A-Trak Explains Why He’s the Mastermind Behind Two of Kanye’s Biggest Hits

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Thank you, A-Trak. Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Dominique Charriau/WireImage

Kanye has worked with a lot of people over the years, but one of his most important (and underrated) collaborators is A-Trak. What makes him so special to the Kanye oeuvre, you ask? Well, let the producer explain himself. He’s the latest to annotate a bunch of Kanye’s songs on Genius, including “Gold Digger,” “Stronger,” and “RoboCop,” all of which he had a hand in creating. Here A-Trak explains how those first two hits came to be, as well as the little gem that Kanye wouldn’t even know who Daft Punk is if it weren’t for him. Let’s all collectively thank A-Trak.

On “Gold Digger”:

We got back together to play the Sasquatch Festival, and were catching up in the trailer. He said, “Let me play you something. I put my vocals on all these songs.” 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 “Stronger”:

We got back together to play the Sasquatch Festival, and were catching up in the trailer. He said, “Let me play you something. I put my vocals on all these songs.” 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 “RoboCop”:

We got back together to play the Sasquatch Festival, and were catching up in the trailer. He said, “Let me play you something. I put my vocals on all these songs.” 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.

And if you’re still unconvinced of the power of A-Trak’s tweaks, here’s Kanye performing a very early and unfinished version of “Gold Digger” with John Legend in 2003.

A-Trak Annotates ‘Gold Digger’ and ‘Stronger’