Red Cup Nation: From College Parties to DJing for Drake & Diddy
By Shirley Ju for BPM Supreme
Cover image courtesy of Ernesto Prieto.
It’s not every day you get two guys who not only love what they do but can turn up the crowd in any given situation. Insert Red Cup Nation, a DJ/production duo comprised of Perry Nelson and Matt Weichel who have been fortunate enough to DJ for some of entertainment’s biggest names. From Drake to Diddy to JaVale McGee of the LA Lakers, there’s no function they have yet to conquer.
While most of us have our fondest memories from college in the form of house parties, Matt and Perry capitalized on the phenomenon by turning it into their own entertainment company, profiting from jam-packed events, merchandising, and of course, DJing. While both attended different schools, Weichel at Full Sail University in Orlando for film and Nelson at Florida International University in Miami for business, the two discovered their unmatched love for music and ability to create an entire experience for all those in the room.
Perry first heard there were “white boys throwing these rager parties in Orlando,” leading to him and his friends driving four hours to Miami to this house party inside a crazy lake house with over a thousand people in attendance. Upon meeting Matt, both realized they were both from Philadelphia — it was a wrap ever since.
The duo has a new EP releasing April 7 entitled Life of the Party. We caught up with Perry and Matt in downtown Los Angeles to discuss their journey from college best friends to DJing for Drake and Diddy, the new EP, and how they’ve built a full tour without a management team. Keep reading for more.
Bring us back to the party where you guys first met.
Matt: I went to Full Sail in Orlando and used to throw house parties at UCF (University of Central Florida). There was a big backyard in Alafaya, so it’d be 1,500 people at this party. Backyard with a lake and the house was slam-packed every time. That’s actually how we met.
Perry: But when I got there, they were playing dance music and dubstep. I’m like “I don’t want to hear this.” I’m in Miami! This is Wayne, this is Ross.
Was that when LMFAO was poppin’?
Perry: Yeah, it was. But at the same time, I was in Miami when Wayne was going crazy. Ross was just going crazy, so I didn’t want to hear it. I asked “who’s the DJ?” He’s like “yo, I’m the DJ. But if you want to play, you can play.” Alright cool, so I started DJing. I asked “where you from?” He said “I’m basically from Philly.” I’m like “me too.” Right away, we clicked. It just made sense.
Being from Philly, were there any musical influences from there?
Perry: Yeah, for production. A lot of people didn’t know at first I produced before I started DJing. I was into soul music, a lot of soul samples. Early like the Roots, I’m a big Roots fan. All of the way to Beanie Sigel, Roc-A-Fella, all them in that era. State Property was a huge influence. He used to skate in Philly all the time. (referring to Matt)
Matt: Yeah, that was in high school. I’m pretty much right outside of Philly, it’s the Poconos. Skateboarding is actually how I got into music as well. At that time, I’d download songs from Dipset to rock. It just so happened that he’s from Philly when I met him so we just bonded.
Perry: He brings a different type of music and I bring the hip hop. A lot of people weren’t doing that at the time. We were able to fuse it to where everyone can be drinking, red cups, having a good time, partying, but we’re bringing dope energy. Our song selections were for everybody. It was real diverse parties, that’s really what popped us off.
Matt: We blend it crazy.
That’s genius how one does EDM and the other does hip hop. At what point did you realize it would mesh together so well?
Perry: I’m more hip hop so I was inspired by DJ Drama and Don Cannon, they’re both from Philly also. They kill it on the mic. When they DJ, it’s a movie. It’s a big show, and that’s how I am when I’m on the mic. When we do our bigger shows, you’ll see Matt DJing and I might be on stage on the mic. Bringing that together just meshed real well.
When did you know you wanted to DJ for a career?
Matt: When I graduated college, I was doing film at the time. One day we said, “yo, let’s just do it.” Then we pretty much branded ourselves. We were traveling, we transformed it into a DJ booth from the truck. We started taking that up and down the East Coast essentially, and been on tour since.
Was it a food truck?
