Whenever two great minds in music come together, the result is usually spectacular. Whether or not their collaborations appeal to their respective fan bases, who are often hesitant to support the distancing of these artists from their own personal sound, the mere concept of a bridge connecting two separate realms is enough to make music lovers like us giddy. One such pairing, more than 10 years in the making, has been between Kanye West and A-Trak: two men who I certainly don’t need to waste text-space introducing.
A-Trak recently spoke out in an interview about his history of influencing some of Kanye’s most well-known beats such as “Gold Digger” and “Stronger,” songs that you probably know by heart even if you don’t follow Mr. West. In it, he reveals stories of live-auditioning “Gold Digger” on stage, as well as introducing Yeezy to Daft Punk for the first time. Coming in simultaneously is previously-vaulted footage of Kanye circa 2003, performing an earlier version of “Gold Digger” with John Legend. Read some of A-Trak’s insider tales below and check out Kanye rapping in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups t-shirt:
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.
We were on tour in Europe in 2006, spending a lot of hours on the bus listening to the radio. Kanye heard ‘Touch It’ (Busta Rhymes) 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. Later on, we were planning a tour after that and we were pulling up samples and things to add over songs in the live performances. I pulled up the acapella for “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and he just looked at me like ‘There’s an acapella?’ And said ‘Yeah, it’s on the 12-inch, everyone has it.’ He said, ‘Do you know how much we struggled to mix that f***ing beat because I sampled it with the drums in it from the breakdown? You mean to tell me that there was a f***ing acapella?’ In the Daft Punk original, there’s a breakdown with just the little compressed drums and the vocals. He sampled that and put his drums over it. The big challenge was how to work his drums around the drums in the sample. That was funny.
For a look at A-trak’s entire interview and extended stories, go here.
Photo Credit: 2DopeBoyz