Thursday, July 11th, 2019

AJ Tracey – Ladbroke Grove

Do you like garage? Jorja Smith? Things that could be described as “a throwback”? Have we got the track for you…


Scott Mildenhall: As great as a straight-up throwback party would be, “Ladbroke Grove” adds a little more darkness, via the Jorja Smith sample, and grit, via Tracey’s delivery. It’s a great balance to strike, because halfway between “Sweet Like Chocolate” and “A Little Bit of Luck,” it remains a joy. And anyway, they’ve done the obligatory “Flowers” too.

Jibril Yassin: Enlisting Conducta for a garage throwback is an inspired move; he’s plenty capable of conjuring sleek soundscapes for AJ Tracey to flow through, making the latter sound like a ghost slipping in and out of time. 

Alfred Soto: A well-paced garage throwback, anchored by AJ Tracey’s confident performance and judiciously employed Jorja Smith sample. He loves garage for its expressive possibilities, the mud-encrusted beats. 

Nortey Dowuona: A loose, leapfrogging drumbeat carries wormy bass into a flood of flea synths with Smith’s plaintive voice pitched just above the fleas — until AJ steps on a frog.

Iain Mew: The UK garage throwback is cheap and cheerful, and that would be that if it wasn’t for the Jorja Smith sample. After sticking “no one knows the pain” on, it’s easy to get drawn into studying the rest of it looking for a hint of that pain behind the mask. Easier still to conclude in the end that if it is mask, there is nothing but mask on offer.

Jonathan Bradley: MCs on garage beats always seemed better for anonymity; they weren’t spitting bars and the best knew that they were to tuck into a rhythm that was always ready to trip ahead of them. The weakest moments of “Ladbroke Grove,” then, are when AJ Tracey inserts his name, as if we should be interested in his presence; he should know the wandering Jorja Smith sample and the spurting bass and snare combo with which its been paired take precedence. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Conducta’s chopped up Jorja Smith sample floats over the beat’s house-leaning pianos, leaving Tracey plenty of space to fill in “Ladbroke Grove”‘s midrange. He does so with efficiency and style, but perhaps not the most lyrical depth– but he sounds good enough slotting in between the chords that you don’t really mind that he’s not saying much.

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