A-Trak, real name Alain Macklovitch, has been at the top of his game since he was a teenager. In 1997, at age 15, he won the DMC World DJ Championship and started an underground hip-hop group with his brother, Dave 1 of disco titans Chromeo. By 2004, he was DJing for Kanye West’s first two headline tours. Armed with a distinct taste for exquisite music, A-Trak went on to found Fool’s Gold Records in 2007 with Nick Catchdubs, which became home to the likes of Kid Cudi, Danny Brown, Anna Lunoe, Brockhampton, Chromeo and Run The Jewels.
Throughout this adventure, A-Trak has also been producing and composing his own thumping dance tracks. Whether he’s producing solo, with Armand Van Helden as Duck Sauce, or collaborating with other tastemakers in the scene, he’s always bringing the goods to your headphones. Now’s the perfect time to put on your Nura device and feel the full weight of A-Trak’s bangers.
A-Trak’s 2009 flip of Heads Will Roll has become an era-defining classic. As well as being a stand-out track in the party film Project X, the remix has accumulated over 200 million collective streams on YouTube alone. A-Trak takes the main chords from the original and chops them up into a defiant new progression, with an infectious, sliding synth bass laying underneath. When it all comes together in the chorus with a huge beat and Karen O’s vocals, it’s hard not to fist-pump the air.
You know this one, right? Duck Sauce’s Barbra Streisand took the world by storm in 2010, with an unmistakable vocal hook so catchy it’s almost annoying. A-Trak and Armand Van Helden had only released one song before this – we’ll get to it shortly – making this a seriously impressive sophomore single. It went platinum in five countries, and radio shows across the globe played it regularly.
The track is named after the American singer and actress (for reasons unknown, even by Duck Sauce) and repeats the name throughout on top of a sample from Boney M’s Gotta Go Home. The music video is pretty iconic, too. See how many superstars you can spot:
In case you didn’t get it from the previous track, A-Trak and Armand van Helden’s Duck Sauce is all about disco house. Huge, stomping drums atop groovy samples with vocal lines that you can’t help but sing along to. They delivered exactly that with their 2009 debut, aNYway, which samples I Can Do It (Anyway You Want) by Final Edition. The duo places a heavy focus on the lyrics “Time after time, I told myself I've got nothing to lose”, with harmonies layering up as the verse goes on. aNYway still gets played out by plenty of disco house DJs, and it’s a surefire way to get people back on their feet and onto the dancefloor.
Fool’s Gold Records is all about supporting new talent and going against the grain in pursuit of unique music. And that’s exactly what A-Trak did on Money Makin’ with Dillon Francis. Released in 2012 when Dillon Francis was lesser-known, the collab combines the pair’s weird and wonderful styles. Bright synths chords, brostep-style basslines, a repeating vocal line, and a head-bopping four-to-the-floor beat are all rife in this track. Money Makin’ doesn’t really fit into any genre – much like A-Trak himself. It’s got a pretty wacky music video, too.
A-Trak shows off his clever sampling abilities in his 2020 track with Ferreck Dawn. Although this likely takes a little inspiration from A-Trak’s Duck Sauce productions, his ear for catchy melodies shines through on Coming Home. The smooth house track is built around Darondo’s slow 1972 soul track, Didn't I, which has probably never been imagined as a groovy dance hit until A-Trak got his hands on it. As usual, the vocal line in the track will stick in your head for a few days – sorry!
Given his previous success with remixes of music by Daft Punk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Justice, Martin Solveig, Alesso, and The Rapture, it’s not surprising that Disclosure enlisted A-Trak for their 2015 album Caracal. A-Trak took on Magnets ft. Lorde and transformed the slow electropop track into an uplifting, piano-led house banger. He throws in pitched-down vocals, heavy bass synths and dramatic build-ups for good measure, too. This one’s perfect for working out, and you’ll probably find it in a few gym playlists.
Let’s take it back to the beginning. In 1997, A-Trak won the DMC World Championship at aged 15 with a beat-juggling sequence that still stands up well today. That historical performance has been uploaded to YouTube, where you can see A-Trak’s humour, attitude and skill flourishing from an early age. The DJ still exhibits his turntablist moves in various mixes today, and it’s always a treat to see him get adventurous with the decks, but watching his first championship win seems never to get old.
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