New York raised, West Indian boy from Trinidad and Tobaga, DJ Kelo sits in the lobby of the Amora Hotel in Wellington, New Zealand. Based in Atlanta as R&B singer Lloyd’s official tour DJ he is in Wellington on the last leg of an Australia/New Zealand tour. They’ve just shut the club down in Wellington now they’re on their way to Auckland. “I heard the next city’s going to be even more hype,” he says.
Tour life is nothing new for Kelo with names like Jagged Edge, Sean Kingston and J Holiday under his belt — he’s also the founder of a tour-DJ syndicate called Team Titan DJ’s, based in Texas. He names off some of his team: “We got DJ Mustard [RocNation], that was my first DJ from the West Coast I actually put down with my clique — Most of y’all might know him for Mustard On The Beat Hoe — Rack City [Tyga]. He got a few number one records right now; but that was one of my day one DJs that I actually got started. He’s big. I have DJ Twin from Chicago, he started off with Jibbs, DJ’d for a lot of other people but now he’s with the old artist I used to DJ for, Sean Kingston. Victorious he DJs for Chief Keef, Dre Sinatra he DJs for Ray J, you know Rampage is my man too, he DJs for Omarion sometimes…”
Kelo explains in our audio interview he used to take his extensive travels for granted. He’d come to a new and foreign city and just stay holed up in a hotel room — but not anymore:
“You need your memories and you need to leave something, I don’t have any kids yet but eventually, when I do, I plan to show my children, this is where your father has been.”
DS: What’s it like being a tour DJ?
DK: I mean people may think it’s easier at times because they think we don’t do enough but to become a tour DJ you have to go through your obstacles and stuff. I wasn’t just a tour DJ, I was a club DJ. I went through my stages so you know what I mean, I prepared myself for that stage. So a lot of people just know a friend and they get the job or whatever but it ain’t easy to become a tour DJ because to be in control of an artist’ show, like if you mess up, the artist mess up — and what you might do might affect the artist on stage and it might not even be the artist’s problem it might just be something that you do.
DS: So the old rule in Hip Hop of ‘it all started with DJ’ rings true here?
DS: You know yesterday at sound check you and Lloyd were working out your set, does a new set happen in every city?
DK: Yeah. Well sometimes I go random like I try not to do the same set most of the time; so you know at times we’ll just freestyle or I usually cater to whoever the crowd or wherever we at. If I feel like it’s gonna be a caucasian crowd I will play a different set, black — you know just cater to wherever we’re performing for.
DS: What do you do when you’re not sure about a crowd or a city?
DK: I, you know, go off of my heart. I usually feed off the crowd reaction regardless. That’s what gives us our energy to perform and feel the excitement — to even want to do this. I mean if you’re doing shows and you’re just sitting in the audience and just looking at the artist, like who wants to perform in front of people who are not actually into the show or a real fan of the artist and stuff? So yeah the fans all play a big part in it.
DS: How did you get to be Lloyd’s tour DJ?
DK: Well, we was managed by the same people…Sho Nuff Records… they used to manage Ciara and a few other people. I was DJing for Sean Kingston at the the time.
DS: What was your first impression of Lloyd when you met him?
DK: I was already a fan of his music so it really wasn’t too much of a like — I already believed in him before I actually started DJing for him, so it actually made the situation a bit more solid. You know and maybe our fourth show in it was like 2010 or eight or nine, whatever it was, our fourth show was like the show that made it official for us, like our chemistry and that [it] was only the fourth show. It usually takes artists a real long time to actually build up that chemistry where they feel comfortable with each other.
DS: Cause you guys do have a chemistry that bounces off each other and Lloyd often looked at you [last night] when he was performing for a boost I noticed.
DK: Yeah. I give him that energy. Which is needed. You know what I mean, cause what they say, there’s a difference between the genres of music when you’re djing for R&B to a pop act or a Hip Hop act. Pop acts, no actually country acts tour the most in the States and then we come to pop; you know the Rihannas, the Kanye Wests’ and so on, the 50 Cent’s are always going to tour and are worldwide artists because you know, we both know, a lot of artists that are real relevant in the States that are doing very good they don’t even know out here — some that have been relevant for over a period of time. So R&B music is totally different, you know it brings a different feel to the table. So I kind of wanted to swing in that direction rather than DJ for Hip Hop or [other genres] because you know, I wanted to travel.
“Some people take their careers a little bit more serious than others and some peoples are passionate about it more so — those are the people I want to stick around to because I’m all about longevity.”
DS: When tour DJ’s talk shop what do you talk about?
