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“It’s about taking risks:” A-Trak makes his case for ‘Real DJing’

On the first weekend of August, A-Trak stepped up for one of the standout sets at California’s scorching HARD Summer weekender. With a sprawling crowd locked in at the main stage on Sunday afternoon, the Fool’s Gold boss needed only an hour to show off his rapid-fire talents.

Next up, A-Trak is looking to take his Fool’s Gold Day Off tour on the road again, accompanied by special guests like Danny Brown, Travi$ Scott and Hoodboi. In a rare moment of downtime between his duties as a producer, label head and touring DJ, A-Trak hit Instagram this week with a passionate post about ‘Real DJing’ and his evolution as a selector. With dance music’s ‘press play’ debate showing no signs of abating, here’s how one of the best in the business approaches his craft.

“There’s a lot of talk lately about what DJing is becoming,” the post begins. “I’ve seen it evolve a lot over the years. I started DJing when I was 13, scratching vinyl and playing strictly hip hop, winning championships. The DMC judges thought I was pretty good at it, but think my definition was narrow back then.

“I remember when my aunts and uncles found out I was a DJ they assumed I was the guy talking on the radio. So to define who we were, we called ourselves turntablists. We wanted legitimacy. As I grew up I got into more sides of the craft. Party-rocking and mastering different musical genres.

“In the early 2000s I was Serato’s very first endorsee. I remember talking to Jazzy Jeff and AM about Serato: was it stable enough? We also had to convert all our music. DJing was becoming digital. Then Kanye hired me to tour with him, because he learned how to perform from Common and Kweli who had real DJs too – shout out to Dummy & Ruckus. We went on an Usher tour and Kanye wanted me to bust solos. My routines were too specialized so I had to make new ones that this new audience would understand.

“I started seeing the bigger picture. Then I got into electronic music. I remember seeing Mehdi, Boys Noize, Feadz playing on CDJs and thinking: these guys are turntablists too. Surkin was the first guy I saw DJ on Ableton in a way that felt like true DJing too.

“Now there’s a whole new cast in electronic music, and it’s still exciting to me. I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go over the years. And I don’t think my way of DJing is the only way. I wish I could also play like Carl Cox and DJ Harvey too. But I have my style and it’s my passion. I love standing for something that means something, as Pharcyde would say. When you come to my show you know you’ll see me cut. And take risks. DJing is about taking risks. I represent #RealDJing.” [Article photo above by Rukes at HARD Summer.]