As grime continues to seep into American soil, AJ Tracey seems like the next logical step for a US audience who have soaked in Skepta’s Konnichiwa album and are thirsting for more. With a trap influence in his beat selections, and clarity in his flow patterns, it won’t be long before the West London MC’s tracks are being rinsed from Laylow Ladbroke Grove all the way to the streets of LA.
Tracey is holed up in Queens, New York when we catch up with him. It’s the final day of a two-week trip to the States, and he’s ramming all of his belongings – including a bunch of new purchases – into a suitcase while he takes in Gucci Mane’s freshly released album, Everybody’s Looking. “I listened to Gucci for the longest time while I was waiting for him to come home,” he says of the Atlanta veteran, who was incarcerated until May. AJ’s life for the past couple of weeks has been soundtracked by the likes of French Montana, Drake and iLoveMakonnen. “I’m quite influenced by American rap,” he admits. “When I’m out here, everyone else listens to it as well. I like garage too, but that’s more nostalgic. I keep up to date with the US rap that comes out.”
Tracey begins stuffing his suitcase with the $100 worth of American sweets that he’s bringing back home for his crew, MTP, which he started with his cousin Big Zuu alongside fellow West Londoners Wax, Dee and Ets. “They don’t deserve it,” he laughs. “They’re pricks!” During his stay in New York he’s been recording with longtime grime fans Ratking, as well as hitting Mixpak Records for sessions with Cadenza and Sir Spyro. “The vibe was all different,” he says, comparing it to studio time back home. “It was quiet, relaxed and everyone was happy to have me there, which is different! Back home I’m there all the time so nobody cares too much.” This trip saw him perform shows in Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C and, less predictably, Denver. “They know about grime in Denver! That’s what’s actually funny. There was a couple of hundred people there and it was very responsive.”