The History of Fool's Gold in Ten Songs, According to A-Trak
Plus, check out The Chainsmokers' remix of A-Trak's "Push."
Last week, we asked Fool's Gold co-founder Nick Catchdubs to take us through the most influential releases in the Brooklyn label's colorful seven-year history. Check out his selections here. Now, we've got A-Trak up to tell his side of the story—along with an exclusive Chainsmokers remix of A-Trak's latest track "Push" below.
I moved to New York from Montreal in 2006—the year everything started happening. The whole Northeast was involved in a new kind of sonic cross-breeding. It wasn't about genres anymore, as long as it got the party going. You had Spank Rock in Baltimore, Hollertronix/Diplo in Philly, and Fool's Gold in Chicago. This was the era of indie dance.
In New York, there were a few gritty venues that helped foster that scene. In Studio B, you could catch Crookers, Ed Banger, Switch, MSTRKRFT, Chromeo, and Para One shaping people's ears. Clubs like Love were doing the same thing. The best way to describe these places is "sweaty and distorted." This was the time Armand [Van Helden] and I became friends, and we would hit the town to check out all this new music.
2006 was also the year the Kid Sister project started shaping up. I remember asking Nick if I should release Kid Sister on Audio Research, a label I'd started with my brother in Montreal. Nick and I liked to play a kind of fantasy league with music. "Why doesn't this guy work with that guy?" That kind of conversation. "Should I start something fresh just for this?" I asked Nick. That quickly turned into another question: "What if we did something together?" That's how the Fool's Gold seed was planted. After we settled on a name and made a game plan, the label started operating at the top of 2007.
Nick's already done his picks of our seminal releases—many of which overlap with mine. But now it's my turn to tell our story.
The song that caught everyone's attention: Kid Sister - "Pro Nails"
I remember being on tour with Kanye in New Zealand. He rented out a studio with Common and I was sitting in the corner working on this beat on my headphones. What started with "Let me hear what you're working on" resulted in him adding his own verse. (Later on we got a remix from Rusko that also became quite huge. It was possibly our only dubstep record.)
The song that went platinum: Kid Cudi - "Day N Nite"
Plain Pat, who I know through Kanye, discovered Kid Cudi and sent me a couple songs. Cudi started coming to all our events and was extremely keen and wide-eyed. I was drawn to "Day N Nite" right away. Then Crookers sent us a message on MySpace asking for stems. About six months later, I noticed their remix was getting a ton of play from DJs all over. Jim Jones did a freestyle over the original that got on Hot 97 in New York. Next thing you know, the song was everywhere.
The song that got us into Dutch house: Treasure Fingers - "Cross The Dancefloor" (Laidback Luke Remix)
AJ was another signing we found on MySpace. At that time, the subsections of dance music were really separated, and Dutch house wasn't a thing yet. We started noticing tracks by this guy Laidback Luke from Holland. His sound was more commercial than ours, but there was something undeniably dope about him. We asked him to remix "Cross The Dancefloor," and he build a bridge which literally didn't exist before. I remember telling him he used too much white noise—to me, that made it sound commercial. Tiga used to make fun of the "hiss" on those kinds of songs. He actually started a fake label called Hiss Records and the logo was a snake... but I digress. Times have changed.
The song that woke everyone up: Duck Sauce - "aNYway"
Sure, "Barbra Streisand" was the big hit but I'm particularly attached to "aNYway" because it was our first baby. Duck Sauce was an experiment—a left turn for our scene. Everyone was making the hardest, most distorted electro, so when we came out with this song, it was like dumping water on people's heads. From 2manydjs to Diplo and David Guetta, the whole DJ world turned their heads and said, "Yep, we're down."
The song that merged indie dance and big room: Congorock - "Babylon"
This was actually Congorock's second release; his first one was much more left field, mixing video game music with Crookers-style fidget beats. With "Babylon" his sound became huge—and was the first testament to scenes merging. To give you an example, I already knew Steve Angello just from being friends, but Steve wasn't really playing Fool's Gold records in his sets. "Babylon" was the first time he did. He also volunteered to give us his own edit to sell. I could see the walls between indie dance and big room coming down.
The song that sparked future R&B: Kingdom - "Mindreader"
This record is important to me because it signaled a change in musical tides. All this current "future-R&B" stuff comes from Kingdom and the Night Slug guys. He also represented a new mold of artist in the way that he was also a graphic designer and made his own videos. His vision was wider than our previous signings.
The song that landed on every year-end list: Danny Brown - "XXX"
Nick and I first heard Danny's music on blogs, just like anyone else. He still had braids and dressed pretty conservatively at that time. Rap heads were starting to take notice. Sean Price was a big supporter of his, but then so were Das Racist. I remember hanging with Q-Tip one day and somehow it came up that he was feeling this new cat, Danny Brown. I told him, "That's funny, we're just about to sign him." He gave me a big smile of approval.
Working with Danny was interesting because he has a very modern approach to making music. We had no idea where he was getting his beats—turns out he essentially was getting them from Twitter. Also, everyone thinks he's this crazy dude but he's actually one of the most professional rappers I've ever worked with.
Right before XXX came out I brought him to Shade45 on Tony Touch's radio show and he did a freestyle. It was one of my first times actually seeing him rap in person. I saw his facial expression with these googly eyes looking at the ceiling while he rapped and I thought, "This guy is a star."
The song we almost hired a domino team for: A-Trak & Tommy Trash - "Tuna Melt"
I made this four-song EP, and for the lead track we decided to make a completely abstract video. I've always been a fan of conceptual videos. Dance music videos don't need to make any type of sense, because the music doesn't make any sense. There's no message in a club track. It just becomes a pretext to create a visual, and often the most absurd contrasts create the best results.
My manager found these guys who make crazy elaborate domino setups and we spent weeks trying to contact them. We came very close to hiring a school in Cologne, Germany that had an expert domino team. Finally we found someone, and shot this video in a Victorian house in Minneapolis. We ended up getting a VMA nomination for it!
The song that cemented us a strong rap label: Run the Jewels – "Run the Jewels"
Certain releases just fall on your lap. I've known El-P from back my Audio Research days. We were both very active in that late-90s indie hip-hop scene. I got a text one day from El. He said he was finishing this album with Killer Mike and was thinking of releasing it for free to go with a tour. He liked the way we handled Danny's XXX album and wanted us to do something similar here. We said yes, and it resulted in one of the best rap releases of last year, hands down. This LP, along with Danny's success and the strong rap vibe of our Day Off events, really cemented Fool's Gold as a strong rap label, regardless of how many techno records we put out.
The song that brought together a dream team: Federal Reserve (Cam'ron & A-Trak) - "Dipsh*ts"
Who wouldn't dream of releasing a Cam'ron record? The funny thing is, Just Blaze has been down with Fool's Gold for many years. We had this long-running wish to get him and Cam back in the lab for a record. Well, it finally happened. What started with me calling Damon Dash to get Cam on just one song resulted in a full collaborative project. For this particular song I managed to get Just Blaze to add his Midas touch, even though those two hadn't rekindled in ten years. This was my first record on heavy Funkmaster Flex rotation. Hearing those bombs was a big deal for me!