AJ Tracy’s label connects our call at eight in the morning (nine in the evening on his side of the world). The day before our call I’d set my alarm to blare his track ‘LO(V/S)ER’, which was way less funny to early-morning me than I’d thought it would be. Luckily, West London’s self-proclaimed GOAT is cheery, mellow, and down to chat about anything and everything. The kind of person who’ll put you in a good mood for the day. Mondayitis? Buzz AJ. Fresh off the release of his self titled debut album, we jump right in to talking about the state of UK Music, stanning Ksubi and of course, Dragon Ball.
AJ, how you doing man? Congrats on the album.
Thank you very much bro.
I feel like it’s been a little while coming for you.
Yeah man, it’s all good. It’s been a very long time coming. It’s really felt like a big weight has been lifted.
Obviously you’re in a different position in your life between say, Secure the Bag! and now. Do you feel like your writing has changed since 2017?
I think my writing style has definitely changed, to be honest. I have a lot more confidence now, you feel me? I have the confidence to sing, and my production has definitely changed. It used to be a lot more 140 BPM grime focused and now I’ll jump on anything. I’ve always wanted to do that, maybe I didn’t have the confidence to before but now I do. I’m definitely in a different headspace man.
I guess there’s a bigger conversation around UK rap, Grime and Drill going on. I feel like the whole sound has changed over the last few years. From your perspective, how is Grime evolving?
For sure man. In regards to me, I used to make a lot of Grime and I came up on radio sets and things like that, so obviously that’s what a lot of people know me for—not everyone, but there are some fans who definitely wish I only did that, you know what I’m sayin? There’s a lot of artists who used to make a certain type of music and when they start changing their sound people say “Oh I knew them before you guys knew them.” There’s always going to be those kinds of people, but the majority of my supporters and fans are happy that I’m growing as an individual and as an artist, trying different genres or different sounds. I don’t really mind what people’s opinions are, I mostly make music for myself. I don’t make it for the fans—I love my fans to bits but I make it for me, it’s my art. If people like it, lovely. If they don’t, it is what it is.
2019 is an exciting time for UK Rap, there are so many new artists taking off. What do you think has changed in recent years?
Yeah, I feel like UK rap and UK music in general is being taken in a lot more. We’ve gained more recognition. In the States they’re taking notice of us, so are you guys out there in Australia. I have a massive fan base in Australia, you guys always show me love. For UK artists right now, with everyone winning and achieving, pushing boundaries and breaking down barriers, it’s a good time for artists to put their all in.
There’s a huge UK influence happening right now in Australia. We’ve even got a small Drill scene out here now.
Swear down? That’s sick!
Right! You worked with Conducta on this record, are you a big Garage fan?
Yeah I’m a massive fan of Garage, it’s the music I grew up on. It’s feel-good music and Conducta is actually a personal friend of mine so we have good chemistry ‘cause we just hang out regardless. It was only right to go back to my roots and throw a Garage ting on there, you know what I’m sayin?
I think the Garage sound is getting a bit more of a look worldwide lately, you’ve had Jorja with a huge garage track in ‘On My Mind’, and the Kurupt FM guys have blown up internationally too.
Yeah 100% man. I do think it’s making a bit of a comeback, but I don’t know if it ever fully left [in the UK]. It’s always going to be a genre that people come back to and enjoy.
Also, you seem to be one of the only UK guys that’s really embracing US rap. You‘ve got a lot of US features on your tracks. Why do you think that crossover doesn’t happen often?
I feel like it doesn’t cross over so much because––and I’m not saying this in a rude way—but people in the UK don’t really care about what’s happening in America or being famous there. They are happy connecting with the UK ting and leaving the Americans to do theirs. But if you use your head and think about it, Americans come over here and have loads of British fans so why would you not want to go over there and have American fans? You’re just missing out, it doesn’t make sense. I’m a fan of US rap anyway and obviously Americans invented rap so it’s only right to pay homage to the creators. A lot of my good friends and favourite artists are Americans so I’m always going to do features with them and bridge the gap so to speak.
I like that about you, I’m here to see more of it.
Thank you fam.
Speaking of Americans, I saw you tweet out to 21 Savage that if he wound up being deported to the UK that you’d have a Nike Tech and a Lyca Sim waiting for him. Jokes aside, I would love to hear a track from the two of you.
