- Words Ryan Cahill
- Photography Tanner Abel
As they drop their banger-ridden debut album, we sit down with Aja.
Instagram icon turned Drag Race alumni, Aja is the drag queen with a difference. Their quick-wit and catchy outbursts (“You’re perfect, you’re beautiful, you look like Linda Evangelista, did you stone those tights?”) secured them as a fan favourite on the show, and they’ve since become an internationally recognised queen amongst the Drag Race community. These days, Aja is aiming to be remembered for something else; their music. And they are starting their mission with a debut album, the incredible BOX OFFICE.
Featuring a string of mega collaborations including Rico Nasty and Cupcakke, the 15-track masterpiece is one of the few truly respectable albums to be birthed following a Drag Race stint, and proves that Aja has more strings to their bow than just killin’ it on the runway. With banging beats, killer vocals and plenty more music on the way, we’ve got our eyes (and ears) firmly fixed on the world of Aja, and we’re eager to see what comes next.
We sat down with them to discuss their rapid rise, and also unpack their ultimate 10Trax.
You’ve just released your first album. How does it feel that now it’s out?
I’ve worked so hard on this project; probably harder than I’ve ever worked on anything in my career before. I was able to complete it in 8 studio sessions in between touring all around the world…so it really feels incredible that people are receiving it so well and people are vibing! It truly took me out me when Rolling Stone said “Nicki Minaj-level wordplay takes centerstage.” That was a moment.
What are the key themes of the album?
I really tried to use cinematic elements to tell the story of my life. Through this album, I get to be in control of my story. When you’re on reality television, you’re not necessarily in control of your own narrative, no matter how real or authentic you are. There’s a whole team of people in charge of how they want to show you. While cinematic influences are clear in my lyrics and song titles, each track on Box Office is truly a mini biopic. I’m saying, ‘Hey, this is where I came from. This is who I am.’
There’s some pretty mega people on there. Tell us about how the collaborations came about.
I wanted to have each collaboration fit in with the theme of the song they were on. There was a lot of thinking about which artist belonged on which track. For example, Shea Couleé was perfect for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” because the track was about black excellence & opulence, something Shea Coulee represents. CupcakKe was the right choice for “Safari Zone” because I knew she could spit a verse that got people moving their asses to that beat, and I’ve loved her for so long. She actually brought me out to her show once after seeing me lipsync to her tracks when I was doing drag in New York. I wanted each feature to be a MOMENT, so I kept each artist’s style in mind and asked myself how I could best serve them while also staying true to my style.
Is there anyone you’ve keen to collaborate with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
There’s so many artists I want to work with. Lately, I’ve totally wanted to collaborate with Bad Bunny because I’m digging the direction his work is going in. Also, Tyler the Creator. I’m obsessed.
What do you hope that people take away from the album?
I released a fun EP last year after appearing on TV, but this album feels like my true beginning, a return to my roots and a celebration of breaking free from expectations. I hope listeners can feel the love and truth I put into this record–and in turn, maybe inspire them to take control of their narrative as well through their art. This album is about freedom. I just want people to feel free to be who they are.
Finally, what’s next?
I’m spending 2019 touring ‘Box Office, around the world, Getting to perform these tracks live has been incredible. I just got back from touring the U.K. and hearing the fans rap my lyrics back to me was so surreal. The album JUST came out! I’m incredibly grateful. Also, I’m writing an EP of Latin trap tracks to come very soon. I can’t wait to share it with the world!
“MotorSport” by Migos featuring Nicki Minaj & Cardi B
This song gets me hyped, especially before a show. It’s probably my favorite Nicki verse. Having two strong, powerful women on this track is such a power move.
“Macy Gray” by Shiloh featuring Amira Wang
I love this song because it’s so sexy. Also, keep your ears peeled because there’s a Pokémon reference that will make you think of erections in a totally different way.
"Caro" by Bad Bunny
I like the song & the music video because of all the symbolism. The way it changes tempo is amazing, too.
“Smack A Bitch” by Rico Nasty
I love this record because it reminds me how to control my anger! [laughs]
“Lucky You” by Eminem featuring Joyner Lucas
The dichotomy between having one person who is in the pinnacle of their career, and someone who is starting out in the game inspired me to write the first single from Box Office, “Jekyll & Hyde.”
“Powerglide” by Rae Sremmurd featuring Juicy J
Sometimes you just want to take about the whip’s interiors for no reason.
“7 Rings” by Arianna Grande
This is a straight four minute flex from a successful woman and I’m here for every second of it.
“Art Deco” by Lana del Ray
The erté style is something that inspires me a lot, and I feel like Lana captured that in this track.
“Judas” by Lady Gaga
Arguably one of Gaga’s best songs. Everything about the song and the music video screamed iconography.
“I Ain’t Got Time!” by Tyler, the Creator
This track is too relatable because I’m always out of time. I’m perpetually lacking the moment.