If you go to a Big K.R.I.T. show, DJ Wally Sparks’ voice is the first one you’ll hear long before anyone else hits the stage. He’s the DJ. The maestro K.R.I.T. gets all of his cues from. But inevitably during every set, the things will hit the fan. As “Country ****” blares from the stage, the crowd will swirl into a frenzy around K.R.I.T., who will have descended from the stage to the middle of a mosh pit of fans jumping in unison while simultaneously singing the song’s chorus as security and K.R.I.T.’s road manager do their best to corral him back to the stage. Just when the show is on the brink of pandemonium, it’s up to Wally to bring everything back to earth with supreme calm and confidence.
“Are y’all ready for Big K.R.I.T., if so let me see you put your fours in the air.” And like that, the crowd, still buzzing from the insanity, is ready for what Wally has in store next.
On Friday, I trailed Wally in an attempt to highlight a semi-regular day in his life and find out how he’s able to handle the mania surrounding his supernova of a rap counterpart. The time spent ended up being anything but normal since K.R.I.T.’s uber-hot at the moment, meaning a full schedule of shows – four in total, stretching from Friday afternoon into the early hours of Saturday.
And as the demand increases for K.R.I.T., the workload also increase for everyone around him – including Wally, Dutch, his road manager, and Big Sant, his ever present sidekick on stage – that are part of the machine that is 4eva. What sounds easy is actually more challenging than it appears. A lot of hurry-up-and-wait, shuffling from venue to venue, unloading and loading equipment to be set up and the like. Imagine warming up, playing a full-court game of basketball, then cooling down for a few minutes…before having to get warmed back up all over again. It was the rough, musical equivalent of an NBA baller playing back-to-back games during their shortened season. There’s no real resting or moments of quiet. It’s a life of days spent on hold until it’s time to service the people, giving them the music and performance they pay to experience.
“The Tennessee Mixtape Titan” has been around for the Mississippi MC’s rise not only as the tour DJ since the K.R.I.T. Wuz Here days but even earlier dating back to 2006’s Hood Fame mixtape. Even before working nationwide, Wally made his name ring bells all throughout states below the Mason-Dixon line and earned his stripes the old fashioned way for DJs – by crafting mixtapes and remixes and showing a keen ear for music and talent by handpicking artists well in advance of the rest of the world getting in tune with them. For the past three or so years since we were introduced by Killer Mike, the Chattanooga-born DJ and I have shared a bond as Volunteer State comrades and our paths crossing constantly as K.R.I.T. toured the country. Bearded, short and stocky, Wally’s like a Hip-Hop Santa who always greets friends and fans with a smile and shares with crowds his keen ear for music.
Through it all, Wally played his duel role as DJ and partystarter, running through a collection of songs to set the tone for K.R.I.T.’s “Country” brand of Southern bounce. He’s an old school DJ in the sense that even though he could breeze through sets, he still relishes in displaying a little turntabilism during his portion of the set. Each show begins and ends with him. The DJ. He’s not often heard and perhaps not even noticed, but he’s a part of the engine that keeps K.R.I.T.’s musical “Time Machine” moving forward.
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