A-Trak Talks Fool's Gold Day Off's Last-Minute Venue Change, Migos' Abridged Set & His Song of Summer '16 Pick

Steve Garfinkel
A-Trak photographed at Fool's Gold Day Off in New York City on Aug. 20, 2016. 

The day before the seventh annual Fool's Gold Day Off festival, doubts pervaded DJ/producer/Fool's Gold label head A-Trak's mind. He almost didn’t have a show after a helicopter was stranded at the event's usual location, the 34th Street heliport. A-Trak and his team managed to secure a new location within hours of showtime, taking the show to Studio Square beer garden in Queens, New York, on Saturday night. Despite the venue drama, the Canadian DJ was pleased with the overall turn of events.

"The performances were incredible," he told Billboard after the show, which featured a line-up comprised of Fool's Gold act Leaf, turntablist Gaslamp Killer, Lil Yachty, Juelz Santana and Migos. "For me to watch, on one hand, Juelz, a legend of New York doing all his classics to Lil Yachty, who I've known since his first mixtape and is now such a phenomenon was amazing."

The scorching heat and pungent smell of alcohol didn’t stop A-Trak from bringing out youngsters like Dyme-A-Duzin to perform "That Chicken" or MadeinTYO (pronounced "Made In Tokyo") to break into his Hot 100 hit "Uber Everywhere." Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty kept the momentum going with a scintillating performance of "Minnesota," "Wanna Be Us," and "1 Night," urging “the old people” to get up and dance as the younger crowd chanted his name in unison. Harlem’s very own Juelz Santana set the stage ablaze with a fiery performance of "I’m Ready." Mesmerized by the sounds of pure nostalgia, fans chanted every word to the Diplomat classics "Oh Boy," "Dipset Anthem," and "Hey Ma."

Migos also brought ATL to Astoria, only performing a handful of songs including "Pipe It Up" and "Keys to the Street." Their performance was curtailed when authorities chose to end the event and the rap trio was forced to exit the stage 10 minutes into their set. Though disappointed by the abrupt end to the turn-up, A-Trak still looked at the bigger picture. "We got as far as we could," he said. "Considering that last night, there was a period of hours when we didn't even have a show, I'm actually happy that we did as much as we did today."

The master of ceremonies then sat down with Billboard to discuss the last-minute change of venue, the status of his and Cam’ron’s Federal Reserve EP and his song of summer '16.

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Many thought that show wasn't going to happen considering you almost lost the venue. How did you lock in a location in less than 24 hours?

The venue was supposed to be at a heliport. We got a call yesterday around 6:30 to 7 p.m. that a helicopter was stranded with a mechanical failure on the heliport. My whole team didn't even tell me right away. They waited two hours to tell me because everyone at first was like, 'Move it.' Apparently, there's very complicated FAA rules on what to do when a helicopter is broken down and there's engine damage. You can't just move it. Our own team was asking, 'We can get a f--king crane. We'll get a truck. We can move it.' You're not allowed to apparently. We even tracked down the company that operates the helicopter and he said the same thing. There has to be FAA certified mechanics to come and handle the situation. Even then, they were like it's not going to be moved off-site until the show. So we were like, 'Can we build a fence around it and still do a show?' They said, 'Nah, it's illegal.'

With the venue being a heliport, once something is wrong there, they're just saying, 'We're sorry. You can't do your event tomorrow anymore.' So my management and Brunch Bounce, the company that helped us promote the show and find the venue in the first place, went into overdrive yesterday evening and started looking for every available venue in New York. By around midnight, it got narrowed down to this spot here [Studio Gardens] just in terms of comparable capacity because we know how many tickets we have sold and were obviously trying to pick something that's not too far, but at this point, something outdoors.

How did you deliver the news to Migos that their set had to be cut short?

The conversation was just to explain to them that, a., it wasn't our decision to shut it down and that I appreciate them for coming, and b., from everything that everyone was telling me all day, this wasn't even about pulling out Migos. It was about the event itself getting cut off at one point because it was just getting too hectic security-wise. Because I'm an artist too, I know what it's like to have the plug pulled on me. I've been DJing for 20 years. Anything imaginable that can happen during a set has happened to me so I know what it's like to have your set cut off. It's deflating and it's frustrating. You ask yourself, 'Why did I get cut off?' So I just wanted to explain to them that our event got cut off. Unfortunately, it just happened during Migos' set. I just wanted to clarify to them and say that we've been dealing with threats from the police and fire departments before the doors opened today. We kept the bands up as long as possible.

Having Juelz Santana as a performer at this year's Day Off, you definitely have strong ties with Dipset, especially, Cam'ron. Do you think your joint Federal Reserve project with Cam will see the light of day? 

We might. There's not a concrete plan right now. Basically, we started working on the Federal Reserve project like two years ago. We kind of hit a swing of things where we recorded a few songs in a short period of time and we had a project practically ready. Then our schedules became complicated. He went on tour and then I went on tour, then we were both on tour. Next thing you know; a bunch of months went by where we weren't in the same place at the same time anymore. With that, you kind of lose the momentum of a project by not linking up and recording. I've kept in touch with Cam and he's not only an amazing rapper, but just a very cool dude. I don't know what the real answer is to whether we'll finish the stuff we recorded a few years ago or do something new, or not but we've talked about it here and there. It's still possible because there's a mutual respect there.

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You've definitely done a fair share of remixes, most notably, Kanye West's "Stronger." If you could pick a song from his recent album The Life of Pablo to remix, which song would you choose and why?

That's tricky because I feel like the way he constructed those songs, they sort of were like patchworks and all of these abrupt changes, it's almost like he remixed himself. I love "Feedback" personally. I think it would be easy to say "Father, Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" because that's the turn-up joint. With "Feedback," Kanye played me that beat before it came out and I just really liked that beat. So maybe I can just do something crazy with that beat. My instinct is to not even touch those songs because they were so good. [Laughs] He made a beautiful work of art. I don't think I could do anything better with those songs. This fall, I'm actually releasing a remix compilation because I've been doing remixes for 10 years. Just a keep an eye out for that.

What's your favorite summer '16 record?

I would probably say A Boogie [Wit da Hoodie's] "My Shit". I just love the vibe of it. It's got that magic. When you say "summer record," I'm gonna say something kind of vibrant, up-beat and bright.

Lastly, if you could describe this year's Fool's Gold Day Off fest in one word, what would it be?

Legendary. That's how it felt. You know what? There might actually be a better word. I would say "The Culture." When I went from Yachty to Juelz, I remember watching the connection that people have with his music and I instantly thought, "This is the culture."