Tour Life with DJ Dames Nellas
“Winnipeg I want you to put your hands in the air,” says DJ Dames Nellas while opening for Busta Rhymes in August 2009. “If you got five fingers, close the index, close the ring, close the pinky, keep the thumb and the motherfuckin’ middle finger in the air. Throw that shit around like this and raise that shit as high as you fuckin’ can. And when I say ‘fuck you,’ I want you to say ‘fuck you’ right back. Alright? Yo Winnipeg, FUCK YOU. (Crowd) FUCK YOU. Yo Winnipeg, FUCK YOU. (Crowd) FUCK YOU. Yo Winnipeg, FUCK YOUUU,” yells DJ Dames Nellas before sliding into Pharaohe Monch’s 2007 banger “Fuck You.”
It’s a rumbling start to the Busta tour and my first real glimpse of Nellas’ crowd control and creativity. In a weird way, such a bold, to the point chant mirrors the young DJs recent moves and overall demeanour. He’s from Toronto, but its not that he’s a hater. He just speaks when he means to with assertive, defiantly confident tones.
Coming out of relative obscurity in 2008, Nellas now anchors Off Da Tracks Radio Monday nights on 88.1 in Toronto, has released three mixtapes, toured Canada three times and become Peter Jackson’s show DJ. With a rising profile, “The Official DJ” kicked off the Slaugtherhouse/Pharoahe Monch tour only a month after he was inside an SUV that flipped five times on icy roads while on tour with Tech N9ne.
“I look at [the glass] half full more times to be like ‘ya we crashed but you know what? Straight up everybody’s ok,’” says Nellas. “I’m not going to be like ‘oh my god we all nearly died!’ Because real talk, I didn’t think I was going to die in that situation. But that’s just me though. I’m pretty sure Duxx and PJ (Peter Jackson) thought they were going to die ‘cause they were in the front seat… I was just more or less shocked. Everybody realized what happened, I was just shocked like ‘damn the tour is over! And we in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere and its snowing right now!’ I didn’t have no jacket, I had a sweater on and that’s it.”
But this tour, Nellas didn’t have to worry about anything but spinning because he accompanied Slaughterhouse and Pharoahe Monch on the tour bus. While he had the luxuries of the bus, this particular tour tested his will, covering twice as many dates as both previous tours. He points out the first time he was on the road, last August, he was overwhelmed by the experience and didn’t want to miss a moment no matter how tired he was. The second time, just as the dog days of the tour began, the car flipped and the tour ended for the crew. But now he was travelling with over a dozen people who he just met, in a tight tour bus.
“It’ll just take its toll and have people acting different,” says Nellas of life on the road. “If you can deal with that, then you can live and be on the road. I personally can deal with that. Obviously you stress out about certain things but at the end of the day you realize ‘I’m on the road, ain’t too much I can do about it.’ So you just gotta remember why you’re on the road every single day. I’m not on the road trying to be a celebrity and front. I’m trying to make connections, I’m trying to work, trying to get people to take my CDs. So if you can deal with certain things in that aspect, if you know how to balance your stress out the road can be a place for anybody.”
Being on the tour bus meant a lot of face time with each of the artists on tour. Joe Budden commissioned Nellas to give him a line up at one point, Pharoahe Monch sat up many nights and watched movies with Nellas, Slaugtherhouse eventually grew fond of the young DJ shouting him out on stage at several venues and he even sat in on a listening session of Pharoahe Monch’s new album material. As he soaked in the experience and focused on doing his job, he also looked to the future, planning one day soon to set up his own tour.
A natural leader, he stayed to himself on tour rarely speaking out of turn. However, when it was his point to make, he made it clear and direct. Such a no-nonsense approach and focused attitude is refreshing in a climate where fandom could otherwise easily take over. While he is Peter Jackson’s official DJ and has been for over a year now, Nellas is every bit his own man with his own plan.
“It’s like Whoo Kid. You don’t only know Whoo Kid because of 50,” says Nellas, making it clear he’s more than just Peter Jackson’s tour DJ. “You don’t know Jazzy Jeff because of Will Smith. Are you kidding me? Back in the days bro, man the DJs used to put people on…I haven’t taken it serious but now that I’m taking it serious I know what to do. I’m not stupid. There’s no way I could be stupid. I went and bought the books and read them.”
The books he’s referring to mostly comprise of marketing and self promotion guides, a topic Nellas has focused on lately as he tries to take the next step. He made one major move locking down www.theofficialdj.com which will assist his branding going forward. He continues Off Da Tracks every Monday night and will release his mixtape “The Road Code” mid 2010. But even when he’s home, he remains focused on the tour grind.
“The way I look at it though I’d much rather be touring with my boys,” says Nellas. “If you create an environment where people can have luxury like that (in a tour bus), that should be the ultimate goal…I’m on some shit right now where I just want to buy one of those tour vans. Just apply to the government – ‘I need it, it’s a tour van what you mean? I’m going to go on tour.’ See if I can flex with it and just do it. Anytime I need it, its there. Start setting up my own tours. I could do that.”
That’s Tour Life with DJ Dames Nellas.
“Tour Life” will be posted every Tuesday till the end of the series.
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