January 23, 2020
(Black Butter Limited)More introspective and subdued following a spell in prison – though with libido intact – J Hus is still masterfully blending styles
J Hus – Big Conspiracy review: British rap star lights up his own lane
Earlier this week, it became apparent that J Hus’s new album, the follow-up to 2017’s Brit and Mercury-nominated Common Sense, had leaked. It was a throwback to the early noughties. Twenty-odd years ago, online leaks were the great music industry bugbear, but you don’t hear much about them after the switch from downloads to streaming – and there were dire imprecations from the J Hus camp: “Just know that everything u touch from here on will go to shit,” tweeted his long-time producer Jae5, before the rapper, who last year claimed to practise west African black magic, weighed in with: “I wake up and heavily curse anyone plotting against me.” Enterprising types braved the curses and attempted to flog the leaked album – which looks to have a different tracklisting to the finished product – for 10 quid a pop, but J Hus’s audience rallied around him: you couldn’t move on social media for fans announcing they weren’t going to download it and calling whoever did it a paigon.
That someone believed there were people out there willing to spend a tenner in order to hear an album – or a version thereof – three days before they could stream the real thing for free tells you something about the degree of anticipation surrounding Big Conspiracy. The Top 10 success of Common Sense represented a coming-out ball for a London sub-genre that no one could seem to decide what to call: Afro swing, trapfrobeat, Afro bashment. The struggle to find a name for it made a weird kind of sense, because the contents of Common Sense were hard to pin down: its sound kept shifting from hard-hitting to melodic and commercial, from music rooted in bashment or Afrobeats to stuff not unlike 90s US hip-hop. What it didn’t sound like was anything else UK rap had to offer – no mean feat given the sheer quantity of artists achieving crossover success.
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