A-Trak: The Hipster's Hipster
A-Trak will have you know that he isn't just a DJ -- he's a turntablist. Raised in Montreal and now based in New York, he was just 15 when he won the DMC World Championship, the prestigious DJ battle competition.
Now 30 and half of the dance production duo Duck Sauce, he's scored a pair of ubiquitous global hits with "Barbra Streisand" and "Big Bad Wolf." He's hit the road with Kanye West and launched uber-hip label Fool's Gold. Did we mention that Terry Richardson took his press photo?
Merging hip-hop with electronic dance music, the man born Alain Macklovitch straddles the underground and mainstream like a Russian gymnast. He's dropped rap tracks while opening for electronic giants Swedish House Mafia at Madison Square Garden, and even scratched his way through the latest electro-house festival hits.
Tomorrow, March 31, he headlines Hard L.A., the latest in the series of tastemaking EDM events, and will in fact be mixing from the center of a large wooden "A" that he debuted at Coachella last year. The rig evolved when West -- who named him his tour DJ in 2004 -- suggested he use his first initial as the centerpiece. "He always wants to design everyone's stages," A-Trak wryly notes.
Though previously obsessed with practicing on the decks, these days he's more focused on managing Fool's Gold, which has put out cutting-edge music from everyone from pioneering electro producer Alexander Robotnick to Kid Cudi since its 2007 founding. (The imprint now has a physical space in Brooklyn, used for live performances and art shows.)
He transcended the hipster world with "Barbra Streisand," however. He and his Duck Sauce partner, veteran house DJ-producer Armand van Helden, released the anthemic, disco-flavored jam in 2010, and it went on to top numerous countries' charts. The video has more than 67 million views, and it showed up in Glee.
It was only a year later when they scored another colossal hit, "Big Bad Wolf," a stripped-down series of naked rhythms and howls. Its video cemented its popularity, featuring protagonists bearing extraordinarily large bulges in their pants - which are quickly revealed to be human heads. (The climax is particularly cringe-worthy.)
A-Trak credits the videos for catapulting the songs over the edge. "I don't know why people aren't making original videos anymore," he says. "This is the time to go crazy and push things forward."
He's doing that in all of his spheres, stealthily uniting the trendy kids, the backpackers, and the club goers. "I think after making 'Barbra Streisand,'" he concludes, "we realized that the more we let ourselves be weird and free, the more things worked."
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