Album Review: AJ Tracey – Secure the Bag

Alex Mckenzie gives high praise to AJ Tracey's latest release.

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“They thought I would flop and they’re wrong,” AJ Tracey, the 23-year-old rising grime sensation from Ladbroke Grove, West London confidently raps on ‘Quarterback’ and he’s right, Secure the Bag is certainly anything but a flop. Consistently throughout Secure the Bag you can hear that the intricacy of the beats has been taken to another level compared to AJ’s 2016 Lil Tracey EP. Does this mean that it’s better? I’m not so sure, it was always going to be hard to top an EP that saw Tracey nominated for the BBC Sound of 2017. The rawness of tracks such as ‘Buster Cannon’ and ‘Pasta’ on Lil Tracey are particularly powerful topped by a heavy flow. However, that is no slight on Secure the Bag which can only be described as an excellent follow up. Tracey is like the postman, he always delivers.

‘Blacked Out’ is the lead single from this project. The track is produced by legendary grime producer Sir Spryo whose previous collaborations boast the likes of grime heavyweight Stormzy, which is testament to the calibre of artist that AJ has become. This track is most aligned with what would be classed as first-generation grime music, here Tracey utilises a basic but repetitive backbeat with a strong bassline to discuss his upbringing and his future aspirations, “I was just a hope filled kid like you, left ends broke, got a win, can’t lose”. This is certainly one that will please those that have been following Tracey since his Spirit Bomb days.

Tracey is like the postman, he always delivers

‘Quarterback’ is a 2017 Super Bowl (Falcons Vs Patriots) inspired track with Tracey quoted as saying “Tom Brady was calling the shots. I feel like the Brady in the music scene!”. Here AJ channels his inner Dave (‘Piano Boy’) utilising a catchy piano intro before launching into a tirade of heavy hard hitting flows that discuss the crux of the album, namely securing the bag which is a metaphor for earning money and to quote Tracey again “evading the evil that’s trying to hold me back”.

It would be natural to be apprehensive when you see Florida rapper Denzel Curry featuring on ‘Alakazam’ with JME, but he fits in seamlessly delivering a strong final verse to add another dimension whilst rounding off the song. This is part of an increasing trend that has seen artists from across the pond following Drake’s lead and hopping on grime tracks with surprising success.

In ‘You Don’t Know Me’, Tracey has saved his best until last. This Craig David-featuring track is the highlight of the album. David provides a smooth and characteristically catchy chorus which you’ll sure to be singing along too. This one is going straight on the Pre’s playlist! Oh, and for those of you who are a fan of AJ’s niche football references, this song arguably the best of the album; “I save for ages like Buffon, just to get my pair of Air Forces”.

it was always going to be hard to top an EP that saw Tracey nominated for the BBC Sound of 2017

Overall, Secure the Bag is a very strong effort from AJ full of clever word play and stylistic flow, although a couple of tracks are likely to fade into obscurity. The one question that remains now is: Where does this place him amongst grime’s heavy hitters? For me he’s got to be knocking on the door of the top 5.

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