AJ Tracey’s fifth EP, Secure The Bag! was released on the 6th October 2017, and has proved in instant hit, debuting in the UK Album Charts at number thirteen. It would be unfair to the West London MC to label this EP, or any of his work, simply as ‘grime’ music, as he himself said in an interview with ‘The Independent’ he breaks far too many of the stereotypical rules to be considered purely as a grime artist.
The EP has features from JME, Craig David, 67 and Denzel Curry, the former two being undoubtedly more well-known than Tracey in the UK, and that is surely a sign of his upward trajectory in the music world. Similarly, the Denzel Curry feature on Alakazam shows how Tracey is making waves not just in the UK scene, but in the US as well, and the American artist’s verse nicely compliments the bars from Tracey and JME. Alakazam in itself is an example of Tracey’s influences from outside of the music world; it samples the Pokémon game and demonstrates his love of anime. Tracey’s other works like False 9 and Thiago Silva clearly signify a passion for football, and this is represented in a slightly subtler manner in You Don’t Know Me ft. Craig David, a more laidback track than the more high tempo Alakazam, where he references Italian goalkeeper Gigi Buffon and Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama.
Two tracks were pre-released from the EP, Quarterback (Secure The Bag) and Blacked Out, the latter being released with a music video on the 31st July. Both of those proved to be extremely successful in wetting the appetites of Tracey’s fans, and Blacked Out has over 1.1 million views on YouTube (at the time of writing) and is instantly recognisable from the 25 second synth keyboard intro. Arguably the standout track from the Tracey, the song is vibrant and Tracey’s hook about him getting is like an extra shot of coffee in the morning; it gets the listener pumped up for whatever they are about to do. Quarterback (Secure The Bag) also opens on the keyboard, but the regular drum beat, ad libs, and those high notes on the keyboard give it a more R&B feel. Whereas Blacked Out is a song I would listen to whilst walking or working, Quarterback (Secure The Bag) would feel very at home on an R&B night, and this is perfectly displays the diversity of this EP.
All the tracks from Tracey are strong in their own right, but perhaps my favourite is Shisha. Again this is a different track to any other from Secure The Bag!, the pipes that appear on the hook and in some bits of the verses gives it a unique and memorable sound. The snares on the verse are marching band-esque and it is almost impossible to not head bop along throughout. In this track there is a heavy dose of second-person pronouns, and this creates a feel of Tracey shutting down his critics. ‘“AJ’s gonna fall off”, you’re hoping, right?’ in particular stands out as a bar that slams those anticipating Tracey’s downfall, and again it is a very feel-good track.
Tracks 4 and 5 from Secure The Bag! are quite dissimilar in terms of genre, and yet it’s quite hard to pigeon-hole either of them into a single genre. The 67 feature on Tour Team gives it a much more trap feel, but it has darker vibes. The ad libs are reminiscent of Quarterback (Secure The Bag), but the two are quite different, there is more aggression in Tour Team. The raven caw on Bird Call gives the track an almost sinister feel, but the drum beat and shorter bars keeps the flow light. It has a similar feel to Pasta from Tracey’s last EP, Lil Tracey, but is more relaxed.
Listening to Secure The Bag! you can see that the 8-track EP is much more candidly emotional than some of Tracey’s earlier music like False 9 and Thiago Silva – there is more soul and meaning to these tracks. You Don’t Know Me and luvd u are clear examples of this by their titles alone, and yet the more emotional lyrics that Tracey brings do not in any way unsettle the positive message that the EP as a collective work brings to the fore. Tracey’s EP seems to be about building a positive self-image; it shows his struggle to become a recognised artist and how he will undoubtedly grow to be bigger and better.
Secure the Bag! does not ring like an arrogant f-you to the rest of the rap world though; Tracey acknowledges the help that he has received and has managed to construct an EP, without the help of a label or backing, that perfectly conveys his message to the listener, whilst hyping them up and getting them in the mood to get productive.
AJ Tracey is currently in the middle of his 15-stop UK tour, which culminates on the 5th November at the O2 Kentish Town forum.