Right now the world is at AJ Tracey’s feet. A storming 12 months have seen the West London rapper seize control, with his Not3s-aided single ‘Butterflies’ providing last summer with arguably its most seductive, entirely irresistible soundtrack.
With two EPs and a bulging bag of singles behind him, he has every right to approach this debut full-length with confidence. Able to call on some of the biggest producers in the game, he’s largely shunned this path, matching red-hot beatmakers – step forward man of the moment Steel Banglez – with artists more neatly aligned to the underground.
The result is a punchy but broad selection, moving from road rap to chrome-plated hip-hop, while fusing elements of afrobeat, grime, and more into a sound that neatly sums up where UK underground music is at in 2019. Opener ‘Plan B’ twists and turns on its spine-shattering electronics, while ‘Double C’s’ has that ice cold Eski feel. New single ‘Psych Out’ might come with a trademark lavish video, but the beat is sheer London, while the Landlord himself, Giggs, guests on riotous club burner ‘Nothing But Net’.
‘Doing It’ is a return to his early grime sound, while Conducta channels the ghosts of UKG on ‘Ladbroke Grove’, a homage to AJ Tracey’s roots both sonically and physically. Indeed, that’s exactly what makes his debut album so emphatic – AJ is able to stretch, to absorb new influences, while remaining completely true to himself. It’s a triumph.