Daily Discovery is a feature that highlights a new or recently discovered artist who we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.
Grime is in an exciting place right now, both in terms of MCs and producers, and AJ Tracey is on fire in 2015. The London spitter has been putting in the work this year, hitting radio on the regular and keeping his SoundCloud packed with bangers. He dropped The Front EP in June, and now he’s coming back with EP number two, Alex Moran.
Some rappers master a certain style of rapping, or find success focussing on a single subject, but listening to Tracey’s releases and radio appearances you get the sense that he could rap about anything—and have fun doing it. From wifey riddims to trap anthems, he can do it all, so if you want to get a little deeper into grime than Skepta’s latest hit, get on the AJ Tracey wave before it’s too late.
As well as breaking down his new EP, the importance of radio, and the difference between a rap show and a grime rave, Tracey has given us a tune from Alex Moran to premiere, and it’s massive. Listen to the Zeph Ellis-produced track now, then get into our interview below.
Why is the EP called Alex Moran? What’s the significance of that name?
The EP shares the same name as a fictional character from a program called Blue Mountain State. The show is basically an American College comedy, and Alex Moran is the main character. He started off the series as a nobody and a hopeful, and goes about things kinda blase. As he gets older he climbs the ranks, becomes the QB and star of his college American football team and establishes himself.
This EP is me saying to everyone, yeah I’m lazy, a bit laid back and cheeky, but I have a vision and I’m looking to carry it out. I’ve done my maturing, I understand the game. I’ve got my pattern now so soon be at the top!
What else can you tell us about the EP?
This EP is fresh. The previous EP that was due to drop a week ago was meant to be called Rain and featured heavy hitting 808s and a lot of crime reference, quite dark. This EP’s a bit more mature, has some strong features on there and the beats really vary, much like The Front. The release date is still TBC, but I’m aiming to drop it early November. I don’t wanna give too much away but you can expect some familiar voices gracing this project, and some really sick producers. I only want to put out A quality music, which is why the mixing and mastering on this EP will be serious, the last EP was more of a make do with what I had situation. The levels have risen since then, though.
Can you explain how important London’s radio scene and places like Rinse, NTS, and Radar are for grime?
Alright, so radio is everything in the grime scene. Don’t listen to anyone telling you anything different. You can become a known artist in a million different ways, from Youtube, to Radio, to Vine, but in grime, the true path that really establishes you as GRIME, is radio.
Me personally, I think different radios have different purposes. Rinse FM is iconic and historic, everyone who’s anyone in grime has touched Rinse at some point, and new budding MC’s are catting to visit Rinse, even if it’s to squeeze off a 16. NTS is a bit more internationally known, with a wider but less targeted audience. A lot more moder, maybe not as known in terms of grime but it’s still seen as a very prestigious station nonetheless. Their graphics are always beautiful, and different. Their logo is very clean and being someone with a bit of an OCD I appreciate these things!
Last but not least, Radar Radio. So this one’s pretty new, and kinda crept up on everyone. It went from being unknown to being top three underground radios (for grime) in a few months, madness. Literally everyone goes to Radar, which is what’s sick, from big names like Jammer, Ghetts and P Money to the new era of artists like Jammz, YGG, and Izzie Gibbs. Without radio, I’m not sure where the scene would be to be honest, it’s kind of a pillar.
How do you choose which producers to work with and what do you look for in a beat?
A lot of the time, it’s literally random. I’m a spontaneous kinda guy so when I hear a beat, doesn’t matter where it is, I’ll rush over to the selecta and make sure I get that name. I used to get told, “I’m not sure if you’d be able to vocal this though, I think ——- is looking for a big MC for this one,” a lot. I don’t get that anymore, which is a sick feeling.
Producers I came up listening to and running their riddims on loop in my bedroom for hours are now sending me .zip files full of exclusives. It’s nuts. But yeah, I’ve got a few producers who I’m affiliated with, such as Lolingo, my younger brother ToonzInTheLab, Novelist, Grandmixxer, Last Japan, and so on. Obviously them being my mates makes the whole process a lot easier, and they all know my sound and what kinda riddims I’m looking for.
