Over the last few years, the growth of the UK urban scene has been nothing short of spectacular. A large percentage of those who used to show contempt to such genres, have now converted to liking the sound. Whether this is via social pressure or a genuine change in taste, it has led to more money entering the pockets of these artists, which is only beneficial. For those who have been fans from the offset, it has been great to watch the progression, and see these artists succeed on a cultural level as well as financially. However with greater success, comes greater competition. There are plenty of prospects who have been touted to do well, but whether they do actually hit those promised heights is yet to be seen. However out of these many prospects, one name has consistently been mentioned and bookmarked for certain success. Fans have almost felt that it was guaranteed but it was only a matter of when. That time may have come for East London’s J Hus.
An artist that seems to solely specialize in releasing hits, J Hus rarely fails to disappoint. He has a stellar track record of putting out quality music that causes a reaction in the club, but also has diversity in his content as shown on ‘Guns & Butter’ off his ‘The 15th Day’ mixtape. What makes him so special, is that he has managed to emerge as an individual in a music scene crowded with talent that struggles to find originality. Alongside Jae 5, a producer with an equally as bright future as J Hus, he has created a sound that cannot be pinned down to one genre. Its not Rap or Grime. Its not Afrobeats or Bashment. Its not Trap. It is a concoction of all of the above, with varying levels on each of his separate tracks. He manages to merge all of these separate sounds together into a harmonious mix, which results in great, original music. Having signed a record deal with Black Butter, the industry support that many artists vie for was there. It was now up to him and his team to take the next step, and produce a project that could transcend the barriers artists like Stormzy have overcome, in appealing to the mainstream whilst remaining close to the roots of his core fanbase. With the release of ‘Common Sense’, his debut studio album, I was able to see if he managed to achieve this difficult task.
I was surprised when hearing the opening track, which shares the same title as the album itself, ‘Common Sense’. Produced by Mark Crown and Jae 5, it has a New York, hip-hop vibe, with a heavy use of trumpets, giving the song a grandiose feel, perfect for announcing the arrival of your debut studio album. J Hus shows his versatility in his ability to rap over an instrumental that he is probably not used to, but progresses into his characteristic singing at the end of the opening verse. His wavy, lyrical style in his unique Gambian/British accent, blends well with the classic Rap vibe of the song, and results in a fitting opening for the album.
The second track returns to a more familiar J Hus sound, with a Pop/Bashment feel that he mixes with East London slang of ‘Bouff Daddy’, alluding to the fact that back in his area, he’s looked at as the ‘money man’. Omnipresent throughout the project is the quality of production, and Jae 5 consistently delivers, in this particular case, with the breakdown nearing the end of the track, using melodious guitar synth chords, for Hus to do the bridge over. J Hus’ crooning adlibs and catchy “and the mandem got it cracking again”, are subtle yet effective additions to the track.
The album takes a short, dark turn with the ultra aggressive ‘Clartin’’. Artillery fire, heavy bass and Hus’ guttural roar in the chorus, leads to an ideal expression of his previous affiliation to gang life. It is no doubt a song which will lead to mosh pits, whether it be in his concert or when the DJ decides to play the song at club nights. The production is again excellent with the aforementioned use of gunfire and menacing synth that suits Hus’ subject matter.
‘Leave Me’ is one of the more underrated songs of the album, and for whatever reason hasn’t been spoken of as highly as other songs from the project. The use of the guitar notes induces thoughts of an old Western film accompanied by Afro Trap, with the use of snare rolls and a striking vocal sample. J Hus once again raps, with strong emphasis on each word he delivers. The exceptionally catchy chorus shows his cleverness in creating memorable songs, a talent that many budding artists lack.
‘Closed Doors’ seems to be a song, which could have been placed after ‘Common Sense’, with its extensive use of trumpets, however, the instrumental possesses more spaced out piano chords in a higher key. It’s the first song which is really dedicated to women, and gives the listener an insight into J Hus’ view of romance. It has a throwback drum line similar to that of ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC, however Hus is distinct in his lyrics. Like the majority of his songs, he shows his ability to make the crudest of statements sound pleasing to the ears.
The promotional single to ‘Common Sense’ needs no introduction, as ‘Did You See’ has taken the UK by storm over the last few weeks, slowly ascending the Official Charts, reaching the top ten in the process. And its success is justified, with an Afro-Bashment twist on Usher’s ‘Pop Ya Collar’ melody, Hus’ infectious hook, and memorable lines making it into the blockbuster of a track that it is. He again uses questionable lyrics such as ‘bonsam’, but the texture of the song is so bubbly that it’s initially difficult to even notice. Whether he is just using the vocabulary to create a reaction or not, it flows and fits with the chorus perfectly.
From the immediate high pitched sample for ‘Like Your Style’, its evident that its another song for the ladies, and similar to ‘Closed Doors’, Hus gives us machismo lyrics, on this occasion over a lighter instrumental. Jae 5 once again impresses with his production, incorporating soulful R&B adlibs, chopped up cleverly with a variety of instruments in the hook.
‘Plottin’’ is arguably one of the best tracks on the album, and induces serious nostalgia for any Garage fans. Like ‘Common Sense’, the genre choice is surprising but J Hus has no issue with lacing the beat with his own style, once again proving his adaptability as an artist. With the use of hollow, echoic synths the melody is so creative yet also gives that throwback feel, as Hus is able to synchronise his flow to the trademark Garage claps.
