Apprentice Nation Content Creator Ninnah joined the latest Artist Hangout with AJ Tracey, and shared all the wisdom she picked up from the West London rap legend 🎤
AJ Tracey’s career has been impressive to say the least, so for us to get to hang out with him in an intimate group setting on zoom was such a treat! From exploring different genres and not letting the industry box him into one category to playing an active role in his community, AJ Tracey is definitely one to watch out for.
During the hangout we picked up some great pieces of advice from him concerning career moves, music, how to stay motivated and build up confidence. It was a real eye-opener and his humble approach made it really easy to talk to him, with some take-aways that really stuck with me:
1 . Everyone’s struggled with knowing what they want to do, even AJ Tracey
At such a young age it’s difficult to figure out what you want to do.
AJ had really good advice around this topic, letting us know that “you don’t have to know what you want to do, but figure out what you love to do”. Even relating to his own experience of thinking to have to know what to do at that age.
Posing questions such as “What do I like doing? What can I see myself waking up to do every day and maintain loving doing it? What makes you happy?”. Once you start figuring that out you can figure out what you’ll end up doing.” What we choose to do for work is a big decision and loving what you do makes it a lot easier to spend most of your time doing it effectively.
2. AJ Tracey has a hot take on networking
You’ve probably heard that these days it’s all about who you know and not what you know! But AJ insisted that “networking isn’t the be all and end all”. Explaining how “It depends on your angle”. AJ clarified how it can be “useful not be accessible” especially in regards to him, someone who is established in music. Not being accessible leaves people wondering about what you’re doing and thinking, so when you are around there’s more interest.
However, he did say that in other areas of life and work networking can be important and advised that “finding like minded people and being in environments where people think how you think is key when it comes to networking. Expressing how important it is “when you go into a room, (to) have something to offer”.
3. Inspiration can be found everywhere 💭
My favourite part of the hangout was when AJ was asked about what inspires him to make his music. Although he was very broad in the beginning by saying “Everything”. He really meant it, he even said that “trying new cereal” can inspire him . I don’t know about you but I personally have two favourite cereals that I switch between but feeling inspired to try some flavours I’m not used to! It is after all how a lot of us start our days, so trying new things at the beginning of your day can really be a source of inspiration!
Talking about what and who inspires him, AJ praised Pop Smoke for “trying to bridge the gap between UK and US music” and how “he put his ego to the side and listened to everyone on a fair leveled playing field”. He also talked about how Pop Smoke being younger than him didn’t affect how inspirational he found him. “Age has no impact on how influential you are as a person”. Which is totally true. Young people are more than capable of making a difference and being influential!
4. Don’t let your talent be taken away from you
AJ was then asked about the main challenges he’s faced and the obvious one was “wanting to be a rapper” and not “letting the stigma of people failing as rappers affect my dreams”. There can be stigma surrounding certain career paths you may want to choose but AJ reminded us that “someone’s opinion of you might affect you mentally but can never change your ability to do something” and that’s so important to remember.
Your ability is yours and if it’s a natural talent or something you’ve worked hard to master, it’s yours and it can’t be taken away from you
Another great piece of advice AJ gave was that it is “great to work the hardest but work smart as well. Realise where opportunities are and keep an open mind”. Often we are led to believe that working hard will produce the best results but even my own grandfather used to say, work smart not hard. There isn’t much point in breaking your back to work when there can be smarter ways to be more efficient and produce even better results. AJ is completely fair in advising that realising where the opportunities are and keeping an open mind as this can save time.
5. Getting involved in this experience helped push me out of my confidence comfort zone ✨
The thought of joining the hangout made me nervous. I’ve always admired AJ Tracey, as he’s a fellow West Londoner who followed his dream and made it work. He’s not been afraid to speak on issues close to his heart. Moreover, AJ Tracey’s versatility in the music he makes is reassuring for someone like me who raps but doesn’t know what genre they fit in. In his words, “I just make music I like”, and it obviously works, showing how you don’t need to choose one category to fit into it and can be as experimental as you like and still be successful.
As Apprentice Nation Members were asking their questions and getting great advice back from AJ, I was feeling nervous. I’ve been on countless zoom calls but having one with a celebrity you admire is nerve-wracking. When it finally came to my turn to ask my question, I asked what advice he’d have concerning having more confidence for someone who is starting out rapping.
He assured me that “Confidence comes with time”, explaining how he’s “been writing lyrics since (he) was 6. It comes with time.” He even revealed his “secret little technique” when it comes to rapping. Letting us know that “when (he) used to rap to grime bars. (He) used to rap to beats with a higher tempo than (he) was used to. Athletes run under water to make it easier for them to sprint when they aren’t in water. Because the resistance is different. It feels easier to sprint. Practice on beats you’re not comfortable on, so when you are on beats that you are comfortable on you shine through”.
I really appreciated the wisdom and the whole hangout left me feeling inspired, as I’m sure the rest of the attendees did! A topic that I’ve personally been working on myself recently is confidence. One member asked a question surrounding the topic and AJ talked about how “confidence comes with self-love, love yourself, be happy with who you are, be happy with how you think, things you like doing, how you express yourself. Once you’re fully happy in that, your confidence will soar”.
The last piece of advice AJ ended on was “if you give up now, that one last attempt could have been the one to change your life.” But to “always have a backup plan”. It can be difficult to keep your belief in yourself going. Wanting to throw in the towel could seem like the easier option. But it’s true, that life-changing opportunity could be around the corner, keep going but don’t forget to have a plan B just in case.
Keep your eyes open for who you could hang out with at the next Artist Hangouts this Spring!
In the meantime, you can check out even more wisdom from AJ Tracey on the Skills Hub.