Known as one of the most stylish turntablists in the game, A-Trak has been messing with the fashion industry for a minute now. Collaborations with key players in the street-wear industry such as Zoo York, Kid Robot and Crooks & Castles are all set to launch within months. With the momentum of three new album releases, a new record label on the horizon and the success of his latest album/DVD Sunglasses is a Must, Stussy has agreed to drop a signature pair of A-Trak specs. And thatâ€™s just the start of it. At 25, with 10 years under his belt in the music industry, thereâ€™s no telling where this kid might go.
Format: How would you define your style?
A-Trak: I knew you were gonna ask me this question, they told me it was for a fashion thing. I donâ€™t really define it as this one look or whatever â€“ Iâ€™m so bad at this. Letâ€™s go from the bottom up. Iâ€™m pretty much always checking for classic and classy sneakers. I like hi-tops, a lot — like hi-top 180s or Jordan AF1 style. I think jeans are the first thing you might over look when getting into a certain style. Iâ€™m always trying to get a key pair of jeans that you might not really know if youâ€™re not super into denim. I try to find the perfect fit for the sneakers Iâ€™m wearing. I donâ€™t rock that many pairs. If I have a rotation of three really ill pairs that I think are good for me then Iâ€™ll just stick to that. I like to buy a pair of jeans that Iâ€™m in love with. I like raw denims that fit just right and Iâ€™ll just stick with those and go with them for a long ass time.
Format: What brands do you like?
A-Trak: Nudie, Neighborhood, Rag â€˜n Bone. I was in to Roca for a bit but theyâ€™re kind of baggy and this year isnâ€™t so much into that, but I still like them a lot. T-shirts, I’m always going for something kind of flashy and original design. People that checkout my pics on my website look at my T-shirts are always like, â€˜Yo, whatâ€™s your closet like?â€™ I like the T-shirt to be the centerpiece of what Iâ€™m wearing. And, Iâ€™m always rocking a fitted hat. Every day of my life thereâ€™s a New Era on my head. To sum it up, I like it clean cut yet flashy. A little bit into the street-wear, but also in to the classic early `90s Beastie Boys.
â€œWhen you are subject to that much visibility that increases in your head, youâ€™re like every fucking minute my shit’s gotta be on point!â€
Format: Has touring with Kanye had an effect on your style?
A-Trak: I think I started buying more clothes when I was touring with him. Also, maybe a question with how old I was and getting in to that phase where I was more conscious about how I present myself. I definitely donâ€™t think I dress like Kanye, I donâ€™t think that since traveling with him that Iâ€™ve felt, â€˜Oh, I need to rock this brand or that brand.â€™ But itâ€™s like when Iâ€™m touring with him and weâ€™re liable to be on TV or in pictures on any given day and youâ€™re traveling with people that pop tags all the time, well if you already have that mentality of wanting to stay Gâ€™d up and wanting to have fly shit on any given day. When you are subject to that much visibility that increases in your head, youâ€™re like every fucking minute my shit’s gotta be on point! But at the same time when you get used to that itâ€™s not really an issue anymore. Itâ€™s more just in the back of your head when you are getting dressed in the morning, but itâ€™s not like a formula or anything. I donâ€™t want to make it seem like itâ€™s calculated.
Format: Do you feel that there is some kind of uniform that you have to rock for hip-hop or is that changing as things get more globalized?
A-Trak: Well, I think that the street-wear phenomenon has gotten so big, that itâ€™s kind of funny, that in any city in the world on any continent you can go into a little shop and find the sneaker with limited color ways, and a handful of T-shirt brands and bandanas or whatever else. And of course, the all-over hoodies, how can I forget. Thatâ€™s been the sign of the last year. That to me looks like a uniform, so Iâ€™m trying not to get too into that. I went almost two years straight with a fitted hat, sunglasses and a fancy T-shirt. That was like a uniform to me. But that was also, with the whole Sunglasses Is A Must concept â€“ it had a little concept behind it.
Format: Sunglasses Is A Must, the title of your DVD, came from a quote from one of your boys. Do you have a thing for shades or was it just a quote that worked?
A-Trak: Well, Iâ€™d be lying if I said I had 100 pairs in my drawer, but Iâ€™m into it. Of people like me, DJs, and people that like the music I play, I think I was one of the early ones to just really rock that a lot, and come out with that name, and make a statement like that. Boom this is the shit! And that became a bit of a uniform. Now everyone is kind of rocking this.
Format: So what can you say about the new Stussy shades?
A-Trak: Thatâ€™s very early. There isnâ€™t anything really to say about it. Theyâ€™re in early phases of development.
Format: What is more ready to go then?
A-Trak: Well, whatâ€™s been happening in the next few months, is that, well, Sunglasses Is A Must started as the name of my new DVD. When I first started working on it, maybe three years ago, it was purely a name that I liked. And when it finally came out, I did a tour to promote it with some shirts from Kiser. When I told him to do shirtsâ€“thatâ€™s the same time as the Cody Hudson ones came outâ€“when I was reaching out to designers, I didnâ€™t want to do a generic tour shirt. I wanted to make the kind of shirt that I would buy and wear every day. I reached out to designers I like and already wear, and I was like, do whatever tickles your fancy in relation to sunglasses, donâ€™t even write A-Trak there. To me, I donâ€™t think as many people would wear a T-shirt or a hat that says A-Trak. Well maybe some people would, but more would be interested in a brand, even though they know itâ€™s related to me, theyâ€™re not walking around and saying â€˜Iâ€™m a fan of this man.â€™ I think itâ€™s better this way. So people can know me but not putting my name on their chest. It turned in to Sunglasses Is A Must, because of the umbrella name that I can collaborate with other artists with and put out some merch. In the future, thereâ€™s the Kiser one, the Cody Hudson one, one with Crooks & Castles.