‘Sweet Cheeks’ is not a standout song on the album, but regardless is a solid effort from Hus and producers, IO, TSB & Jae 5, who create a more stripped back instrumental for this particular track. He maintains his comical lyrics, “boonda so big it don’t fit in the selfie”, alongside the gang references, “told my brudda put down the balaclava”. He has a knack of creating relatable yet zany imagery for his listeners, and his words in this track can attest to this.
‘Fisherman’ features a current UK juggernaut of an artist on the bridge, Mist. It’s a shame that he didn’t have a verse to himself, but that void is filled by Mostack’s feature, who like J Hus, has built a reputation of funny and memorable punchlines. The production on this occasion is handled by Steel Banglez, who has had a monumental twelve months, producing consistent hits for Mist, and also recently celebrated signing a deal with Warner Music to start his own record label called ‘Spiritual Records’.
‘Good Time’ is probably one of the most underrated tracks on the project. Jae 5 once again works his magic, with an Afrobeat production which would be suited to an artist like Maleek Berry. Rising star, Burna Boy provides a mellow and smooth hook, whilst Hus sings throughout the first verse, but transitions to rap on the second. It is one of those club songs which may fly under the radar, yet still have impact when the DJ plays it.
‘Spirit’ oozes with energy, as Jae 5 uses a multitude of instruments to create a futuristic Bashment track ideal for Carnival. There is a lot going on in the track, which if mixed incorrectly could result in a cacophony of noise. However the separate stems fit perfectly together to allow J Hus to provide motivational lyrics e.g. “bill a zoot, then build an empire”. The lyrics could be expected over a slower beat, given the feeling they possess, and that they come from such a personal place, however Hus specializes in doing the out of the ordinary. Regardless, it works, and the streaming figures it has garnered are testament to this.
‘Mash Up’ is the one track on the album where Jae 5’s production didn’t connect with me. The melody seemed a bit basic, however J Hus and Mostack’s clever interchanging verses more than made up for the instrumental. With the recent release of the ‘Ussy Ussy’ video, and ‘High Street Kid’ on the way, it could be a big summer for Mostack.
Jae 5 returns to his prime form on ‘Goodies’, with an intimidating instrumental, akin to a 50 Cent track. Hus raps throughout, and comes with aggression again, counteracting the opening skit, where an old friend warns him of people looking for him in his area. Lyrics like “bonsam jumbo” and the hook itself show that the song’s substance is similar to that of ‘Clartin’’, however the emphasis is more on making money despite the consistent gunshot adlibs adding to the mobster feel of the song.
‘Good Luck Chale’ features the exceptionally talented Tiggs Da Author, who is progressing rapidly as a solo artist as shown by his growing streaming numbers. Tiggs’ past collaborator, Show N Prove, alongside Jae 5, produce a track that possesses low melancholic chords whilst still maintaining a bounce ubiquitous throughout the album. J Hus once again touches on more personal subject matter, speaking about being in and out of prison, and dealing with enemies. He affirms that no-one is getting close to him, which is reinforced by Tiggs’ hook, with his mantra of “good luck chale”.
‘Who You Are’ shows a further level of introspection to J Hus over a slower instrumental, with a focus on piano chords but also plenty of snare rolls. The hook is slightly cryptic but holds the message of his desire to be close to home with day one friends despite all of the trouble they have encountered growing up. He maintains his playful side for example his pronunciation of “stick” (“shtick”), but still hits on personal problems such as his frustration with females wanting him for fame, and disconnect with politicians.
J Hus leaves the best for last on his debut album, with one of the tracks that propelled him from a relatively unknown artist to a hot prospect in the UK scene. One of Jae 5’s finest creations, ‘Friendly’, is a euphony of unique sounds, especially the most distinctive synth, used to produce an addictive short melody, which is repeated throughout the chorus. J Hus matches the instrumental, with catchphrases that are now embedded in fans’ everyday lingo, most notably “I like my Fanta with no hice”. His lyrics are not complex, but in typical J Hus fashion, witty and clever, and align perfectly with the pulsating beat of the hard-hitting drums. Given that the song came out well over a year ago, and still induces the same raucous reaction in the club is testament to its impact in UK music.
As a first album, J Hus has produced an excellent effort on his debut. Although the majority of the songs on the album are upbeat, and prime for a club/bar environment, he is able provide diversity in the slower, more thoughtful tracks, especially present at the end of the album. J Hus is not the most lyrical artist, but he has a delivery which he executes to perfection on his punch-lines, and we hear this throughout the project. His ability to adapt to any instrumental put in front of him is a sign of how diverse he is, and capable of being as a musician going forward. He is unorthodox in his approach but at the same time relatable to fans, a perfect combination for any young, rising artist. To only give praise to J Hus for the album would be a job half done.
Despite other producers featuring on the album, up to this point in time, one man has been instrumental (literally) in J Hus’ success. Jae 5 deserves a huge amount of credit for the work he has done on this album. The album is evidence of him being an elite producer, not just in the UK, but globally. He uses a range of synths that I’ve never heard before and blends them with familiar melodies which he puts his personal twist on. He is capable of doing it all, from the throwback feel on ‘Plottin’’ to Afrobeats on ‘Good Time’ to a unique mix of genres on ‘Friendly’. Jae 5 and J Hus are a winning team, and without the prodigious producer, I question whether J Hus would be where he is today. This is not to take anything away from Hus, and the same question could be asked of Jae 5. Regardless, they have come together to give an excellent first album for J Hus, and I can only hope that they continue to work together and keep ascending the ladder to the top of UK music.
Photography Credit: Courtney Francis; BBC; GQ; Crack Magazine; YouTube