From: West London
Sounds like: Club-orientated grime with US appeal
For fans of: Skepta, Novelist, Section Boyz
Grime has always been a very British sound, strongly reflecting its London roots, with lo-fi elements inherited from pirate radio, the in-your-face nature of UK garage and a party atmosphere reminiscent of rave culture. But here’s one of the scene’s new wave who has his sights set on prospects across the pond.
Buoyed by the growing popularity of grime over in the States (thanks, in no small part, to recent cosigns from the likes of Kanye West and Drake), 22-year-old Ladbroke Grove native AJ Tracey says he’s ready to “bridge the Transatlantic gap a little bit”. So far, he’s been laying down the right kind of foundations.
Having played his first US shows earlier in 2016 (“That was a sick experience. I expected people to have no idea what I was saying, but New York is really in tune with London, they know what’s happening on the streets,”), Tracey landed on the radar of American audiences after hopping on a Clams Casino remix with A$AP Rocky and Lil B (‘Be Somebody’). His plans for A-list collaborations don’t stop there either, a dream collaboration, he tells NME, would be with Nas (“he’s my favourite rapper ever”) or face-tattooed newcomer 21 Savage (“he’s fucking hard”). “There’s definitely more collabs coming,” Tracey teases. “I can’t really talk about it right now, but there definitely is. In the very near future you’re gonna hear them. Like ASAP”.
Despite his cross-continent aspirations, Tracey’s music doesn’t lose anything or get watered down in the process, instead his genre-warping remains exhilarating. His newly-released ‘Lil Tracey’ EP bends grime’s boundaries, veering through sounds as diverse as trill, southern rap and techno, with the MC all the while tying things together with his “London flow”. It was recorded in “mad expensive studios” and sounds “quite big”, he says. “I feel like every EP I do is another is like another level up. I’m gonna keep it moving like that.”
In 2017, fans can expect a full LP (“Everyone’s asking me about an album and I’ll do it when I’m ready,”), as well as even bigger, better things. “What you’ve seen from me so far, that’s the lowest bar that you’ll see. It’s just going to go up from there.”
Luke Morgan Britton
My goal for 2017 is: “To better my craft and push everything upwards.”
The one thing you need to know about me is: “I draw my inspiration from everything: reggae, club music, trance. Anything and everything that sounds good, I’ll listen to it and I’ll make any type of music.”
Essential track: ‘Buster Cannon’