DK: Oh you know, if we both passionate about what we do it depends because a lot of… I ain’t gonna front I met DJ’s that don’t know how to DJ, or don’t know the real technique or the stages of really becoming a DJ. Like I never learnt or even knew what CD’s was until like three years ago. When I first moved to Atlanta, Georgia I remember the first time I did a party where I seen the DJ use a laptop and I was like, ‘What the hell?’ A Mac computer? He’s DJ’ing the party with a Mac computer’!? I didn’t even know what Serato was because I was still just on straight vinyl. I was like ‘Dag, he come in here with a Mac computer and he rocks the crowd, and I got to carry 30 crates to rock a crowd.‘ You know what I mean, I’m digging in crates and going through different sections and it was different, blending was different, everything was. You have to really know the drum patterns and it was like instruments was being played and there’s a lot to it, you know a lot of DJ’s don’t know that, they making it kind of easier now with all the knobs and gadgets — I be calling them press play DJ’s.
DS: So you and Lloyd have spent quite a bit of time together and you tour other DJ’s aye?
DK: Yeah. I DJ’d for Boyz’n Da Hood, they was real big in the States, I did Gorilla Zoe, Jordy Breeze after that I was with Jagged Edge, I did Sean Kingston — he was my biggest besides Lloyd. My three biggest acts to me, you know other people might have their own opinion but I go with Sean Kingston, J Holiday and Lloyd. Those are like my three biggest acts. Jagged Edge and Boyz’n Da Hood — those are all big acts but I’m talking about the longevity and the money. You know the well being of them — some people take their careers a little bit more serious than others and some peoples are passionate about it more so — those are the people I want to stick around to because I’m all about longevity; for an artist DJ, if the artist doesn’t make any money or anything — if the artist doesn’t want to do anything [then the DJ doesn’t work]. So what we say is that, what the artist does might affect you, if you don’t be with the right artist, like, and it happens.
DS: Have you, on a scale of tour DJ’s, just played the game smarter than others or are you just lucky?
DK: I played the game way different from others and more DJ’s look at stuff as a competition and I think that’s like one of my win wins with them because I’m not a competition DJ, I’m here to do my job, you know what I mean? I look at things different. I’m doing my job, I love doing what I’m doing and I’m enjoying myself at the same time so, you know it’s a job for me. It’s a job that I love doing and I love getting paid to do so it’s all beneficial to me. [smiles].
” I’m on my third passport right now so you know I took it — you know took it for granted .”
DS: What other countries have you been to where you get down with the local acts too?
DK: Yeah I mean we mix and mingle, we don’t play that we’re in your city, we go into a hotel or — you know, we love to listen to culture music — whatever you might have going on. Just like we love getting involved in community things you know anything — just to be around. Usually, when I first started really tour DJ’ing I was one of those people that really stayed in the hotel. I didn’t like to go out as much and even explore and I’ve been around the world — I’m on my third passport right now so, you know, I took it for granted… Just [being able to] do things that a lot of people can’t do and you don’t realise that until you’re not doing it anymore and you’re sitting at home; you’re on break and you’re like, ‘dag, I just been to like 10 countries and I didn’t take a picture’. You know what I mean? And that matters because you need your memories and you need to leave a something, I don’t have any kids yet but eventually when I do, I plan to show my children like, yeah this is where you father has been, I been around the world. And a lot of people unfortunately can’t say that, can’t say they’re on their on their third passport. A lot of DJ’s, even artists I know haven’t even been to the countries I’ve been to because I DJ for genres, from pop to R&B to Hip Hop I did all the major genres — except for country.
DS: What prompted you to want to do a solo tour?
DK: Well, I get offers all the time. Nine times out of ten I’m either busy or always focussed on the artist so when I’m on my down time I really like to just relax and wind down so I guess now I’m just on my workaholic mode and I just feel like I did a few [tours] before but none as big as this, like I’m just the main act, like doing what I’ll be doing in Australia so…
DS: Are you ready?
DK: Yeah I’m ready….I’m ready and waiting man. Ready to come out to Australia do my thug thizzle, they’re trying to do it before Christmas so you know hopefully before that. But I’m thinking about bringing an artist with me, somebody else; I’m trying to see who I might bring, it might be Kelly Rowland, it might be Tia Maria, it might be Trina, it could be Keri Hilson and she’s somebody who I’m very familiar with and close to that definitely will jump on board so I just gotta check a few schedules and you know, just stay tuned.
DS: And when did you fall in love with hip hop?
DK: I fell in love with music. Because I listen to all genres, I’m a reggae boy so that was my passion first, you know what I mean, before the Hip Hop and stuff like that I was — you know I’m a Bob Marley boy, I’m a West Indian boy [Trinidad and Tobago] so it’s very different for me. So I could just say I fell in love with the music and the instruments.
DS: Where’d you grow up?
DK: I grew up in New York city but you know I been to Trinidad and Tobago and I lived there for a minute and I lived in Jamaica as well, so you know my culture’s a bit different. The foods that I eat, the way that our women is raised you know what I mean, it’s a different culture there. It’s just like you know, I live in another world then go back home — that’s what we do, we make money here and then we go back home, we take it back to our countries. But I love it.