A Conversation with AJ, The One

Screen Shot 2019-08-08 at 10.48.31 AM.png

by Taylor Crumpton

AJ, The One is goddess trap. Defined as an “ass shaking and hip winding experience, filled with stimulation of the mind, body, and spirit,” the Inglewood, California multimedia artist and creative director is an embodiment of radical sexual politic principles. Her latest EP Womxn is a melodic ode to Oshun inspired by the deity’s strengths, AJ, The One, adorned in crystals, under the celestial energies of the Moon, is listeners first glance at her spiritual abilities. 

“Vagina Vibe,” the EP’s opening track, is an ethereal display of yoni energy, with the rapper calling upon her sisters to stand in solidarity against misogynist attackers. Music is her chosen platform, born out of a vulnerable and community-centered love and rooted in Black womxn experiences.

AJ, The One’s songs are an interdimensional portal into an Afrofuturist led future where sexuality and eroticism for Black womxn are embraced, rather than demonized and hypersexualized by patriarchal oppressors. Her musical projects are bold reclamations of space, with the duality of her freestyles operating as both a rallying cry and hymn. A Los Angeles tongue, her intensity leaves a burn mark at the end of every verse as a potent remainder, and in some cases, warning about the development of her intrinsic rapping ability. 

At dinner, we talked about the emergence of womxn rappers, the release of her first mixtape, and vaginas.

If you could categorize your rap in three words, what would they be?
My rap would be sensual, eclectic and stimulating. I want to choose another word than sensual. So stimulating, eclectic... colorful.No, not colorful, because eclectic and stimulating is also colorful. Could be... I'm just very much inspired by the erotic, but I don't necessarily want to say erotic, and I don't necessarily want to say sensual. And I definitely don't want to say sexual.

Yo, I think erotic is it. It's like that. Erotic because erotic isn't always about sex. It's about connection. That’s why I say erotic. An instrumental can be erotic too. Like, not even words, "Oh this shit makes me feel something." That's what it's about. It makes you feel something, and that's why I say stimulating too.

In a Berkeleyside interview, you said “my music is for womxn.” Why do you center your artistry on the lived experiences of womxn?
One thing that rules my life is the deliberation of silenced identity. I said silenced, but in reality we’re not silent. We’re disregarded. They tried to bury us. We’re muffled. At a young age, I realized that Blackness was somehow better than anything else. When I got into consciousness in the fifth grade, and won my school’s Martin Luther King Jr. speech contest, my first time performing on stage. I was able to formulate words about muffle identities, and found representation. In high school, the code of conduct for women and girls was very bad. Myself, I contributed to misogyny, because that’s what we were taught. We internalized it. I remember like, "Sexual freedom? What is that?" You know what I mean? "That's not cool, you're a hoe." You know what I mean? Who is it that taught you that? So, I chose women because I needed it.

Four years ago, you moved to the Bay from Inglewood and released a “0 to 100” freestyle on Soundcloud.
I had this infatuation with Oakland. They were my representation, and lived in Oakland. I told myself, “Yo, I need to move out there, so I can really express myself. I got to the Bay, honey, and had a studio apartment and I was like, "Don't nobody know me out here." You know you get that feeling? Then I said, "I'm going to start putting my poems on Soundcloud." My first poem was a “0 to 100” freestyle by Drake, and very AJ The One.  It just was very, "You niggas is this, women are this." And I was just like, "Wow." I felt so good. It's so bad quality. I think I recorded it on my iPad. It’s good, and my first time recording a song. It said this is who I am. 

I can't not not make music about women. I've literally tried.

I'm going to put in the review, this is all vagina inspired music. 
Right? It's such a strong reclamation of space. And it was “Bitches Ain't Shit” by YG and Nipsey Hussle. 

Nipsey is your dude. I saw you went to his funeral.
He is my guy.  It's a long story of how our families are connected, but in terms of an artist, he was one of the people that pushed me to rap. It was [“Bitches Ain't Shit”], that questioned me to say "Why aren't women making songs like this?" I liked the song, it's cool. But then I had a situation where, I'll never forget the situation.

Is this essential content right here? 
Yes. In high school, there was this very popular girl who had cheated on her partner. His friends played a hella loud song, and followed behind her as she walked home. She was in tears, and because there was a power difference between us; she was a senior, and I was a sophomore. I can’t be like “Are you okay?”. Back then, it was different. I felt so helpless. I fucking hated them. I was so mad. I didn’t know what she did, but they followed her for blocks until she was out of my sight. 

That song had me like, “I gotta go make some shit like this”. You know what I’m saying? I don't know, maybe one day I'll shake it out of my system, but it doesn’t seem like it's going away.

As a rapper, do you feel being a womxn gives you an additional strength or secret talent? Historically, critics have downplayed womxn rappers and accused them of using a male ghost writer.
As a womxn rapper, It’s a superpower in general. I have a very deep purpose and intentionality in everything I write and say, it makes me feel invincible. I can rap, but I can make you think about something, and have you thinking about it that night. Like, “Did this bitch really just say? "This bitch really said shit right here?”

There’s several meanings behind a womxn rapper’s bars. At first listen, you believe to have an understanding of the meaning. Once you study the rapper, you gained an additional depth behind the bar. If you speak to them in-person, you receive an additional third meaning.
That’s what I love to do. It makes me feel invincible, and part of a girls club. In this time, I feel so held too. It feels like all of us are like “We’re here?” City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion, Tierra Whack. Even though I don’t know these people, I am invincible. We are The Incredibles.

That's what I love to do. It makes me feel definitely invincible, and it makes me feel like a part of a girls club. I don't have a lot of other woman rapper friends, but I still feel so held, especially in this time.

So, you’re working on a mixtape?
My next project is a mixtape, packed in with a lot of different flavors. I’ve only had one project, and never dropped a mixtape. These twelve tracks are going to be filled with full personality. On my first project, I did a good job on crafting a narrative. Now, I want to show a lot of my personality, who I am in my everyday, and what it’s like to be AJ The One. Yeah, I'm excited. Really good producers, like... I'm just excited, it's going to be awesome. Can't wait to hear it.