At just 35 years old, Alain Macklovitch — better known as A-Trak — has accomplished more in his career so far than many of his peers will in their entire lives. He was the first Canadian DJ to win the Disco Mix Club (DMC) championship at just 15-years-old, which also made him its youngest winner ever. He was the first DJ to win all three major DJ competitions: DMC, ITF, and Vestax.
Additionally, Macklovitch founded and currently runs a Brooklyn-based record label of his own, Fool’s Gold Records, which has released music from the likes of Danny Brown and Run The Jewels. He toured with Kanye West as his personal DJ. Now, he advances the DJ culture worldwide by blurring the lines between his underground hip-hop roots and EDM’s current massive sound.
So when he reached out to longtime friend Eli Morgan Gesner — film director, former creative director of Phat Farm, founder of skate brand Zoo York, and now, Uproxx style guru — to shoot the throwback video for “Ride For Me,” his genre-bending collaboration with Falcons, Young Thug, and 24Hrs, Eli couldn’t help but say, “Yes.” Eli sat down with A-Trak to talk about the video, and in the process, revealed a treasure trove of stories, lessons, and insights from A-Trak’s incredible 20-year career. Read some excerpts from their conversation below.
So, where should we begin? I guess the first thing we should talk about is how did you get into this? Let’s just start there. You were a five-time DMC World Scratch Champion. How old were you the first time you won World Champion?
Yeah. It wasn’t all DMC, but World Champion, yes. I was 15. So I started scratching and messing around with DJing at 13, and then at 15, I was World Champion and I kept entering more battles and I accumulated five of these World Titles by the time I was 18.
Just in two years?
I didn’t see much sunlight from the age of 13 to 15. I grew up in Montreal, Canada and I was just discovering hip-hop culture, in general, and I was getting into a lot of music with my brother, sort of through his group of friends. My brother is like three or four years older than me.
Your brother is Chromeo.
Yes, but back then, he was David Macklovitch, at the local high school. We all grew up listening to classic rock, and through Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill, that was the funnel to get into hip-hop. So I really fell in love with hip-hop around ’94 with discovering Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, Buhloone Mindstate, Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s The Main Ingredient, Wu-Tang, Biggie, that whole era. But also The Pharcyde, both Bizarre Ride and Labcabin a little bit later. Souls Of Mischief, that whole tip. And pretty much anything that DJ Premier produced and anything that Pete Rock produced.
How did you end up with two turntables?
So I’m listening to hip-hop, right, and I’m hearing scratching on records, right, and I was interested in music and, actually, my brother, by that point, was playing the guitar and playing in high school bands and what not. And I tried playing the piano and I wasn’t very good at it, or it just didn’t feel like my instrument. And one day I tried scratching a record on my dad’s record player, as most people do when they grew up listening to hip-hop.