Maceo Price talks Cash Money landing a helicopter in a Superdome, Chris Brown and Rihanna’s epic 2007 VMAs set, and more
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Maceo Price talks how Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill’s relationship affected Meek’s performances, how Chris Brown’s epic 2007 MTV Video Music Awards performance with Rihanna came together, and more.
Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
As a production manager, tour manager, stage manager, and almost any other role you can have on tour over the last 20-plus years, Maceo Price has made history and done it all.
“[Cash Money] always had great production value. For my first show with them, we landed a helicopter in the top of the New Orleans Superdome,” Price told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Price talks how Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill’s relationship affected Meek’s performances, how Chris Brown’s epic 2007 MTV Video Music Awards performance with Rihanna came together, and more. Read below.
How’d you link up with Cash Money in 1998?
I used to live in New Orleans and to my knowledge, there were only three Hummers in New Orleans back then. I had one, Mystikal had one, and Baby had one. I was new to New Orleans and I had just got a Hummer. People would see me and say, “What’s up, Baby?” I always thought that’s just how New Orleans people talk. A friend of mine who was on the Cash Money street team was like, “Yo, they think you’re Baby.” I was like, “Who the hell is Baby?” I was at this place called Tombs and Baby was there. We just started talking and he was like, “Come past the studio and we’ll talk.” It grew from there.
What was it like touring with Cash Money in the late ‘90s?
It was interesting (laughs). After a while, people understood it. By the time we got to the arena tours, it was accepted everywhere. Going through the amphitheaters tours and theater shows, there was still east, west, and then the south. I was doing production and in front of the house.
Is there a show from that run that sticks out?
During the “Baller Blockin’ Tour,” we went to St. Louis and had a local act do one song on a three-foot stage and not a lot of room. Ron Byrd always said, “Treat everybody equal.” They came in about 40 deep, did one song, rolled out, and six months later, we were doing a co-headlining tour with that opening act. That was Nelly.
What was Cash Money’s dedication to live shows? Were there rehearsals?
We wouldn’t see them until showtime. Ron Byrd would be with them for the most part during the day because he would be a tour manager and do everything. I think they did radio and promo stuff. We would get the show up and they would show up right before showtime, do their show, and then roll out. When that intro started, they were in place. When they needed to be in that helicopter, they were in place. That’s their dedication. When it came time for the show, they were about their business. You’d have Slim in the corner and Baby would be in the corner with Slim until it was time. They always had great production value. My first show with them, we landed a helicopter on the top of the New Orleans Superdome.
How’d you pull that off?
It was all kind of problems. At first, they wouldn’t let us take it off the truck. Then, there was a storm that day, and somebody’s Lamborghini flooded on the loading dock. The way the Superdome was built, the water would flood down onto the loading dock. We finally got them to let us put it up, it was rigged up, and we did our set. Then, No Limit did their set. As long as I’ve worked with Cash Money, I think that was the only time No Limit and Cash Money did a show together. That was a yearly radio show for this radio station in New Orleans. We knew the helicopter was happening a week before the show. Ron Byrd decided to take the helicopter on tour with them for the Cash Money/Ruff Ryders tour.
Ruff Ryders and Cash Money toured together in late 2000 at the height of both group’s popularity. What was that backstage like?
Cash Money and Ruff Ryders were all cool with each other. Sometimes you’ll have tours like Cash Money/Nelly where there’s a lot Playstation going on and a lot of money going back and forth. I want to say they were playing Madden. They would play Madden up until the intro would start. That was what was big back then.
You also worked on Chris Brown’s standout performance at the 2007 Video Music Awards. How intricate was that process?
While we were working on the production for a performance he had on one of the morning shows, MTV wanted to come over and discuss the show. They came over to the studio and showed a layout of where he was supposed to perform. He was supposed to perform on the stage. To open the show, we had him in a sort of Vaudeville box where kids put the money in it. That was the stage he was supposed to perform on. But, they were trying to figure out how to transition to Rihanna on the other end of the room. So, they were like, “She’s going to be on the pass around, he’s going to be on this side and we just have to figure out how to pan the shot from him to her.” I was like, “If you can get me the dimensions of the tables and the exact layout of the floor, we’ll lay it out in one of the rehearsal rooms.”
MTV sent a crew out of the exact floor plans of the tables, marked them out, and we sent Chris’ choreographer and figured he’ll jump from table to table. Everybody thought I was crazy. The biggest concern was he was jumping over people, so we had to know who was sitting where. Let’s make sure we’re jumping over Shaq, let’s jump beside Shaq (laughs). The tables had glass tops and people were going to be drinking, so we had to make sure the tops didn’t get wet. So, an announcement was madefor people to not stand up and to take your drinks and put them on the lower rail around the table. That was cool, but the lower rail added another six inches to all the sides of the table. So, the distance to jump increased another six.
What you couldn’t see was there were clear bridges between certain tables so in between jumping, he could meet Rihanna on the other side.
Did Chris and Rihanna rehearse it?
No. It was two different performances combined into one. So, he basically freestyled into her performance.
It was seamless.
Yeah, the chemistry was there. We knew where he had to be and when he had to be there. Chris did everything else.
You worked with Lil Wayne when he was a teenager and a decade later on the “I Am Music Tour” in 2009 when he was the biggest rapper in the world. What was the biggest difference in his approach to live shows?
No different. The Wayne I knew when he was probably too young to drive and the Wayne of today is no different. He’s always been professional, he’s always been a showman, he’s always been about his craft, he’s always cared about his fans more than anything, and he’s always put on a hell of a show. And he still doesn’t rehearse (laughs). If anything that’s changed is he got better at playing the guitar because when he first started out, it was a struggle (laughs). He practiced the guitar in the show. He would learn a chord that day and play it in his show that night.
You also worked on “The Pinkprint Tour.”
The Pinkprint Tour was…special. Due to the relationship between [Meek Mill] and Nicki [Minaj], Victor Reed, Nicki’s production manager, and I would have this codeword. Depending on how things were going between the two of them every day, you might hear an “Omaha” on the radio. That would mean you have to take all of Meek’s stuff down, put it in the back of truck because he was going to perform on her set. We spent a lot of time setting up a set he would or wouldn’t use depending on if they came in together if he came in late because he was coming in with her, or something else. Every day you didn’t know what show you were going to do. They got held up at the border in Canada and the show started two-three hours late. I designed his set to get out of the way quickly, so Nicki can do her show. So, if we found out at 9 he was going onstage, and then at 9:15, we were told to pull his set, we can pul his set and be done by 9:25.
What are some mishaps that happened during some shows?
On one tour, the amphitheater caught on fire. DMX fell behind one of the sub-woofers in the middle of the show. He sort of walked off the edge of the stage. Then, there was the 50 [Cent] situation where 50 jumped off the Statue of Liberty, the descender cable broke, and someone caught him before he went headfirst into the crowd.
How did COVID-19 affect your touring life?
It ended our touring life. We had four tours that were lined up. We had the “Feed The Streets Tour” with Yo Gotti, Rick Ross, and a bunch of other people. We were almost on week two of the Rod Wave tour. We had just finished sound-checking in Baltimore when we were pulled into a room and told, “Hey, the Governor of Maryland just shut down touring, so we need to load out.” We ate dinner, loaded the trucks back up, and moved on. We were halfway to the next city when we found out the entire tour was shut down. After Rod Wave, we were going to go on tour with Moneybagg Yo. We basically lost the rest of the year behind Corona[virus].