We sat down with DJ Trackstar and talked about DJing, Run The Jewels, and his brand RAP FAN. Check out the Rap Fan x Daylight Curfew Collection here


What is the origin story of RAP FAN?

I've always been somewhat entrepreneurial and business-minded, so during the first Killer Mike/El-P tour in 2012, pre-RTJ, I decided I wanted to come up with some merch I could sell to supplement what I was making DJing. 

In trying to come up with a brand, I didn't really want to just promote my name/logo since most folks haven't heard of me. I tried to think about something that I knew I'd be good with long-term, nothing trendy or out of my character, and I kept coming back to the idea that the most enduring, unchanging thing in my life over the past twenty years is my identity as a rap fan. 

I went through a couple designs, and then my guy Tech Supreme did the current logo with the box, simple and clear. I've obviously been very fortunate to gain exposure running around the globe with Mike and El, and I really appreciate everyone who supports--I love talking to supporters online or at shows, because we always immediately have a common ground in our love of hip hop.


When and how did you start DJing?

In high school (in Wisconsin) I got really obsessed with music in general and hip hop specifically, and started collecting records. I had a turntable and made some pause tapes, but didn't really consider DJing at that point. When I got to college in St Louis, the first building I walked into on campus was the radio station, KWUR 90.3FM, and I was in absolute awe of the huge wall of hip hop records. I immediately decided I was going to do a radio show, if nothing else so I could listen to all those records.

After I graduated, I stayed in St Louis another six years because I'd become completely immersed in the local hip hop scene--making mixtapes, throwing shows, mentoring youth and working with the talented MCs and DJs I was meeting. I moved to Cali for a couple years, ended up working with Killer Mike through the most amazing circumstances, eventually moving to Atlanta and then RTJ happened.


What makes a RAP FAN, and how has hip-hop shaped your life/career?

It's funny because I get a lot of folks who want to impose their definition of what a rap fan is or should be, based on their preferences and perceptions of hip hop, but I definitely see it as an all-inclusive thing. You don't have to listen to the same artists that I do, or even appreciate and value the same things about hip hop that I do. The music and culture gives different things to different people, and that's great with me. If hip hop means a lot to you, and it influences how you see the world, to me that makes you a RAP FAN. Even if you think my favorite rapper sucks, or vice versa.

In terms of how it shaped my life/career....I'd say in damn near every imaginable way. Hip hop captivated me as a music and as a culture, and I wanted to experience it and learn everything about it that I could. That pursuit opened up my eyes in incredible ways and sent me down many paths that I didn't even know were there and taught me so much about the world...hip hop provided a perspective and a lens through which to see and understand society.

On top of that, I owe my career--and the amazing experiences I've had traveling the world and the friends I've made from different places and cultures--entirely to hip hop. So I'm eternally grateful for hip hop in many ways.


Are there other genres, artists, media, individuals that inspire or influence you?

Oh man so many...outside of straight up rap, I've always listened to a ton of trip hop/instrumental hip hop type stuff--DJ Shadow is a hero of mine and I've played his first album damn near weekly for twenty years, so when Mike and El worked on his new album and we performed with him at Coachella that was unreal. I dip my toes into a lot of other genres at times, mostly a lot of older jazz and soul.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly hip hop ones like Juan Epstein and Combat Jack but also Marc Maron and a few others--I love hearing people I admire tell their stories, and learning how they became so amazing.  

Last but not least, my wife makes jewelry for a living, and watching her art and her business progress over the last decade has been inspiring for sure.


Most memorable moments of being in Run The Jewels so far? 

Man...the whole ride has been so crazy, it's hard to pick out just a couple memorable moments. Both years of Coachella were incredible, for the crowd response as well as the amazing guests we brought onto the stage...playing festivals in Australia was amazing, I never would have imagined rap music would take me so far from home...we've opened for Wu-Tang and performed multiple festivals with Outkast, both of which are just outrageous when I think about 16 year old Gabe listening to Wu-Tang Forever and ATLiens on repeat for months and months. I'm just in awe all of the time that I get to travel the world performing with two of the most amazing artists (and humans) on this planet.


What does the future hold for RAP FAN?

I'm super excited for this DLC collection currently, and I'm starting to drop some women's items (crop tops here, more cool stuff coming). I've got a couple other collaborations in the works as well, and I'm looking to start a podcast before too long. I'm always working to come up with stuff that other aficionados of beats and rhymes can relate to. 


June 29, 2016 — Ray Yamamoto