Why British rapper AJ Tracey cut out the negativity from his life

The rapper has admitted he had to cut negative people out of his life to grow in his career.
The rapper has admitted he had to cut negative people out of his life to grow in his career. Photo credit: Getty Images

British rapper AJ Tracey has revealed he was forced to dump "loads of people" that "doubted" his talent for years.

The 29-year-old west Londoner Ché Wolton Grant admitted to Newshub he had faced a lot of negativity from those around him growing up.

"I had loads of people around me that doubted my talent and they're not around me anymore for that reason," he said. 

"If they don't support me then I don't want them around, simple as that."

Tracey also admitted some had tried to revive the friendship, but he was not open to it.

"It's a bit of a crude saying, but in England, we say, you know, 'if you give people enough rope to hang themselves, they'll do it'. So obviously, whenever they started showing their true colours, then I just left them to their own devices.

"They'd reach out to me after that, but of course they would - that's just the classic thing. I have no idea what they are up to now, and I don't care."

British rapper AJ Tracey at Auckland's Laneway Festival 2024.
British rapper AJ Tracey at Auckland's Laneway Festival 2024. Photo credit: Instagram @ajtracey

Tracey has remained true to his roots, but said his family was his strongest influence, with his mother being his "best friend".

"I think just being at home, my mum's obviously a single mum, but she's a really strong woman and she kind of instilled in me 'Whatever goes on outside the house and in your life when you come home, I'll always love you'.

"She's the best and one of my favourite humans in the world, so that kind of instilled confidence in me to go out in the world and just do whatever I want to do.

"I never doubted myself once and I owe that to my mum."

Tracey also told Newshub since cutting out the negativity from his life, he had been "moving up".

"To be honest, it wasn't like a moment or people that made me realise. It wasn't like when people started recognising me or anything like that.

"I didn't have much money growing up. I'll be honest with you; I was on the streets. I was just trying to make it work basically. So, when I first started making a sustainable amount of money - like a good wage that can help my mum buy clothes, buy food - that's kind of when I knew that I had a future in music because it's hard to do what you love and be able to sustain your life from it.

The rapper performed at Auckland's St Jerome's Laneway Festival earlier this month.
The rapper performed at Auckland's St Jerome's Laneway Festival earlier this month. Photo credit: Supplied

"It's not so much about being rich, it's just about being able to live a good standard of life and help people around you whilst also doing what you love," he said.  

Rising to popularity in 2016, Tracey admitted he was surprised to see his first track 'Swerve and Skid' do well.

"I had recorded it in not a great environment," he laughed. 

"Let's just say I recorded it in the hood. I put it on Soundcloud in like 2015 or something like that, and it got like a million plays just randomly, so I was like 'Okay, obviously I've got people who like the music'.

"I didn't have a following or anything. I had no Twitter and no Instagram, nothing."

While he lists 'Ladbroke Grove' as being a personal favourite, he revealed that song is a part of his mission to intentionally reference London culture throughout his own music.

"It's what made me and it's what inspires me and all of my music," he explained.

"It's always going to sound like London to be honest."

While Tracey was one of the big drawcards at the recent Laneway Festival with thousands seeing a blistering performance, he admitted he still can occasionally get jitters moments before going on stage.

"I do feel quite anxious but not in a bad way, not bad anxiety," he explained.

"I'm not worried about anything. I'm usually just anxious to see the crowd reaction, excited to get on stage and these emotions are things that make you feel alive.  

"I would be upset if I wasn't feeling anxious if you don't go on a ride and get scared or you don't like get in the water and get excited - then you're not really living life. If there's 10,000 people or 20,000 people then I'm just one guy, so me standing in front of that crowd, I'm always going to feel some sort of emotion."

"I hope I never ever stop feeling anxious."

As for his own music-making process, Tracey noted he took inspiration from the world around him, but shared with Newshub the lyrics he lays down on his tracks come based on what he feels on the day.

"When I go in the booth, it's just however I feel at that specific moment in time. I just rap about it - they're just snapshots of time.

"I might not feel how I felt about that tomorrow. It is what it is, but I would never want to change it because that's how I felt at the time."

But one thing the Laneway Festival star has changed is his approach to women in music as the years have gone by.

"I'm vulgar but I don't talk about interactions with females as much as I used to just out of respect. To be honest, I think being in a relationship is just about respecting your partner, making sure they don't ever feel embarrassed or upset about how you're acting outside the house because when she's outside, she represents me and vice versa."

As for his own personal mission, Tracey said he wanted to get people listening to his music, and then aligning his lyrics with their own lives.

"I want everyone to relate to me as long as I'm relatable, then the music is going to live forever. I think that's the main thing -  trying to relate to people."

"It's good to wrap up your real life and just be open and honest." he admitted, a view which often seems contrary to how rap music is portrayed on social media.

"I know what it looks like on Instagram and all the rappers are living this amazing life, everything's Louis Vuitton and Diamonds or whatever, but that's not real life. It's good to rap about how it really is and then people can connect to the music."