On his debut album, the man of many voices provides the sound of now
If any single artist embodies the boundary-trouncing cross-pollination that’s making hip-hop so exciting right now, it’s 20-year-old London rapper J Hus. He’s a total vocal chameleon, capable of convincingly switching flows – switching nationality, even – depending on what the track requires. A single verse can find J scrolling through the louche grind of Jamaican dancehall, the autotuned bounce of Ghanian hiplife, the aggy energy of London grime and the zoned-out drawl of Atlanta rap. It’s a dizzying, dazzling trick.
J Hus’s prodigious genre-hopping means that – despite containing only four brief guest spots – his 17-track debut album remains energised and entertainingly unpredictable from end to end. Changes in mood arrive almost as frequently as switches in flow: one moment J Hus is a grinning high-roller basking in local adulation (‘Bouf Daddy’); the next he’s the screw-faced roadman roaring threats (‘Clartin’’); the next he’s a cheeky ladies’ man with a mind full of X-rated thoughts (‘Closed Doors’).
The album’s beats – courtesy of fast-rising producer Jae5 – are, if anything, even more eclectic. The title track offers multi-layered soul melodies banger worthy of prime-period Rick Ross; ‘Did You See’ cross-pollinates trap’s minimalism with woozy hiplife hooks; while ‘Plottin’’ and ‘Goodies’ rewind back to the late-’90s to reference, respectively, UK garage and backpack rap. In truth, the album is as much Jae5’s as it is J Hus’s – you can almost feel the pair of them driving each other on, good-naturedly trying to outwit each other with unexpected stylistic switch-ups.
For all its globe-trotting genre-hopping, however, ‘Common Sense’ is an album that could only have been released in the UK in 2017 – not only because of its very London-specific blend of influences, but because of its big-budget glossiness and world-beating confidence. This is very much a post-Stormzy, post-Skepta, post-Drake-going-roadman album, and an important stepping stone along the path to the UK establishing itself as a bona fide world-beater at beats and rhymes.
With his attention-grabbing skills and knack for sculpting hooks, J Hus could crack the US with a single feature on some hot rapper’s hit track. But honestly, with our homegrown scene so exciting right now, why not simply stay basking in that local adulation?