Over the past 20 years, Montreal native DJ A-Trak has evolved as a teenage turntablist phenom to a world-renowned producer and pillar in the EDM community. The former DMC champion and Fool’s Gold founder is probably best recognized for his work as the longtime tour DJ and collaborator of Kanye West.
During October’s A3C Festival, A-Trak spoke with HipHopDX about how he linked with West around the time of Ye’s debut album, The College Dropout. A-Trak cited how he and Yeezy mutually boosted their musical acumen to move beyond conventional soul, rock, folk and funk samples and pushed the boundaries with European electronic music’s influence in Hip Hop production.
“In 2005, 2006, there were certain artists that was making electronic music that has a grittiness to it that my Hip Hop ear could appreciate, and they would have like Hip Hop vocal samples, distorted synths, and it just felt really like it had an attitude,” he told DX. “And that’s when I started working some electronic music into my sets.”
Embracing EDM expanded A-Trak’s audience beyond the underground Hip Hop realm at a time when West became a pop music goliath following the success of the Daft Punk-sampled smash single “Stronger.” A-Trak talked about the tipping point for their careers that was based on trusting each other to take the risk for a new direction.
“Kanye, his own ear noticed that were was something different in those sounds, too,” A-Trak noted. “So, it’s not as if I told him to use this or that. It was just I’m a DJ that knows a certain amount of music and, you know, we just had a very trusting relationship. It was an amazing phase of my life to work with him.”
Besides his role in artist development for contemporaries like Danny Brown, Kid Cudi and Flosstradamus, or collaborating with other EDM giants such as Armand Van Helden and Diplo, A-Trak says he still credits the “magic” of crate digging in record shops to remain inspired to create new sounds.
“I love the smell of it and that discovery process,” he stated. “You don’t know what’s gonna be in those bins. There’s just an element of chance to what you’re gonna find. When I look for records, I don’t know what I’m picking out. There’s such an element of serendipity and coincidence where you’re like, ‘I don’t even know what this is, but it looks like it’s gonna be fresh.’ And you put a couple of dollars down on it.”
Check the rest of DX’s interview with A-Trak in the clip above.