In the three-ish years since the release of his debut album Common Sense, J Hus has held a coveted and enigmatic position within the UK rap scene, due to his brand of personal unpredictability and sheer creative ambition. It is this combination that finds itself manifested yet again in his latest full-length project Big Conspiracy – a testament to Hus’ heritage, spirituality, inner turmoil, and overwhelming distrust. Behind all of these themes, however, is a polished and bouncy collection of tunes sure to satisfy anyone from die-hard Hus enthusiasts to those with even a passing interest in rap music.
Referents such as “rapper” or “MC” often feel reductive in Hus’ regard; from the opening of the title track’s first verse, his harmonic understanding and vocal capability is forefronted against the sparse and sleek arrangements of Jae5 (long time collaborator and executive producer of Big Conspiracy). “You don’t have to find me / if I’m looking for you”, he hums, as if to reassure the listener of his firm control of the musical surroundings. It is this sense of creative maturity that shapes the album and lends itself well to the socially conscious direction that it so often leans toward – particularly with contemplative tracks such as ‘Fight for Your Right’ or the G-funk flavoured ‘Triumph’.
The pure wizardry of the aforementioned Jae5 (alongside co-producers TSB and IO) makes for a record that is as musically sophisticated as it is club-ready. The beats move seamlessly between golden age hip-hop, afrobeats, and momentarily toward a more contemporary influence with drill-inspired bangers like ‘No Denying’. The record however remains distinctly instrumental, informed by Jae5’s old-school sensibilities and diverse musical upbringing. Hus is given ample space with which to pepper in gentle melodies and hooks, accompanied occasionally by soprano guest vocalists on moody hip-hop cuts like ‘Helicopter (ft. icee tgm)’, or the summery afrobeat banger ‘Repeat (ft. Koffee)’.
With Big Conspiracy, the J Hus we all know (cocky, misanthropic, most betrayed man of all time) is still present, but he shares the spotlight with a newer, more mature and well-rounded artist. There is a mystery and knowingness about his lyricism that suggests a deeply introspective individual and a necessary-if-cynical voice amidst both the current dormancy of grime and the increasing homogeneity of UK drill. If there is only one thing for certain – J Hus is still very horny.
Image: Jack Haseldine via Flickr