â€œI wanted to make the kind of shirt that I would buy and wear every day. I reached out to designers I like and already wear, and I was like, do whatever tickles your fancy in relation to sunglasses, donâ€™t even write A-Trak there.â€
Format: Is the Crooks & Castles tee similar to the Kiser?
A-Trak: Yeah, itâ€™s a collab between Crooks & Castles, Good Music, and Sunglasses. You know, Good Music is Kanyeâ€™s label with the Angel wearing shades. So thereâ€™s that, and Iâ€™ve got more shirts coming out with six-pack, which is the brand that did the Cody Hudson, from France. And my boy Dust La Rock that does the website has some really dope designs, too. And thatâ€™s just for the shirts. Thereâ€™s NE giving me a Capture The Flag hat which is limited to 144 and comes in a box. Thereâ€™s a lot of stuff coming from Zoo York and many other items that I donâ€™t want to divulge yet. Sunglasses is coming out a bit later. Kid Robot, Iâ€™m doing a toy with them and Dust La Rock.
Format: Is that going to be like the Q-Bert dunny?
A-Trak: No, no, itâ€™s not even me. Itâ€™s based on my website and Dustâ€™s characters, psychedelic animals. Weâ€™re collaborating with Kid Robot to bring those to life.
Well, I think that the street-wear phenomenon has gotten so big, that itâ€™s kind of funny, that in any city in the world on any continent you can go into a little shop and find the sneaker with limited color ways, and a handful of T-shirt brands and bandanas or whatever else.
Format: What’s it like working with Kanye?
A-Trak: Kanye and I are into the same thing like fashion and movies, itâ€™s definitely a good working relationship. I think that over the last two and a half years that I’ve worked with him there’s been more and more of a trust there where he gives me a very central role in the live shows â€“ itâ€™s centered on him being backed by me. Or when itâ€™s with other musicians they just kind of play over what we are structuring. And to get to collaborate on some of the records, whether it be “Gold Digger” or the Common stuff, or something in the works now. And just to get that visibility, to be part of the whole assault that kind of took over the whole media in the last two years is good motivation for me. Just seeing how hard those dudes work, and the pace that all that goes at forces me to keep on my own toes.
Format: Ok, letâ€™s talk about your new releases.
A-Trak: So, I ended up the year with Sunglasses Is A Must and while touring with The Rub and I recorded a CD. That CD is out now, itâ€™s a live recording. That CD was a big opportunity for me to show the type of DJing that Iâ€™m really getting into and even beyond DJing â€“ Iâ€™m into merging the party element with the creative element. When I was DJing on that tour, itâ€™s definitely a party rocking set; itâ€™s not a scratch set, but there’s a lot of live remixing going on, live looping, a few routines here and there, but itâ€™s all meshed in to a real DJ set. The music Iâ€™m working on is always in that same foundation.
Iâ€™ve got this mixtape that Iâ€™m working on that is really more than a mixtape in the sense that itâ€™s all blends and remixes that I produced and thatâ€™s being put out with OBEY for SXSW in March. Thatâ€™s called Dirty South Dance. Itâ€™s somewhere between blends and remixes. Itâ€™s more produced than a blend, but Iâ€™m always starting with someone elseâ€™s song so wouldnâ€™t call it a remix fully. Taking electronic, dance, electro thatâ€™s got a good beat. Matching up-tempo good dance beats, with southern half time acapellas. Producing a bit and adding other elements in to it, getting it more structured. I made 15 of those and Iâ€™m making a whole mix of it. And thatâ€™s a lot of the stuff that I play in DJ mixes. So Iâ€™m putting this out to make people hear something that Iâ€™m really trying to develop.
The album is basically just me working on production and taking it one track at a time and mixing it all together. There are guest rappers on maybe half the songs but a lot of the other stuff is really more up-tempo. Itâ€™s basically me taking this background of scratch music and taking it to the production style that Iâ€™m in to now. Like, scratch music has been really experimental in the past. Last year I had a Little Brother joint that I put out that was made with me manipulating vinyl, now those are straight rap records. But yeah, itâ€™s definitely not a compilation style DJ album. The focal point is entirely on my production. If thereâ€™s a song I feel necessary to get a guest, I will, but the sound that I give my production is very sample heavy, very rich and layered, and at the same time, Iâ€™m totally drum driven, cuz I want to produce some shit that I can play out. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s holding the whole thing together.
So Iâ€™m working on that. That will come out a bit later in the year. Working on Kid Sister record, GLC record. Taking some projects that I feel really strongly about and building on it. And one thing I havenâ€™t really announced yet is that Iâ€™m starting a new record label, to be announced in the next week or so. Iâ€™ll be putting out a lot of the stuff Iâ€™m working on.