Why rapper AJ Tracey puts autonomy before profits

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AJ Tracey

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The star has remained resolutely eccentric given releasing his initial EP in 2015

AJ Tracey is carrying utterly a week.

He has a tip dual singles in a indie charts, Stormzy gave him a shout-out from Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage and Brazilian football fable Thiago Silva followed him on Twitter.

“My head’s spinning a small bit!” a 25-year-old laughs. “I’m in a clouds right now.”

Silva was a theme of Tracey’s 2016 partnership with rapper Dave. But he usually beheld a lane after 15-year-old Alex Mann was plucked from a throng during Glastonbury and done headlines with a flawless opening of a song’s intricate, rapid-fire rap.

“I saw a Alex thing trending and it was crazy,” says Tracey, “and afterwards we saw ‘Thiago Silva followed you’. we had to click it to see a blue parasite so we knew it was official.”

“It means a lot to us, man,” he adds.

“When me and Dave done that song, we were utterly a bit younger, Dave was unequivocally a baby, and we only wanted a football universe to acknowledge us. So when Thiago Silva followed us, we called Dave and we was like, ‘Bro, we finally did it!'”

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Youtube post by BBC Music: Dave (feat. Alex) - Thiago SilvaImage Copyright BBC Music

The success is sweeter, Tracey says, given he’s built his career from a belligerent up. Like many of his contemporaries in UK rap, he is not sealed to a record association – holding full control of each aspect of his career, from design and graduation to a group he works with.

He even leads his possess videos, in locations from Atlanta to Havana, to compute himself from other UK artists.

“For me, being eccentric is about being means to demonstrate myself accurately how we wish to, instead of maximising profits,” says Tracey.

“As prolonged as everybody around me is gentle and we have a roof over a heads and we’re eating, afterwards it’s excellent and we can go off and do whatever we want.

“Thank God we’re in that position. I’m unequivocally grateful.”

It’s positively tough to suppose a vital tag releasing an manuscript as designedly heterogeneous as AJ Tracey’s self-titled debut, that encompasses nation guitars, Caribbean soca stroke and claustrophobic soil beats, all wrapped around a story of his life so far.

But being eccentric has “big downsides”, too, a star cautions.

“We don’t have a connections, we don’t have someone in a dilemma in America,” he says.

“And we have to front my possess income for a song videos, that can be unequivocally expensive. If we fire a £50,000 video and we don’t replenish on it, there’s no tag behind me to write off that money. It’s me. I’ve only mislaid 50k out of my account.”

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AJ Tracey

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“Ladbroke Grove is a correct clever community, there’s a genuine vibe,” says Tracey

Tracey says his work ethic came from his upbringing in London’s Ladbroke Grove, where he was innate Ché Wolton Grant in 1994.

“Growing adult there… Pffff. we don’t know man. It’s a tough place to live,” he recalls.

“Half of it is misery and half of it is wealth. You go home and there’s no gas, no electricity and we see people outward your front doorway with a Rolex on.

“It possibly depresses we and we wish to give up, or it motivates we to say, ‘I can grasp all that they have if we only work hard’.

“That’s what happened for me.”

He was incited on to song by his relatives – his Trinidadian father was an MC, while his Welsh mom was a bandit radio DJ (although she’s now a girl worker) and a residence was filled with a sounds of dancehall, reggae, garage and jungle.

A rapper from a age of six, he primarily achieved underneath a names Looney and Loonz before adopting a moniker AJ Tracey in 2014.

AJ is a reverence to his favourite label, Armani, while a surname came from a tough male on a internal estate.

“I thought, if a male has a girl’s name and he’s still scaring people, afterwards maybe we should try doing it so we can be that guy,” he told Time Out in 2017.

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His initial dual EPs, The Front and Alex Moran, determined him on bandit radio, though it was his initial freestyle for BBC 1Xtra’s Charlie Sloth in 2016, quickly followed by a recover of Thiago Silva, that unequivocally done people compensate attention.

He done a BBC Sound of 2017 longlist, and was named best visitor during a GRM Daily Awards – though rather than rush out an album, he kept honing his character over a array of increasingly high-profile EPs.

Musically, he leaps surefootedly between styles, while his clarity of humour shines by in lyrics like Blacked Out’s pretension couplet: “Man did Belgium twice in a week / Then we flew Bordeaux for a cut of a cheese.

“No-one’s ever created for me, that is important,” he says. “To unequivocally be one of a best, a lyrics have to come from you. Otherwise you’re not unequivocally a best rapper. Whoever’s essay your lyrics is a best rapper, and you’re only a best performer. “

When he scored a tip 20 strike with a resonant summer anthem Butterflies final year, Tracey finally knew it was time to start work on his entrance album.

“For me, Butterflies was a large achievement, given we available that in my vital room,” he says.

“It gave me a taste. we thought, ‘Maybe we can grasp some-more if we give it that additional bit of effort,’ so I’ve been going my hardest to package my song scrupulously and give it to everyone.”

America’s accent problem

Released in February, Tracey’s record entered a UK charts during series three, given when it has sole adequate copies to be a 30th best-selling manuscript of a year.

The singular Ladbroke Grove, a joyous reversion to a garage annals he grew adult on, is set to enter a tip 10 this week; and he’s also starting to make waves in America.

“It’s not unequivocally a aim of ours to mangle a US, though it’d be cold to be one of a ones who does it,” he says.

“I feel like Skepta is a closest, second would be Dave. we hear a lot of people articulate about J-Hus, and afterwards maybe myself.”

Asked since no-one’s managed it before now, Tracey says America isn’t prepared for a British accent.

“They adore a accent in conversation, though in terms of song they only can’t take it. They hear it and they go, ‘I can’t understanding with this,’ though they’re warming adult to it.

“I keep revelation people that, once on a time Americans didn’t wish to listen to Canadian accents, though now Drake, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber are some of a biggest artists in their particular fields. So we’ll get there eventually.”

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Youtube post by AJ Tracey: AJ Tracey - Ladbroke GroveImage Copyright AJ Tracey

He tailors live shows for US audiences, “picking songs where I’m collaborating with American artists, or with a trap sound that’s some-more informed to them,” though those gigs are mostly easier than ones in his hometown.

“People in London are so tough to impress,” he laughs.

“Everyone has a ‘London complex’, where they consider a universe revolves around them, me included, that is so annoying.

“Don’t get me wrong, London crowds still give me a adore though we have to work harder. But that’s ok, I’m down for a tough work.”

He’ll be putting in a hours this summer, with a diary full of festival appearances, around that he’s operative on “some honestly sparkling new music”.

“I don’t wish to contend too much, though there’ll be some-more collaborations and some astonishing left-field song as well,” he says.

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Youtube post by BBC Radio 1: AJ Tracey  Jorja Smith cover Flowers (Sunship Remix) in a Live LoungeImage Copyright BBC Radio 1

And if all keeps going to plan, he intends to plough a increase behind into Ladbroke Grove.

“I still live there now and, unhappy to say, we fit in given we make adequate income to have all those things we couldn’t have in my youth.

“But I’m still an active member of a community, we support a Grenfell movement, and I’d adore to open a girl club, given many of them have sealed down.

“So when I’m in a position to do something ground-breaking in a area, we will.”

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