Review: AJ Tracey, ‘Secure the Bag!’

AJ Tracey flexes some artistic diversity on his latest EP.

In a busy year for UK music, AJ Tracey made sure he included himself in the overcrowded pool of releases. The 8-track Secure the Bag is Tracey’s longest EP to date and features attention-grabbing guest appearances from 67, Craig David and American rapper Denzel Curry (who returns the favour for Tracey featuring on his remix for “Knotty Head“).

On Secure the Bag, AJ Tracey tones down the grime tunes in favour of experimenting with trap and slightly-commercial production. The one grime song present on the project is the opener “Blacked Out”, which epitomises all the best elements of AJ’s spin on grime. There’s a signature glitchy grime instrumental, memorable hook, one-liners and the signature flow which somehow hasn’t managed to get tiring. It’s one of the few tracks on the EP that gets reloaded every time.

The majority of the EP (“luvd u”, “Tour Team”, “Alakazam” and “Shisha” to name a few) showcases AJ entering new territory. The production is summery and upbeat, resulting into a relaxed feel during the listening experience. “Shisha” is the best out the Caribbean-tinged collection, delivering a memorable hook and bars, something which the other tracks lack. On top of that, a few of the tracks sound too similar to distinguish between. Even though I don’t see myself replaying these tracks non-stop, AJ must be commended for experimenting with new sounds and showcasing that he can be more than a grime MC.

Despite the similarity in sound, hearing 67 over different production is refreshing even though they provide the same signature delivery. The hook on “Quarterback” is very quotable and includes some of the best displays of AJ’s braggadocios rap, as well as showing intent (“Had bread before the Drake co-sign / Came through, I’m here to take what’s mine”).

2016’s Lil Tracey EP set the bar high, providing 4 replayable bangers that still have shelf life a year later alongside 2 equally-enjoyable breathers from the energy. This energy is lacking on Secure the Bag, as well as the catchy hook that gave the songs that reply value. However, the short project is still enjoyable and there’s nothing going on that actually qualifies as being terrible.

Interestingly, the tracklist was changed just before the release. Songs like “LA4AWEEK”, “Colombiana”, “Butterflies” and “Suzie” were removed. It would have been interesting to see how the listen would have panned out if some of these tracks were on the EP.

It takes some time to get used to the absence of the grime energy, but once you do Secure the Bag gives you decent songs that still hold tight to AJ Tracey’s usual elements. In the future, AJ could build on the creativity shown on Secure the Bag without having to give a grime project start to finish.

Rating: 7 / 10

Best tracks: “Blacked Out”, “Quarterback”, “Bird Call”