Matt: He can explain it better. [chuckles]
Perry: I was in New York and I saw these food trucks in Brooklyn, I’m like “damn, this is crazy.” This is when the food trucks were really booming a couple years ago. I called Matt like “what if we did the same thing, but do a DJ truck?” We were doing our own merch, you see these jackets and our hats. [points to Matt’s jacket] The inside we’ll turn into a clothing store, the window that you’d serve food from is the DJ booth. I called Matt like “I have this great idea.” Right away, he’s like “that’s genius.” I thought he was going to be like “you’re crazy!” But he’s like “nah, you’re a genius. Let’s do it.” I got back to Miami and literally for two weeks, we researched FedEx trucks. We ended up buying a used FedEx truck…
It had FedEx painted on it?
Perry: It was old so they were selling it for like $12,000. We bought it and literally wasted so much money trying to get it fixed. This dude jerked us out of money. We filmed everything too, we documented everything. The truth is Matt ended up doing all of the work on the truck himself. We got a public storage unit and Matt fabricated everything.
Matt: The inside has hardwood floors diamond-plated shelving, a TV.
You did that all yourself?
Perry: Matt did everything himself, and he designed the wrap. Matt’s really good with art.
How did you learn to actually DJ?
Perry: For me it started with producing. I was already understanding music from a production standpoint. Then I started watching Kid Capri. I messaged him one time like “hey if you ever need an intern…” because he was in Miami a lot.
Message like DM?
Perry: This was the Myspace era, that’s how long ago. I wrote “yo, if you ever need somebody to come help.” He responded “yeah.” I remember watching him at this club thinking “he’s making a movie.” He wasn’t just DJing, he’s putting on a show. Right away, I started practicing and went from there.
Matt: When I was in college, I originally went to school for film, but on the side, I’d be DJing. The more I started getting into dubstep and EDM, I began understanding it and started matching BPMs. I perfected that and that’s where it took off. Once I met Perry, he taught me the production side of it and how to make it cohesive. That’s how we go off of each other.
Did you guys have peers or mentors in the industry? I’m guessing Kid Capri for you, Perry.
Perry: Yeah, I looked up to him a lot. Since we’ve been in LA, we’ve had a couple of people who really helped us out and looked out for us. Kenny Hamilton was preliminary, he’s worked with Justin Bieber. He’s one of the first people who really started guiding us when we first moved out here. A lot of people helped us but someone we looked up to, I’d probably say Drama and Cannon.
Matt: As far as DJing, I’d say Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia for me.
Do you still party as hard? Still using red cups?
Perry: Yes, but we moved away from doing private house parties — we tried to leave that alone. Then we started doing more nightclubs, and now we’re trying to focus on more festivals. But this past New Year’s Eve was probably one of the craziest parties ever. We had a party in Hollywood Hills and at 11:40pm, the cops came and shut it down. Literally at 12 o’clock, a helicopter came and shined “5-4-3-2…”
Matt: For the countdown!
Perry: It was crazy! I think we party harder now.
Do you party while you deejay?
Perry: We be turnt up. We’re not going to be the DJs just standing there. We’re turnt up all the time.
What sparked your move to Los Angeles?
Perry: We were DJing in Miami, we were doing all of the biggest clubs in Miami from Space to The Clevelander to Cameo. We just thought it’d be more opportunities.
Matt: Our goals (brought us to LA). We wanted to get into more into festivals, and we are now. We wanted to travel, even expand to Europe as far as shows. That was the next step for us, plus we knew Kenny.
Both: It was way more opportunities.
Did you guys know anybody?
Perry: We knew one person, my friend Tommy Brown. He produces for Ariana Grande, a lot of records for a lot of people. Tommy and I have been friends forever. We work with him right now a lot. We came out out here like “we’re just going to go hard DJing,” and that’s what happened.
Was it hard to get acclimated at all? Or was it like “I love this!”
Matt: I kind of fell in love with it.
Perry: I loved it right away. I think a lot of people out here are cool, they’re more accepting. I thought it was going to be harder to get into DJing a lot of the clubs and events but once we proved that we really can get busy DJing and turn up, everyone showed love right away. It wasn’t too hard. I love it here, I love the West Coast.
