In the ever-growing popularity of hip-hop from the United Kingdom in the United States, many artists have crossed the territorial borders that distinguish the two. Some have made a name past that into the pop world, but their prominence still stays within the hip-hop community. One artist, AJ Tracey, has a career going back some years prior to his major label self-titled debut in 2019. It was a solid debut, full of different tracks that seem to go in various directions, but his follow up, Flu Game, is a step up from his debut by delivering on his strengths – more – and hitting on varying angles, while still retaining the same problems as before.
Influenced by the legendary Michael Jordan flu game, the album takes aspects of the versatility and drive behind that game and develops it into these aggressive and hungry tones that shows us a persistence to win. This shows with the kind of versatility behind his flows that has this kind of smoothness where he can casually flow over any production. He has these various sounds that he can work with, that he is still striving to make it higher, despite any negativity.
But within this grander scheme, that he fits these narratives and anecdotes in, the music still doesn’t have a consistency in the way he delivers with the singles. Some are overt with the way it is structured and performed like the over glamorized “West Ten,” featuring Mabel, whose vocals are mixed with so many effects it feels burnt out and nothing short mediocre. Unfortunately the production contains some repetitiveness that the many distinct instruments that overlay can only do so much to hide the exasperated percussion – drum machine patterns.
Those choppy-trap hip-hop successfully attains the attention from the kind of tonal hype it brings, but some of these tracks don’t radiate this need to hit that replay value. It is like the chorus line in “Glockie,” which is simple and mundane in its approach, while maintaining resonant aspects of the lyrically “classic” hip-hop (primarily in the verses) most heads steer towards – aka when there was no feature, the choruses were more simple and direct. But this isn’t to say AJ can’t excel in creating a solid hybrid like on the track, “Dinner Guest.”
However, AJ Tracey isn’t without his own quirky problems, specifically ones that come from pronunciation and sequence-structure. His directness brings life to a lot of the scenes he paints, but there are moments that some solid lines are followed up by some weak sequence. However it doesn’t highlight itself like the mispronunciation on the track, “Kukoč.” Unfortunately the track suffers from an unnecessary abundance of NAV, the featured artist, as his flows and melodic schemes come across fine, but whenever he writes something it’s like he never passed 8th English (writing); the simplicity of his content never carries the depth needed to stay afloat.
There is more direction and focus in these tracks, which don’t come off trying to grab plays desperately, like the aforementioned “West Ten.”. When AJ Tracey hits with these straight gritty street hip-hop and trap tracks, is where we truly see him shine because it allows him to deliver a message, like on “Top Dog,” where AJ Tracey lands dominant statements about his person and talent, showing his own demons taking over and still trying to fight and strive to be top dog.
Flu Game is a step above what he showed on AJ Tracey, but he still has the same mistakes that aren’t hard to overcome. Though it may be hard for some artists to make something appealing to radio and other outlets, it starts to deter them from working more within their strengths. That is what AJ Tracey does with this and the repeat value on many tracks is high.