Like Rick Rubin, Michael Chabon, and Michael Bolton before him, A-Trak has joined Genius' growing guild of big-name, certified annotators. The DJ, producer, and ultimate industry insider has marked up four songs—one of his own, a couple by Kanye West (who he used to tour with), and Cam's "Dipshits"—with worthwhile insights, or at least cute asides. For example: Kanye had never heard of Daft Punk until he heard "Touch It" on the radio, and A-Trak reunited Cam and Just Blaze. Check out more highlights below.
On Kanye West's "Gold Digger": "For "Gold Digger," [Kanye] had this rough version, but it felt too pop to him. He wanted to give it some hip-hop cred. I had an idea for a scratch, for the part where he raps "Get down girl, go 'head, get down." I knew which sample to use. He said, "I think it could be cool. We're going to LA this week to finish things up." But he was over budget, Def Jam wouldn't pay for any more flights for that album. Next thing you know, it's show time at Sasquatch. At the last minute, he gave me the track for "Gold Digger," because he wanted to perform it. I ended up live-auditioning. I pulled up the sample for "get down" and I scratched during the choruses, and as soon as we got off stage he was like "Alright, you're coming to LA, we gotta record this. I'll pay for the flights, I don't care."I went to L.A. and recorded the scratches, and the rest is history."
On Kanye West's "Stronger": "I gave him that sample. I'm the culprit. And I didn't want him to sample it, that's what's funny. It sort of happened because Swizz Beats sampled 'Technologic' for that Busta Rhymes record, 'Touch It.' We were on tour in Europe in 2006, spending a lot of hours on the bus listening to the radio. Kanye heard 'Touch It' and thought that beat was cool. I said, 'He just swooped up Daft Punk.' And Ye said, 'Who?' I just couldn't believe that Kanye had never heard Daft Punk."
On "Dipshits," with Cam'ron and feat. Dame Dash and Juelz Santana: The last piece of the puzzle was Just Blaze. As a fan of the classic era of Dipset, I had this fantasy of Cam and Just Blaze on a track together. I knew they hadn't recorded together in a good ten years. And I didn't really care what the reason was. A lot of the time these falling-outs are over one thing, and people don't talk for years. Sometimes I can bring people together who wouldn't do it otherwise, because all they need is someone from the outside to put in the call. A mediator. I'm great friends with Just Blaze, he's a friend of Fool's Gold and has been playing our events for years. So I hit him one day and said 'Hey Just, I've been recording with Cam. There's this one track that I think needs your touch.' And he said 'Man, you know we haven't worked together in years.' I asked if I could just play it for him. I went up to his spot in Harlem late one evening, and played him this song, and he was down to try it.
On "Push" Ft. Andrew Wyatt: I feel like electronic music has too many caricatures in every genre. People are either doing soaring balls-out EDM emotional ballads or like sushi-restaurant deep house or super connoisseur obscure British broken-beat kind of stuff. All that stuff is cool, I like it, but I just want to make songs.
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