What struggles do you face in the entertainment industry, especially Hollywood?
Perry: I’d say trusting people. Everybody in LA is somebody. Everybody has something going on. Matt and I never really had a manager. We don’t have a booking agent, we don’t have nothing. It’s me and him doing everything.
Is that on purpose?
Perry: Right now, it’s on purpose because we can do it. We’re going to eventually get a team but for a while, it’s just me and Matt. In the beginning, it was hard for people to believe in our dream and our vision. They thought the name Red Cup Nation would just be a college name.
Did you trademark that?
Perry: Of course. That’s one thing about us is the business. We’re good on business.
Are you both business-savvy? Usually it’s one or the other.
Both: Yeah, we are.
Matt: We both have degrees. I got a Bachelor’s degree in Business.
How was DJing for Drake?
Perry: Epic. It was epic because we’ve been DJing for a long time. You’re playing his music for so long and you’ve been a fan — actually, it wasn’t just him. It was Drake, Future, T.I. was there.
What night was it?
Perry: It was Draya (Michelle)’s birthday last year at Beauty & Essex. Everyone ended up leaving except for Drake and his OVO crew, I just did a whole two-hour set straight of his old B-side songs. He came over like “yo, I fuck with you.” It was dope. I never ask anyone for pictures ever but I asked him for a picture. He showed love, took the picture, it was dope. That was probably the biggest artist. Diddy too, we did a summer party at his house in June. For six hours straight, there were waves of people coming in. He put us on his Instagram, that was dope. He showed love.
Matt: Meek was there, Chris Brown, a lot of people were there.
When the stars show up, do you play a lot of their music?
Perry: Yes I play their music. They want to hear their music! The other night, we ended up DJing for Machine Gun Kelly for his weed event. What I did was I didn’t play any of his popular music, I played only features. He was so hyped, he came over like “this is dope you’re playing features.” I always do stuff like that, because his popular songs get played every time he goes out. But who’s going to play his song “Candy” with Trippie Redd? Nobody.
That’s one of my favorites songs!
Perry: See, that’s my shit! Nobody’s going to play that right off the rip, so that’s what I’m playing. Because that’s my shit. Even the Drake shit, if it’s at an EDM festival, right in the middle we’ll play “Crew Love” every time we DJ. Because that’s how we vibe, then we’ll come with some higher stuff after. [chuckles]
Favorite song to drop in a set?
Perry: Wow. What’s your favorite song Matt?
Matt: Right now, I like Martin Garrix. He has a song “Dreamer,” there’s a remix to it.
Perry: No matter where we are, we’re always playing [Meek Mill’s] “Dreams and Nightmares.” That’s like our anthem. We really feel it when it comes on, so that song’s always getting played.
Matt: That shit goes up.
You recently unleashed your first single “I’m Ready.” Talk about producing as well.
Perry: I’ve been a producer for a long time but it’s trying to figure out our own style when putting music out. Our style is really world, big festival kind of sound. Even our hip hop is just bigger records. We wanted to have a great-feeling record. It was summertime, we were DJing in Cabo and we met DJ Vice for the first time. It was a crazy experience.
We had this song done, I produced it and this guy named Zolo from Miami was on it. We were literally in Cabo, holding onto the song trying to figure out when to release it. We ended up doing a back to back set with Vice, who’s one of my favorite DJ’s. It was at the OMNIA in Cabo, craziest party ever. The first time we ever played the song, the reaction was nuts. As soon as we got back to LA, we’re like “let’s release it.”
That’s cool you got to test it out.
Matt: It was a vibe. It fit it, it was lit.
Perry: It was a vibe. We’re like “let’s just go with it and see what happens. We’re not going to release it with no label, no nothing.” Right away, we released it. L.A. Leakers picked it up right away, Justin Credible…
You know Justin at Power 106?
