"Dude, you gotta check this kid out. It's gonna blow your mind."
It was freshman year of college. We were in the early throes of what would turn into a lifelong turntablism obsession, and my best friend had just returned from New York City with a stack of the newest, hottest scratch tapes. He popped in the latest DMC World DJ Championships video and began fast-forwarding — which, in retrospect, actually seemed like slow motion.
The VHS spun and whirled for a bit. He hit pause and, lo and behold, in the midst of the world's premier DJ competition, there was in fact a "kid." Short, skinny, swimming in his oversized T-shirt, looking every bit the 15-year-old he was, this kid seemed way out of place among the grown-ass dudes who made up the rest of the competition.
But when the music started and this scrawny little kid who couldn't even get his driver's license started to scratch, it became clear that it was the grown-ass dudes who were way out of their league. As an opening assault, this kid — really, we cannot express just how young this dude looked, even to those of us who were barely adults ourselves — juggled a KRS-One record and an MC Shan record with enough skill to basically threaten all of the adults who'd probably been DJing since before he stopped shitting his pants.
"All you fucking DJs are stupid," he declared before dropping into a routine that was part sound collage, part musical composition and all swagger. His hands were slow and steady, his cuts were seamless, his juggles — flipping between two records to create a new beat — tuneful and exhilarating, and his crab, fader and transformer scratches had a technical virtuosity that still barely seems possible. It was no wonder he took home the championship — his first of many.
Almost 15 years later, that kid — the scrawny one in the oversized T who still goes by the name A-Trak — has turned into one of the world's most sought-after and respected artists/producers/DJs. He followed up his first DMC by running around with the legendary Invisibl Skratch Piklz — basically The Beatles of the turntablist movement — and running hip-hop label Audio Research with his brother Dave 1, one half of electro-funk duo Chromeo.
A-Trak also developed a notation system for scratching, essentially stating to the naysayers, "Yes, this art form is music, no matter what your boring rockist ass says." His scratching has showed up on albums by Common, Kanye and Drake — not to mention his classic underground work with the legendary DJ Q-Bert — and he's produced for Kid Sister and Lupe Fiasco.
Fool's Gold, the label A-Trak founded with Nick Catchdubs, has been responsible for some of the most exciting urban and electronic releases of the last five years, including definitive bangers from Kid Cudi, Treasure Fingers and Crookers. Oh, and we can't forget "Barbra Streisand" by Duck Sauce, his recent collab with house-music legend Armand Van Helden, which has got be one of the best dance anthems in years.
Seriously, you gotta check this kid out.
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Thanks Lance.. Let us know if you wanna come out tonight on us... Anthem
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