AJ Tracey at Reading Festival 2021: “Working with Gorillaz has been a life-long goal”

The 'Ladbroke Grove' rapper reflects on the song's huge success – and his latest collaboration with Damon Albarn and the gang

AJ Tracey‘s team-up with Gorillaz has been decades in the making. The west London rapper first appeared on stage with the band at The Brit Awards at Earl’s Court in 2006 as a youngster, providing backing vocals and dancing with his classmates. 15 years later and with a burgeoning music career of his own, he came full-circle by appearing on ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, and their new EP ‘Meanwhile‘, released earlier this week (August 27).

“I went to their studio in Latimer Road which is behind my Mum’s house and we made a banger; it was lit,” he told NME backstage at Reading Festival. “The way Damon greeted me was sick, he said ‘you’ve been a member of this band for a hot minute now’ and they made me feel really welcome – it was definitely one of those things that I really wanted to achieve in life. When I was little kid, I loved them religiously.”

He also discussed his previous performance in 2019, when his hit song ‘Ladbroke Grove’ was at the heights of its power, and how it inspired him to keep changing and challenging his audience. “I never want to replicate anything like ‘Ladbroke Grove’. Even when I did my other garage song [2020 single] ‘West 10’, I wanted to make sure that it didn’t sound anything like ‘Ladbroke Grove’.”


“My approach wasn’t influenced by the success at all, but it did let me know that it’s not about churning out hits all the time, it’s good to make some music that people can sit down and digest rather than that lives solely on the radio to take it in and understand what I’m saying.”

Watch our full video interview with AJ Tracey at Reading 2021 above

Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Reading & Leeds 2021