Perry: We’ve known each other for a while. We’re never the type of people to force it, we want you to really like the music. Justin hit us like “I love this song.” When he played it, he didn’t just play it. He made a movie, pulled it back. He was playing it frequently. DJ Vice premiered it on his radio show, so a lot of DJs around the country picked it up and started playing it. Right away, it got 100,000 in the first month. It was dope that we didn’t really have anything behind it, it was our first record.
Who did you distribute through?
Perry: We did TuneCore. Just to see what we could do on our own before we released more stuff.
Who’s idea was it to name your EP Life of the Party?
Matt: Honestly Perry came up with the name, but we both agreed on it. Because everywhere we go, we’re pretty much the life of the party. We set that vibe, set the energy in the room.
Do you ever feel like this generation’s partying can be too much?
Perry: Nah. Honestly when we DJ our shows, we’re DJing for an experience. Whatever you’re going through in your life — you’re going through some dumb shit, you’re going through drama — for that two hours, we just want you to be vibing. “He’s playing hits and I’m having a good time.”
What about you guys?
Matt: We don’t do drugs. But I’ll drink my ass off.
Perry: Matt just started smoking weed, he’s never done a drug in his life. I’ll just smoke weed and drink.
What’s your set-up like?
Matt: We have a gold Pioneer DDJ-SZ, limited white edition. They only made a thousand.
Perry: It’s numbered, we got the number 971. [chuckles]
Matt: Then we have QSC’s, I mean that’s at the crib.
Perry: But we use them in the club when we DJ.
Matt: And CDJ-900s.
What’s the most fulfilling part of being a DJ duo?
Perry: When we’re on stage and you drop a song, and a couple of thousand people’s react to it I’ll look at Matt and be like “holy shit, this is crazy.” It’s dope to go through this with somebody, through the ups and downs. DJing for Drake, like “damn we talked about this shit.” We’ve really talked about everything we’re doing. Now it’s like damn, this is crazy. It’s really happening.
Matt: I agree just because we’re boys. We’re best friends in real life for real. We’re roommates. Having that experience with your best friend makes it way more fun.
Perry: We travel a lot. It’s crazy when we travel to other cities because I have somebody I can trust. He knows the shit I’m going through, he’s going through it with me. It’s dope.
Do you guys ever fight?
Perry: Real quick.
Matt: Eh. We get into arguments, but that shit last for 30 minutes.
Perry: We don’t let it go past that.
Matt: We can’t stay mad really.
Perry: We’ve probably never went more than a day without talking because it’s not really worth it.
Matt: Yeah, get past that shit and get to work. [chuckles]
Any tips you would tell your younger self?
Matt: I should’ve listened more, to everyone around me. I guess just learning, keep up to date. Just grind your ass off and go as hard as possible.
Perry: I agree. I probably would have even done it sooner, started DJing sooner. I was scared to take that first step. Even moving to LA, when we moved to LA, it wasn’t a thought process. It was “we’re going to do it, let’s just go. Let’s jump out there and do it,” because we believed in ourselves. I’d tell my younger self to keep going hard. Go harder than ever before.
Matt: And just do it. [chuckles]
Is there anything else you’d like to let us know?
Perry: Our tour Life of the Party starts March 1 in Cabo at OMNIA. It’s on the beach, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever played in my life. That’s the kick off of the Life of the Party Tour, and we have four shows in Cabo. We’re doing the whole Spring Break in March, then April is all US dates.
Matt: And Toronto, Canada also, then Europe is in May.
With no booking agent?
Perry: Nah, it’s just us. Hopefully, we’ll get a team this year. We’ve been grinding. We wanted to prove it to ourselves that we can get it done ourselves, so whoever we work with has to bring a certain type of energy.
About Shirley Ju
Shirley Ju is a Los Angeles-based journalist as well as a Digital Content/Artist Relations Manager at LA’s Power 106. She lives and breathes music and if there’s a show in LA, you can find her there. Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, the hyphy movement is in her blood. She also graduated from UCLA and is going on 10 years in Los Angeles. Shirley contributes to several publications including Variety, LA Weekly, REVOLT, and more. Follow her at @shirju on both Instagram & Twitter.