Alain Macklovitch was 13 when he scratched his first record. The year was 1995, the turntable was his father's, and the mixer… well, he didn't have a mixer yet. But that problem was remedied soon enough, when he used his freshly earned Bar Mitzvah money to buy himself a used Technics 1200 turntable and, you guessed it, a mixer. In the months that followed, while the other kids were busy playing sports and watching Full House, he spent most of his after-school time locked up in his basement, practicing, listening to Pete Rock, DJ Premier and Jazzy Jeff records, studying videotapes and showing his new scratches to his big brother Dave.
Two years later, with nary an armpit hair in sight, the Montreal native was crowned DMC World Champion and invited to be an honorary member of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the celebrated Bay Area crew led by DJ Q-Bert and Mixmaster Mike. When that crew disbanded, he and Miami's DJ Craze joined forces as the front men of a new collective, the Allies. In the years that followed, A-Trak went on to win the 1999 & 2000 ITF World Championships, the 1999 Vestax World Extravaganza and the 2000 DMC Team Championships (with Craze). On top of being the youngest world champion, this made him the first DJ ever to win all three major titles (DMC, ITF and Vestax) and the first DJ to win five world championships. At the age of 18, Young Trizzle decided it was time to retire from battling.
In the turntablist scene, A-Trak established himself as "the DJ's DJ", building groundbreaking routines that managed to push the envelope technically while remaining appealing to the untrained ear. He developed a revolutionary notation system, which allowed him to write scores of scratch patterns and solos. And his DJ battle records quickly became cult favorites, used and abused in competitions around the globe. Meanwhile, with his broski Dave 1 (now of Chromeo fame), he formed the indie hip hop label Audio Research, which built a steady reputation for putting out critically acclaimed vinyl releases. A-Trak has also collaborated with Peanut Butter Wolf's Stones Throw imprint, producing a 7-inch which was later included on the Jukebox 45s compilation.
From 1998 on, he toured constantly across the world, criss-crossing North America and Europe repeatedly, hitting Japan five times and Australia every summer. He has performed in such far reaches as mainland China, Iceland, South Africa and Hawaii. To this day, you can catch him wowing audiences at Coachella, the Red Bull Music Academy, Audiotistic or the Montreal Jazz Fest one day, and then tearing up the grimiest hip hop club the next.
A-Trak's live sets bridge the gap between boundary-pushing turntablism and debauched party-rocking. He hits you with jaw-dropping DJ routines, using a sampler and effect pedals for live production. But at the same time, he keeps people cutting up the rug with eclectic sets of bootleg-heavy hip hop, crunk, booty and classic electro, dancehall, 80's funk and anything in between. Plus he tops it all off with his signature comedic comments on the mic.
In the summer of 2004, Kanye West caught A-Trak performing at a record store in London and quickly invited him to become his DJ. They embarked on a 40-city North American tour, performing in front of sold-out 20,000 seat stadiums for two months, and then hit Europe and Japan. When Kanye came home to hit the lab, he reached out to Trizzy for some cuts on Common's critically praised album Be as well as his sophomore opus Late Registration. They are currently back on the road promoting this instant classic.
All of A-Trak's worldwide advenctures have been captured on video and are compiled on his DVD entitled Sunglasses Is A Must, to be released in early 2006. He is also in the midst of recording his first album, which will showcase his distinctive style of scratch-based and sample-heavy production as well as cameos from some of his favorite emcees, from the Dipset to MF Doom. A-Trak is one of the only DJs to truly reconcile technical experimentation with cold getting dumb on the dancefloor. And by all accounts, the best has yet to come.
No more than three producers (Dr. Dre, RZA, and Prince Paul) can test DJ Premier's status as the most important trackmaster of the '90s, and no style is more distinctive. Aggressive and raw, a Premier track was an instantly recognizable soundclash of battling loops and heavy scratching -- all of them perfectly timed -- that evoked the sound of Brooklyn better than anyone. Besides helming tracks for his main concern, Gang Starr, since their 1989 debut, Premier's productions appeared on many of the East Coast's most important records: Nas' Illmatic, the Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, Jeru the Damaja's The Sun Rises in the East, and Mos Def's Black on Both Sides.
Premier, born Chris Martin, spent time in Brooklyn and Houston while growing up, and studied computer science at Prairie View A&M outside Houston. Known as Waxmaster C, he'd already learned to play a variety of instruments and also managed a record store. After moving back to Brooklyn, around 1987-1988 he came into contact with Guru, a Boston native. Guru had already formed a group named Gang Starr two years earlier (and recorded with the 45 King), but his former partner, Mike Dee, had returned to Boston. DJ Premier and Guru signed to Wild Pitch and released a debut single ("Manifest") and album (No More Mr. Nice Guy). Gang Starr's interest in melding hip-hop with jazz informed the record, and they were invited to add to the soundtrack for Spike Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. Their subsequent work was much more mature and unified, with a pair of instant East Coast classics (1991's Step in the Arena and 1992's Daily Operation) arriving in short order.
DJ Premier had been working with other vocalists for years, and his productions for the 1990 landmark Funky Technician by Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth cemented his status as one of the best producers around. He soon began recording exclusively at D&D Studios, a spot soon to become a shrine for hip-hop fans (thanks in large part to his own work). The year 1994 was a huge one for Premier, probably the best year for any rap producer ever; in addition to dropping another Gang Starr classic, Hard to Earn, his productions appeared on five-star, all-time classics by Nas (Illmatic), the Notorious B.I.G. (Ready to Die), and Jeru the Damaja (The Sun Rises in the East), as well as Big Daddy Kane and Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LeFonque project. Though his workload dropped off considerably during the late '90s, he still managed to place tracks on three of the first four Jay-Z albums, and returned in force with the new millennium, including shots with Common, D.I.T.C., D'Angelo, Jadakiss, and Snoop Dogg. John Bush, Rovi
These world-renown turntablists, formerly known as the X-Men, officially became the X-Ecutioners when they made the leap from battle-DJs to recording artists in their own right. Founded in 1989 with the stated intention of dethroning the reigning battle-DJs in the local hip hop DJ scene, the prestigious establishment set to become the most dominant forces in the history of the hip hop DJ. These New York natives can count themselves among a select handful of DJs (including their west coast peers the now defunct Invisibl Skratch Piklz) who spearheaded the turntablist movement, by taking the classic hip-hop techniques of mixing and cutting into a whole new realm of musical improvisation.
In 2004 Roc Raida and Total Eclipse, welcomed the genre-elevating talents of turntablists DJ Boogie Blind (2000 Vestax World Champ) and DJ Precision (Beatdown World Champ 2002) as official members of the ever-evolving super DJ group.