In terms of what I look for in a beat, I couldn’t really give you an answer. I’ve spat on trap beats constructed for 70 BPM lyrics and double timed on it, I’ve spat on sampled beats that sound fun and cartoony, and I really like beats with deep synths and a ‘real life’ vibe. I can literally go for anything that I think sounds sick.
It seems like a really exciting time for you now – dropping the EP, radio with legends like Slimzee etc… talk a little about your journey so far.
So I started off on Mode FM, literally traveling to Enfield at crazy hours of the night, and getting home at crazy hours in the morning. I used to go there with Jammz, Zuu, YGG and MicTy, our DJ was usually Tiatsim and Spooky would pop in from time to time (with a CD oozing with bangers!). This was where I kinda made a name for myself, got a little buzz and started making connections.
Next Marger took me to BBC 1XTRA to meet DJ Cameo and do a #GimmeGrime, which is when things really started to pop off, I got a lot of love for someone fresh to radio, fresh to the industry and with fresh unpolished bars. I look back at that set and think damn, I was kinda dead! But everyone has to start somewhere and everyone improves. Practice makes perfect right? Shortly after the 1XTRA video, Marger took me and Lusion to Sir Spyro’s “The Grime Show,” again I got a wicked response and that boosted my career, started to build a little buzz.
I knew in order to keep the buzz going there was only one thing to do: BATTER radio. Like literally batter it, I was going to different radio stations as much as three or four times in a week. I’d have studio on Sunday, Mode FM on Monday, Flex on Wednesday and Thursday, and Radar on Friday. It was crazy, really tiring and pretty expensive for someone with no job, literally doing what I can to make ends meet.
From there, I put the brakes on the radio a little bit, dropped The Front EP and started working on proving to people I can actually release tracks, not just reel off bars into a mic on air. The next step was building my soundcloud, giving people a track once a month or so and nurturing this buzz I have. It wasn’t amazing at first, couple of hundred plays and maybe 15 reposts, but almost a year later, I’m doing 25k plays and hundreds of reposts, everything takes time!
There’s a lot more to my story but I don’t wanna bore you haha, but for me, it’s all about having a solid plan and executing it. I’m literally just getting started.
What are your long term goals? Where do you want to be in one year and in five years? Would you want to release an album at some point?
This time next year, I wanna be shutting down more shows in Europe, getting out there and trying to engage with the US crowd in particular, I’ve been shown a lot of US love! would be sick to do a show in New York. I wanna be working on my album, wouldn’t mind a blue tick on twitter, and I want my crew MTP to be established with me. Whole squad gotta eat.
Five years? Damn. Because Skepta’s really setting the ceiling at the moment it’s hard to think what can be achieved in grime in five years time. I want to be an international artist, I want people to listen and enjoy my music all over the world, not just in London or the UK. In terms of achievements, hopefully a couple of awards are on the horizon!
Grime is harsh, and it’s us.
A grime rave and a rap show are very different. Can you break down what is special about grime and what a rave is like.
Rap shows are really about vibing to your favourite tunes, singing the lyrics and hearing what you hear on your iPhone live. There’s nothing wrong with that, rap shows are dope. I really wanna see Future live, I heard his shows go off. Grime raves are a completely different ball game though. The energy at a grime rave is crazy, when I’m on stage whatever I give the crowd they give back, it’s such a sick experience.
Grime is an energetic genre by nature, at 140BPM it’s pretty hard to not move while you’re listening to it. Grime is harsh, and it’s us. Grime music lets the listener hear how we feel about whatever topic we’re talking about, when one of us says “Fuck feds,” it’s like shit, he actually hates feds. I’m not saying rap isn’t passionate, rappers like Waka Flocka would probably be good on grime, he’s got the right kind of energy and stage presence.
Anything else you want to add?
Grime is so vast, don’t let someone tell you one specific thing is grime, and that something else isn’t. Explore it and enjoy it.