DJ/producer extraordinaire A-Trak’s career trajectory is one of epic levels (Reminder: At only 15 years young, he won his first DMC DJ World Championship–the youngest ever contestant to do so). Ever since, the turntablist has gone on to cement himself as a well-respected legend in the music industry, having served as Kanye West’s personal tour DJ and influencing the overall sound of West’s most heralded works like 2005’s Late Registration and 2007’s Graduation, while creating his own record label, Fool’s Gold.
More than just a label, A-Trak has taken his multi-hyphenate status and expanded Fool’s Gold into a lifestyle brand and annual extravaganza dubbed Fool’s Gold Day Off that combines his two loves: hip-hop and EDM. With humble beginnings at a Soho parking lot party, Day Off has become a full-fledged festival touching cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and Austin.
This past Labor Day Monday marked Fool’s Gold Day Off’s sixth anniversary and VIBE was in attendance for the lituation. A-Trak paused his hosting duties to kick it with us backstage and put us on to Fool’s Gold’s recent accomplishments. –Ashley Monaé
VIBE: You started off Fool’s Gold Day Off five years ago in a Soho parking lot. Now, the Day Off party is a nationwide festival. Did you ever think it would get this big?
A-Trak: Yes, I think from the first year that we started Fool’s Gold, even before we started Fool’s Gold Day Off, we were really interested in doing events. We always had this vision for the company to be more than just a record label. So over the years, we’ve done Fool’s Gold tours, a lot of merch, and we’ve got a shop in Brooklyn. For the Day Off events, we wanted to grow it for sure. I think it’s going to get even bigger than this. I’m definitely thankful. I think it’s a sort of slippery industry to try and get into the actual festival lane. It’s like we’re up against big dogs, but I really believe in our following. I think with the curation of the events that we do, we can keep building it.
Day Off is such a special platform in the sense that you have broken new artists like Travi$ Scott, but also show love to seasoned acts like Cam’ron and Remy Ma. How do you choose the lineup?
With Fool’s Gold, we’re DJs first–we love music and the culture. We just pick stuff that we love with the belief that there’s a lot of people out there that share our taste. That’s really the guiding principle for what we do, just going for artists that we believe in and trying to put together the best selection we can. And like you said, we definitely like to bridge those gaps and give shine to everyone from the newer artists to the established OGs. I feel like there’s not really another festival franchise out there that does the mix of hip-hop, electronic and R&B like we do. A lot of it is just knowing how to make that sort of deli platter. [Laughs] You know, hand-picking that perfect selection.
Last year, you made a lot of buzz on the Internet with your #RealDJing hashtag. In you own words, what really solidifies someone as a real DJ?
To me, real DJing just refers to the craft of the DJ that isn’t lazy and puts in the work, and knows how to pick his selection based on a different audience every night. It doesn’t necessarily have to entail scratching. I’m into the technical aspect of DJing; I scratch a lot and do a lot of tricks in my mixing. However, there’s a lot of DJs that don’t do any scratching that I think are incredible. It’s just a question of knowing the music, knowing how to read a crowd and adapting to every show. To me, that’s the foundation of DJing.
There’s been talks that you’re writing a book on DJing.
I’m working on some writing projects. I can’t talk about it too much yet though.
You were one of the first people to get behind the idea of hip-hop, dance and alternative music fusing together as one before it became a trend. What is your dream mashup?
Wow, let me think. I like Justin Martin, he’s a really dope DJ/producer whose beats have 808s. I’d love to hear his tracks with D.R.A.M over it.