Looking at the face of A-Trak, it'd be hard to believe that he's been in any industry for nearly 20 years. But once you hear his story and discover that he's been DJing – and as more than just a hobby, but as a recognized, respected, and well-decorated figure – since he was a teenager, it becomes believeable, but no less remarkable.
As the latest honored subject in REVOLT TV's "Global Spin Awards Presents: Respect The DJ" series, A-Trak (born Alain Macklovitch) tells his tale, detailing his path from child prodigy to major multi-hyphenate.
In 1997, at the age of 15, A-Trak became the youngest winner of the DMC World DJ Championship. He'd admittedly only gotten into hip-hop just three years prior – namely, the Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest – and had become, as he puts it, infatuated with scratching. After self-teaching himself his own tricks, A-Trak played local gigs with his brother Dave (now one-half of Chromeo) and his band using his dad's record player and a makeshift crossfader he constructed from an amplifier switch. Money from his Bar Mitzvah (at age 13) is what finally allowed him the upgrade to a Technics 1200 turntable and Gemini Scratchmaster mixer.
Watch a preview of the episode and continue reading below.
Though his inspirations included Philadephia's own Jazzy Jeff, New York turntablists collective The X-Ecutioners, and Californian crew Beat Junkies, it was his work with Kanye West that gave him visibility, as he joined 'Ye on the rapper's first tour (and continued to do so for years). But the partnership encouraged A-Trak to use the opportunity to break out on his own again and begin making mixtapes and merchandise, and expand his network. No longer a hip-hop purist, experimenting with mash-ups and genre-mixing began to appeal to him.
In 2007, A-Trak started his own independent record label, Fool's Gold – one that, to this day, has not taken investment money nor done a joint venture with a major label. On its own, it's signed the likes of Kid Cudi and Danny Brown, expanded into a brick-and-mortar shop in Brooklyn, and launched a festival, ultimately granting A-Trak a career that, he says, has never bored him in 20 years. In fact, in his opinion, the role of the DJ is "knowing how to adapt your sets on the fly."
"Global Spin Awards Presents: Respect The DJ" re-airs on REVOLT TV on:
Friday, Sept. 30 at 2:30pm and 9:30pm ET
Saturday, Oct. 1 at 6:00pm and 11:30pm ET
Sunday, Oct. 2 at 2:30am, 3:00pm and 11:00pm ET
Monday, Oct. 3 at 5:30pm and 8:30pm ET
Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 4:00am and 3:30pm ET
Thursday, Oct. 6 at 1:00pm and 4:00pm ET
Friday, Oct 7 at 4:30pm and 7:30pm ET
Saturday, Oct. 8 at 10:00am and 1:00pm ET
Monday, Oct. 10 at 1:30am and 4:30am ET
Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 10:30pm ET
Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 1:30am ET
Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:00pm and 7:00pm ET