- The level-up lyrically since Lil Tracey
- Those fire-hot beats
- The fact you simply can't get bored of any of the eight tracks
- Well, this is awkward, there's nothing we didn't like.
Skepta won the Mercury Prize. Stormzy took the number one spot. Boy Better Know are taking over the UK festival circuit year after year. American veterans are pining for Grime artist guest spots. Yeah Drake, we’re hollering at you on this one. Grime has broken out of the proverbial underground and emerged as one of the bigger fish in a bloody big pond we know and love as mainstream chart music. Grime was born out of the realities of those pioneering it; the violence, the lifestyles, the struggle. It has been both a symbol of respect and a weapon of choice among its artists, and it’s culture has surpassed the expectations – because in truth, it never had any. Grime has never been about mainstream success, it has simply been about the expression of surviving the struggle and striving to climb out of one reality and into another.
Riding the wave of his elders, Ché Wolton Grant – better known as AJ Tracey – broke out big with last years Lil Tracey EP, which brought us the banger that is Buster Cannon. Ripping up top-slot festival sets and throwing out the tunes left, right, and centre, AJ Tracey announced his arrival in style, a true protégé of the godfathers of grime. New EP ‘Secure The Bag’ doesn’t play on old tricks, opting to ascend to heights beyond Grime’s top rung, reigning in the ridiculousness seen on earlier tracks in exchange for solid flows and beats that blend the best of traditional grime, trap, UK rap, and alt-RnB.
Teaming up with a who’s who of British Grime producers, from the likes of Sir Spyro, Misogi, and Keanu Beats, ‘Secure The Bag’ is Lil Tracey levelled up, each beat on every single track has gone like decent cheese, matured, and it provides a platform most artists would be envious of being able to spit over. Whilst the beats are from a mixture of producers, it’s South London prodigy Nyge who steers the ship for the majority of ‘Secure The Bag’, and much like AJ himself, his talent has evolved and matured, trading out straight-up grime for a cocktail of alt-RnB, trap, and UK rap. Club beats melt into harder ones, allowing these tracks to find themselves in multiple crates for multiple events. Nyge lives up to his name as a producer to watch, conjuring up beats that are above and beyond – you spend as much time losing yourself in the layers, portals, and voids created by the multi-genre beats as you do the lyrics.
Whilst he’s still throwing out lyrics as tongue-in-cheek and as mind-numbingly silly as “peng like KFC Gravy, but she can’t call me baby”, they’re thrown in at carefully constructed moments to carry the pace and the flow, designed to provoke you and evoke a laugh without forgetting the seriousness of his fire-hot flow. Running the gamut on themes, AJ navigates living a normal life in the wake of rising up in the industry, throwing out fine lines on the struggles of surviving in an industry designed to destroy you, whether that’s relationship’s that won’t work or holding up connections. More so, he finds himself fighting with his ego and his position; has he forgotten where he – and grime – came from? Not a single bit, and it provides the platform for some real fire: “Tracksuit grey, black, blue, I was just a hope-filled kid like you, left ends broke, gotta win, can’t lose, everyting fresh when I came back through, Saying they’re a road brudda, that’s not true, I’m not second but I am top two.”
Collaborations are thin on the ground on this outing, but when they come along, they come in strong, with the likes of Grime hero JME and RnB bossman Craig David dropping in for some verses, as well as 67 and Denzel Curry. Craig David comes in smooth operator style as always on the chorus of closer You Don’t Know Me, bringing the honey to the bees, and letting AJT shine without overshadowing him with his star power. Alakazam is undoubtedly one of the EP’s fire tracks, running through grime and UK rap hoops, and features verses from JME and Denzel Curry. When you’ve got names like that spitting flows on your tracks, you’d be on edge worrying about being overshadowed, and yet JME’s solid set does nothing but compliment, highlighting that AJ Tracey has graduated from protégé, standing tall and spitting flows as solid as pioneering artists.
Whilst AJ Tracey navigates guest spots like a seasoned pro, it’s the moments he rides solo that show off the artist he’s become, allowing him to take over any beat he’s given like he’s Muhammad Ali in the ring on an average day. Shisha is one of his showcase moments, each line he throws is a knockout: “Money stack look real thick, it’s one chunkers. I don’t chill with frauds or no stunters. Dem man fake like Dairylea Dunkers. Take my Arab baby girl for dinner, then a show. Nando’s, Butterfly Chicken, it’s a go. Buss the pussy, she won’t tell me lick it ’cause she know, I ain’t built like that, n****, that’s a no.”
Levelling up and losing himself within a portal of trap, grime, and UK rap riddims, AJ Tracey has ascended from his protégé heights and graduated to a level few achieve at his age. If this is what he’s throwing out as an EP, what the hell is his eventual debut album going to sound like? Get ready Skepta and Stormzy, AJ Tracey is coming to take the crown.