Yeah I did, and clearly I was joking but I do realise that his situation is actually serious. When the news first came out I cracked a joke about it but honestly, I genuinely feel bad about it because that man has a family and he’s in a really hard position, you know what I’m saying? So free him up man, I know he’s free now but the bigger situation needs to be sorted. It’s not right that as soon as a black man is doing really well, it seems like there is a target put on his back and people want to tear him down. I definitely meant that in light-hearted spirits man but, the situation needs to be sorted out ASAP.
100% man, there is a lot of fuckery lately with young rappers being railroaded by the system as soon as they start to make it.
Yeah bro, it’s not right.
Speaking of collaborations, I saw a photo of you and Octavian kicking it. Is there some music on the way from the two of you?
Yeah man, we got a tune coming out very very soon. Octavian is hard still.
Who else is on your rotation now? Any UK MCs we should be looking out for?
Yeah man, Master Peace is pretty cool, Octavian, Slowthai, Big Zuu.
Slowthai goes hard.
Yeah trust me.
Anyone else we might not expect you to be bumping?
I listen to a lot of singers, I like Dua Lipa a lot.
I’m here for that collab too. Hey, so if I was to fly out and visit Ladbroke Grove what are you saying I should eat?
You gotta go to Chicken Cottage, that’s the spot. You’ve gotta get the spicy mountain burger meal with peri chips. That’s the shit bro, gang shit.
And what’s the GOAT way to eat goat?
I’m Caribbean innit, I’m from Trinidad so we eat goat curry anyway. That’s one of our staple dishes. But my little goats that I own are not for eating.
You’ve got two goats yeah?
Yeah I’ve got two. AJ and Tracey.
You’re a Tottenham supporter, which player is the one when it comes to Spurs?
Yeah I’m a big Spurs supporter. Let’s see… the old school GOAT would be Ledley King, he’s just a legend of our club. The new school GOAT would be Bale obviously and the current GOAT on the team right now will be Heung-min Son. Son is a legend, he’s an absolutely amazing player, he’s my favourite player. He just saves the day all the time man. [laughs]
Do you get much time to get down to the games?
Yeah all the time man, I missed yesterday’s game because I had to do some signings but otherwise I would have been there.
Can you tell us what AJ Tracey does when he’s ‘chillin in Cuba’?
Shit. Obviously my real name is Ché after Ché Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary, and I’ve got ties to Cuba. My mum has been a bunch of times, I’ve been a couple of times. The weather is good, the women are beautiful, the food is great and the culture is amazing. Overall, it’s a great place to be to be honest.
I spotted this last time you played in Melbourne but you have a big ‘M’ tattooed on the back of your hand and I think we both know that it’s the Majin M from Dragon Ball Z, right?
That’s exactly what it is bruv [laughs] you got it. I love anime man but obviously growing up, I spent most of my time watching Dragon Ball and playing Yu-Gi Oh, those things really resonated with me.
I was a big fan growing up too—who’s your guy?
Yeah bro, hard. Trunks man, Trunks is my guy!
Future Trunks yeah?
Yeah I’ll be honest with you, Kid Trunks is hard but Future Trunks is the one man—with the sword, he’s a legend!
No doubt, cut through Frieza like butter.
Trust me! [laughs]
Ok man, last question for us out here in Australia: where did your love of Ksubi jeans come from, why is that your brand?
I’m actually wearing Ksubi jeans right now bro, [laughs] in my drawers I have like 6 Ksubi jean jackets, and about 12 or 13 pairs of jeans. I had to throw a couple away because like—you know when you buy them with rips and stuff and then the rips get bigger, they just become unwearable. I really wear mine until they get mashed up. It’s just cool man, it was just a jean brand where like, if you knew you knew, yeah? In the UK or the US you had to really know about fashion to know about them. I’ve seen a few people in the UK wearing them recently but I’ve been wearing them for ever, I rock with it. When I was in Australia I cashed out in the Ksubi store in Sydney, I literally bought every single male item in there. There was nothing there I didn’t buy, I had to stock up man because over here it’s more expensive and there’s much less of a selection. I need Ksubi to sponsor me you know what I mean?
Ksubi! You heard him, come through! Thanks for chatting to me AJ, congratulations again on the album and we’ll see you next time you’re out here. Bless.
Thank you bro, appreciate you man. Bless.
‘AJ Tracey’ the self titled album is out now on all platforms, stream it here.