The west London rapper on five artists that inspired his debut album.
After much anticipation, west London rapper AJ Tracey has released his eponymous debut album. Standing at 15 songs, this is no cop-out, the artist taking on a series of sounds to create an album that flits between genres, across country lines and, at one point, literally into Country (just go with it.) Masterfully, it works. AJ Tracey is an album that, yet again, re-defines the parameters of British rap, and proves that there is no pigeonhole big enough for the 24-year-old from Ladbroke Grove.
See below for five artists that inspired Tracey’s eclectic debut.
AJ Tracey: Billy Ray! Obviously a country star, father to the notorious Miley Cyrus [laughs]. Naa, but I like his style. Obviously I’m into the whole country aesthetic, the whole cowboy thing, and I feel like country music has a lyricism that a lot of other genres don’t have. Genuinely. I didn’t directly take from him on the album, but obviously it was in the back of my mind. I was influenced by him, you know what I’m saying?
AJ Tracey: “Flowers” – my favourite song ever. Literally, top five of my favourite songs ever, ever. My mum loves it, I love it, my nan loves it, everyone loves it. I don’t think you can dislike that song, if you do you’re just the Grinch, innit. If you do you’re actually just a Grinch. I appreciate the name of their group as well. Garage music is UK music, obviously along with Grime and stuff, but that’s one of our genres, it’s really ours. You don’t hear that anywhere else, and it has a feel-good sound to it you just don’t get off any other genre. For me, it just reminds me of being on the estate where I grew up, summer time, everyone’s doors are open. Everyone’s cooking and that, playing with water balloons and Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Just reminds me of good times.
AJ Tracey: Literally the best MC in my opinion – IN MY OPINION! Obviously aside from me [laughs]. He’s the man. I grew up listening to Skepta, and I’ve been heavily influenced by him. He’s probably the reason I started spitting grime, that was because of Skepta. You know what I’m saying? He’s the king. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t know if I have a favourite song you know. I actually don’t. But, I can say my favourite bar of his: “Go on then, go on then, draw for the tool”, from “Do It Like Me”.
AJ Tracey: Gunna is a legend. The best. Aside from Drake, the best rapper at the moment. I like American stuff a lot, and I was listening to Gunna before he was even big. So I’m actually happy to see that he’s doing so well, and that everyone loves him so much. To walk in Paris Fashion Week, that’s fire. Fucking fire, not gonna lie to you. That’s why he’s the GOAT. You see there. But yeah, I sat just behind him at Virgil’s show for Off-White in Paris. He was lighting up big blunts. Ronaldo I was star struck, but Gunna I was happy to meet him because I’m a fan. [You got a selfie with Ronaldo didn’t you?] Yeah, come on. Ronaldo’s my guy. He took the selfie! How about that. And he took it twice, because the first one he said wasn’t good enough. Swear on my mum’s life, no lie [laughs].
AJ Tracey: I listened to a lot of rock growing up. I used to play Runescape, and I used to go online on Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3. I used to just be a super gamer, you know what I’m saying? I played with a lot of American Kids online, because of the times I would be awake. It would be day time for them, so I had a lot of American friends, and they put me on to a lot of Rock music. I used to listen to a lot of Linkin Park, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Breaking Benjamin.
AJ Tracey is out now, available on all streaming platforms.