“This is my third one, I’ve been rapidly climbing up the roster so to speak,” AJ Tracey tells NME backstage about his ascent on the Reading Festival line-up over the years. “The first time I was here I was on the 1Xtra stage, and now they’ve got me on the big main stage.”
Judging by the huge crowd that gather to see him there today, does he see himself headlining in the future?
“God willing, man. We’ll see.”
There’s no reason why not. Not only has his acclaimed self-titled debut made him a pretty big deal, but British rap has never been better represented at R+L.
“My mum used to come here when she was younger, and she was telling me that it was predominantly rock,” Tracey goes on. “Finally, it feels like people are taking British rap more seriously as a genre. I’m actually happy. I’m excited.”
So who else on the line-up does he personally rate?
“Basically everyone. I’ve seen Nav on there, I’ve seen Not3s on there, I’ve seen Dave on there. Mabel’s a really good performer. They’re my guys. I already know Dave’s gonna kill it. There’s too many names, man.”
A highlight of the set of course, was when ‘Ladbroke Grove’ went off. We have to ask, did he always know it was destined to be a hit?
“You know what, without being super cocky, yeah I did,” he modestly replies. “Not because it’s a massive sick tune, but because it’s the right time for garage to come back. People see me as a little bit left. People are like, ‘Oh, AJ Tracey used to be a grime MC, now him on a garage beat – it makes sense’. It all just added up.”
Another surreal moment this year was when young chap Alex Mann made headlines by joining Dave to rap his verse on ‘Thiago Silva’ at Glastonbury. Does Glasto Alex also get Tracey’s seal of approval?
“Of course I do. He’s a little kid, man,” says Tracey. “At the end of the day, the only way that I was able to thrive was by people giving me a chance, not being close-minded. I try my hardest to be open-minded and be happy for everyone and just let them have their moment. There’s enough time for everyone on the planet to have their moment. So good on him, man. Good on all the youths that are trying to do something different and do something positive. I’m happy for them.”
As for the rest of the year, Tracey tells us: “You’re going to see another left turn from me. I’ve always got new material. I never let the fans go hungry.”
And what’s currently inspiring him?
“Life and everything around me. I might start streaming gaming soon. Games are what I’m concentrating on right now so I might put a lot of gaming references in my lyrics. I play Fortnite, I play FIFA, I’m trying to get into NBA a little bit. Call Of Duty of course, Crash Bandicoot.”
So there you have it. Here’s how he describes his a typical scene on his tour bus: “Loud trap music, a couple of people smoking their cigarettes and whatnot, some alcohol and Crash Bandictoot.
If you want to add him on Fortnite, search for AJ Tracey or G Traco on Epic.
Watch our full AJ Tracey video interview above where he opens up about his plans for a busy 2019.
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