07 10

AJ Tracey Secure The Bag! Self-Released

AJ Tracey has always done things his own way. Where featured artists are often enlisted to help draw interest from specific crowds, on Secure The Bag! – the latest in a series of independently-released EPs – JME, Florida’s Denzel Curry, 67 and Craig David play supporting roles, all of them nodding to AJ’s star quality, as opposed to taking the spotlight.

Musically, the EP sways between the grime of his come-up and the hybrid, transatlantic rap sounds he’s been developing in recent years. The record kicks off with Blacked Out, the beat produced by grime’s hitmaker in chief, Sir Spyro, which sees AJ reflect on his come up — “I was just a hope-filled kid like you” — and take stock of his achievements so far, all delivered with the swagger and pomp of an MC who knows he’s levels above the competition. On tracks like luvd u and Bird Call, he tones down his flow, spitting over glossy, rap beats amidst talk of girls, tour buses and FaceTime sessions, while Craig David collaboration You Don’t Know Me evokes memories of Tinie Tempah’s Channel U classic Wifey Riddim.

It is in these moments that AJ’s true character really shines through. Whoever he’s recording with and however many bottles he’s got backstage, there’s always a sense he still loves to be at home and back amongst familiar surroundings. “Everything’s not what it seems/ you think that I’m living life stress free ‘coz I’ve got a new timepiece and it gleams/ but I’m really out tryna feed teams”. That said, for every sign of perceived vulnerability, AJ bites back ten times harder, as he does on Quarterback and Alakazam, which reaffirms his flair for one-liners — “I got hooks but I don’t go fishing/ Alakazam I make man go missing”.

While it might have landed as his loudest statement yet, especially after debuting at No.13 on the UK Albums Chart completely independently, you get the sense that Secure The Bag! is only the beginning for an artist reaching for the top.