Posted on Mar 21st, 2008 in Behind The Scenes by A-Trak
I’ve now been working with Jay-Z on his live show for 5 days. If you read my last post, I said they were asking me to recommend a DJ. I didn’t want to write that they had already picked Neil Armstrong as the DJ because I wasn’t sure if he had announced it yet. So I kept it vague. Now everybody’s asking me to recommend this guy or that guy. They have a DJ! I didn’t end up recommending anyone, I just came in and gave my input on the music.
Questlove is the musical director for the band. He and I both came in at the beginning of the week when the band had already rehearsed for a few days and knew all the songs. This is a whole new experience for Neil so I’m giving him lots of pointers on how to interact with the band, what samples to scratch on for which song, how to optimize the DJ set-up for this type of show, etc. He’s doing good. I’m helping the band and the DJ work together and I’m also giving them input on the set as a whole, suggesting transitions and helping the guy on the Protools rig bring out certain elements of the songs. On Kanye shows we’ve never had a Protools rig. This show is really different from Kanye’s, especially for the DJ. When I started working with Kanye, it was just me, him and John Legend on a big stage. Everything basically grew from there, so I stayed at the nucleus of the show, playing all the tracks and coming up with set lists with Kanye. In Jay-Z’s show the DJ is mostly there to add some scratches and fly some samples over what the band is playing. That’s another reason why I wasn’t really comfortable suggesting a DJ when they first called me: I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting him into.
It’s been real cool working with Jay and Quest. There’s no egos, everyone’s just been focused and easy to communicate with. Earlier in the week I was talking to Jay about the picture on the back of “Volume 1″ and how ill Biggie’s outfit was. Look it up if you don’t remember what I’m talking about. Jay was like “I remember when Big showed up at that show wearing peach. We all looked at him like “this n*gga…’” I had met Jay before (as documented in these pages) but this was actually the first time I met Ahmir. Dude was mad cool right away. Gave me like 500 GB of mp3′s and asked about Kid Sister’s album. He also gave me the new Roots album, it’s dope. I remember hearing that Young Guru was a DJ and followed the old DMC battles (that’s Roc-A-Fella’s in-house engineer, as seen in the Fade to Black movie). When I met him he asked me about my Sunglasses Is A Must DVD right away. It’s a trip because I meet these people mostly through my association with Kanye but I don’t necessarily expect them to know about my background as a battle DJ. When we were doing all those battles with the Allies it’s not like there were any current rappers at those events. It was always Grandmaster Caz and the Arsonists, not like State Property or whoever.
In the midst of all this Kanye’s been calling with random stream-of-consciousness stories, but also telling me about all the crazy (top secret) stuff he’s planning for the Glow In The Dark US leg. Let’s just say, whatever happened in Europe stays in Europe. He’s coming up with a whole new show. I think he’s getting a kick out of me working with Jay. Because like I was explaining to my mom this morning, it’s basically Jay-Z reaching out to his DJ to bring something to his show. It’s good for him too!
Anyway, I’m outta here tomorrow. Get ready for Winter Music!