’s rider evolved over the last six years?
I remember going from being an opener to a headliner. I know there’s a big difference between the openers’ riders and the headliners’ riders. When you’re opening, you might get a couple of bags of chips and maybe a pizza. I learned when you’re on tour, you get things you need. When we’re on tour, we may get T-shirts, tank tops, underwear, socks, and stuff like that because you move around so much on tour that you might not have time to get new socks.
You two have been performing in Australia. What’s the reception been like out there?
This kid, Tjay, is a superstar. I want the world to know that this young man is amazing, and he’s got fans across the world. We literally toured across the whole world and found out. He sold out back-to-back shows in Australia. We did two shows in Sydney, two shows in Melbourne, and one show in Brisbane. All five days were sold-out shows, and they were singing his new and old songs word for word.
How did you evolve as a DJ?
Shout out to my boy DJ Mike P, Juice WRLD’s DJ, and the whole Juice WRLD [team]. We opened up for Juice WRLD, and that was probably one of the best experiences I ever had. They let me do my thing, and I learned so much about how to do a show and how to manage the show. That allowed me to grow as far as reading the crowd and reading the room. I started to understand the countries I was in, and I learned how to talk to the crowd and control the crowd where I’m not overdoing it. If you’re the opener, you don’t want to overdo it. You have to show respect to the headliner. You have to find that perfect balance. That tour let me grow as a DJ.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
I’ll hopefully get sleep (laughs). Our schedule is crazy; Tjay is on a world tour right now. We got the Europe tour for most of November, and then we’ll be back home on Nov. 22 in New York. Then we start to tour the states, and we end the tour in mid-December, but we may add more dates with the way this tour is selling out across the world. It’s getting crazier and crazier, and different songs off the album are rocking out each night. One song might work in one city, and another song might work in another city. It’s growing our show and our set. I want to give a shout out to the fans and a shout out to Tjay for letting me experience this tour life with him.
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