By: Shirley Ju (@shirju) Introducing AJ Tracey, a fire UK spitter who’s here to bulldoze his way into the US market.
Having made music since the young age of 6, it’s wild to think the “Psych Out!” rapper only took things seriously in the last 3 to 4 years.
Now with over 451K followers on IG alone, he arrives in Los Angeles in good spirits, celebrating the release of his highly-anticipated self-titled debut AJ Tracey.
AllHipHop: At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
AJ Tracey: When I got my first booking for a thousand pounds. I was like “okay, that’s a substantial amount of money.” I showed my mom, she was like “I guess it is going to work out.” That was about 3 years ago, I was 21. I went to college for a year, didn’t really like it. Did a couple of not so legal things to make some money… that’s about it.
AllHipHop: They say you haven’t freestyled in the UK in a year. Why is that?
AJ Tracey: My freestyles are special. When I do a freestyle, it has to be a fire freestyle. It’s the same reason I don’t do any interviews. When I do it, for it not to be oversaturated. Like “oh he’s done this before, he’s done loads of those.” Each one is impactful.
AllHipHop: “Psych Out” is at over 1M on Youtube in just a month. Did you foresee it blowing up like this?
AJ Tracey: Yeah, I thought it’d do well honestly. I got quite a strong fan base, they ride for me. I know whatever I put out, even if they’re not completely rocking with it, they’re gonna push it anyways. ‘Cause they like to see me do well.
AllHipHop: What can we expect from your debut album AJ Tracey?
AJ Tracey: You can expect loads of different styles. A lot more of American friendly songs on there. It’s a lot easier for Americans to take in because I know the accent’s a bit hard to get over. I got one with Jay Critch from New York, which we just shot the video for. We’re from the same island, from Trinidad. We just linked up over a mutual. That’s my guy.
AllHipHop: Why self-titled?
AJ Tracey: Because it’s my debut album and the narrative is really just about me. It makes sense to name it after myself. I didn’t really want to do too much. Nothing crazy, I’ll save that for the later albums.
AllHipHop: What is it you want fans to get from your story?
AJ Tracey: Basically that I’m versatile. A little bit about my life, how I grew up, how I’m living. It’s an insight for fans and even friends as well. What it feels like to be me, get a little taste of it.
AllHipHop: What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
AJ Tracey: Only goal is I want more people to hear me internationally. London’s cool, everyone knows me in London, but I want people all over the world to hear my sound and enjoy it. I want to be able to go to Japan and people know who I am.
AllHipHop: Who’s in your Top 5 in the world?
AJ Tracey: Nas is #1. He’s the best rapper ever, I grew up listening to him. Gunna second. We saw him earlier in Barney’s. Mobb Deep. I like Blueface, Blueface is fire. And Vybz Kartel from Jamaica.
AllHipHop: Talk about connecting w/ Baauer on “3AM.”
AJ Tracey: That’s my guy! He’s really humble. My management and his are friends. We spend some time together just hanging out, outside of music. One time, he was in New York like “I got the studio, you want to come through?” I was like “yeah man.” We made like 5 songs, and that’s the one he liked. He came up with the idea for the video and we shot it. He’s a really cool guy, one of the nicest artists I’ve ever met. Really down to earth, not a show-off. Just a normal guy.
AllHipHop: What was it like because he’s super EDM right?
AJ Tracey: Yeah, he’s super EDM. [chuckles] But the stuff he puts out and the stuff on his hard drive are 2 completely different worlds. His hard drive has a bit of everything: dancehall songs, reggaeton sounding, rap, trap, everything. He just basically asked “what vibe do you want?” And we just worked with that.
AllHipHop: What is your take on the music industry?
AJ Tracey: Super fake, and boring. [laughs] Honestly, I just think everything’s a facade. I just stay out the way. I just play Fortnite and stay in my house.
AllHipHop: How have you been able to sustain while staying independent?
AJ Tracey: Literally my fans. My fans riding for me. My booking fees are my life. It’s the age of streaming now. Being able to put the music out myself and get all the rewards from streaming has kept me afloat. I always reinvest in myself. The more you invest in yourself, the better results you get. You make more money, and repeat.
AllHipHop: What did you do with your first check?
AJ Tracey: This is so cliche, but I gave it to my mom honestly. Everybody’s going to say that, but I did actually give it to my mom. She’s been supporting me all my life, so it was only right.
AllHipHop: What do your parents think now?
AJ Tracey: My mom doesn’t like the content of my lyrics. which is fair enough. She’s super proud of me. She’s just happy I’m doing something positive. I’m not like on the streets or some shit.
AllHipHop: How important is social media for your career?
AJ Tracey: It’s important to my career, but not my life. I don’t personally as a human care about social network. But for my career, it’s amazing. Fan interaction, engagement, sending things, pushing your music, it’s a really good tool. Especially if you’re independent, it’s a really powerful tool. You need it. You survive off of it. I’m for the social media thing, I just think as humans, we need to relax a little bit. Everyone’s so concerned with how they look online, it’s a bit crazy.
AllHipHop: What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
AJ Tracey: On my birthday 3 years ago, these 2 girls DMed me like “we made you a cake. Can we bring it to you?” Everyone around me was advising me not to, like “no don’t let them bring you a cake, that's weird.” But I met them anyway. They were just young girls, really young. They gave me the cake, it was really nice. Me and my mom ate it. They were like “we listen to you forever, we love you.”
AllHipHop: How old were they?
AJ Tracey: They were like 15, and they made the journey all the way to my ends, all the way to my hood. It was cool.
AllHipHop: You're from the hood?
AJ Tracey: Yeah, we all are. [points to entourage] Actually she’s not. Neither is he, these two are not. Not that's there's any problem.
AllHipHop: Describe the hood.
AJ Tracey: Our hoods are like yours, literally. We have projects. We call them housing estates, which is essentially a project. With little parks in the middle, that you’d see maybe in New York. Obviously, it’s quite impoverished, but they’re communities. Everyone looks out for each other, it’s quite nice. A lot of Carribean food shops, because we have a strong Caribbean community in London.
AllHipHop: Are you still in the hood?
AJ Tracey: No, I don’t live in the hood, but I go there 3x a week at least. Because my mother lives there, she refuses to leave. She loves it too much. She will not leave, so I try my best to make her as comfortable as possible.