Industry Insiders: Aaron Lacrate, Livin’ on T-Shirts & Vinyl

You can usually find Aaron Lacrate lighting up the 1’s and 2’s while spinning records in New York City or bragging that Robert Downey Jr. and Robin Williams are sporting his custom-made shirts. As creator of the clothing company Milkcrate NYC, Lacrate has avant-garde couture junkies clamoring to get one of his signature designs. When he’s not dishing out his fashion to the selective circles afforded to browse the goods, the Baltimore-bred DJ is working on building his record label, B-More Gutter World Wide. The label just released the critically acclaimed B-More Club Crack, an album his crew created as a way to allocate the signature sound of Baltimore club music worldwide. Lacrate takes time to discuss his burgeoning empire and why naming his company Milkcrate B-More just didn’t make sense.

How would you describe yourself? I’m the creative director of Aaron Lacrate, Inc., the last great underground brand. We do most things first, best, and in an underground high-profile way that eventually impacts a cross section of music, street art and fashion — all while keeping the competition quite upset.

How did Milkcrate NYC come about? I’ve been designing t-shirts since I was young. It all started when I couldn’t find things I liked, so I started making them. Just taking a black sharpie, a record cover, and a Hanes under shirt, I’d trace the artwork and draw my own stuff making my own t-shirts. From there I made “DJ Cool Aaron” t-shirts and sold them when I would DJ gigs. I was the only 13-year-old DJ with my own merchandise.

So, from there you wanted to design clothes? It all happened very gradually. I was always a music and graffiti kid. Keith Haring was a huge inspiration with the way he merchandised his art. I started blending the lines between the two with early street fashion because I always loved graffiti, so clothing was another way to get up on peoples’ backs. To see someone wearing a Milkcrate logo or design was like tagging a train, per se, so I always enjoyed getting my designs out there. It’s how I communicate.

Do you have any celebs endorsing Milkcrate? Yes, the young hell raiser, Lily Allen. Many celebs have asked for personal designs: Jay Z, Mark Ronson, Dizzee Rascal, and The Cool Kids, among others.

Now, switching gears, how did you get started as a DJ? I grew up on Baltimore club music. I have all the records that B-more club was sampled from and the first records that were pressed up locally. I was a 10- or 11-year-old kid in the city, going to clubs when this music started. Not every kid gets to grow up around all of that. It was the best party music for a DJ, with total energy. It’s funny that the little kid hanging around came full circle and blew the sound up worldwide. That’s real-ish.

Who are some of your influences from the club music scene? First off, my good pal and mentor DJ Equalizer started B-more club music. He was the first person to produce, package and sell Baltimore music to the world. DJ Equalizer doesn’t speak to just anyone; he’s a true pioneer in my backyard. I grew up listening to DJ Equalizer, Frank Ski, Sean Henry, Sean Marshall, DJ Boobie, DJ Precise … man, the list goes on. There was so much talent when I was a kid.

What do you enjoy more, designing clothes or spinning records? It’s the same process for me. Designing a beat, or producing a collection of clothing. It all comes from the same place, but clothing is tangible and music isn’t. They affect the world quite differently, which is what I really enjoy.

Where’s your favorite place to DJ in New York? I liked the Beatrice Inn because I had my birthday party there, and people are always ready to party.

Hottest place to hang in NYC? Milkcrate NYC, of course.

Since you’re from Baltimore, why didn’t you name your clothing line Milkcrate B-More? NYC sounded so much better. Milkcrate NYC created B-more Gutter Music. It’s a bigger idea.

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