AJ Tracey: Flu Game review – a confident slam dunk

Kitty Empire
·1-min read

West London rapper AJ Tracey’s ambitious second studio album doesn’t just nod to the pandemic; it references a 1997 NBA game when a visibly unwell Michael Jordan overcame food poisoning to help the Chicago Bulls to victory. Tracey is also digging deep to triumph over the odds, the title implies, with a US audience in his sights on this “sophomore” album.

What follows is a three-pointer taken with poise and verve. Despite the many basketball references – tracks like Draft Pick, Kukoč and Eurostep – plus the presence of US guests such as T-Pain and Kehlani, Tracey’s output remains reassuringly hyperlocal, not diluting his flows but rather taking plenty of familiar UK specifics international. West Ten, his terrific garage-revival hit with Mabel, is most obviously sited in Ladbroke Grove, but granular references to Tracey’s “opps”, upmarket restaurants and Vimto also litter these confident, irresistibly rhythmic verses.

Related: UK rap star AJ Tracey: ‘I’m not all the way out of the streets’

Similarly, Flu Game’s bouncy productions tread a nimble line between trap beats, international party music and London forms. If these 16 tracks sound like end-to-end bangers (three have been hits already), the slight downsides are also familiar: Tracey is a clever wordsmith who can do better than some of the more obvious metaphors and hilariously retro chat-up lines. “I got something in my trackies and it’s only for you girl,” Tracey promises on Coupé.