When East London rapper J Hus’ second album ‘Big Conspiracy’ leaked earlier this week, his fervent fanbase rallied on social media in his support. Fans flocked to decry the leak, insisting that they wouldn’t download it. It spoke volumes to what J Hus represents to his legions of fans.
Anticipation around ‘Big Conspiracy’ was stoked by the fact that Hus had spent a few months in jail since his debut record ‘Common Sense’ was released. The Brit and Mercury-nominated album had elevated the artist to a global phenomenon. He had artfully melded together various genres – Afrobeat, grime, dancehall, hip-hop, R&B, bashment – into such a cohesive project that he is now credited as pioneering a whole new genre: Afroswing.
Where ‘Common Sense’ felt like an introduction to his work, a wiser and more subdued J Hus occupies ‘Big Conspiracy’. It’s a more rounded project with polished edges that sparkle in parts; a perfect counterweight to the introspective lyrics throughout. Though it may carry a similar formula, making it hard to pin the album down to one complete sound, Hus showcases his range and gift for incorporating multiple genres within one album. He easily switches between mainstream and melodic; hard-hitting and glossy. A lot of it comes down to the excellent, career-defining production. Executive produced by Jae5, whose work on Common Sense was also rightly praised, it also features production from Levi Lennox, iO and TobiShyBoy.
Hus rarely puts a foot out of place over 13 tracks. He’s lyrically sharp on ‘Fight For Your Right’, reflecting on the months he spent in jail singing on the hook, “How you going to run the world / When you can’t run your life / I’m Destiny’s Child / Every day I survive.” It sounds like Hus rapping to himself in the bathroom mirror while carrying a universal message to all those struggling. It comes right after the weighted ‘Helicopter’, on which he spans topics such as slavery, a racist police state and what it’s like surviving as a Black man within that. This is penned wisdom of someone who’s been behind bars and wants to help those still imprisoned. Time in jail has shaped Hus’ worldview; it’s allowed him to shed off the party-boy exterior for a more refined, calmer individual.
That doesn’t mean he still can’t be the anthemic, silky Hus, though. He showcases his playfulness when he brings in Nigerian heavyweight Burna Boy to assist him on ‘Play Play’ over an infectious, swinging Afrobeat tune. He raps about ex-lovers, current ones and future possibilities while weaving in mentions about guns, parties and the dangerous paths it leads people down. The very next song, ‘Cucumber’ is made for summer BBQs and sweaty club nights; expect to hear both tracks rinsed throughout the year, especially at Carnival with ‘Cucumber’s infectious hook, “I can make you fall in love with everything I do / You are not always biting off more than you can chew”.
It’s a slow heater ready-made for the club floor. Rising Jamaican star Koffee also features on the album, helping to elevate ‘Repeat’ with distinctive voice. J Hus’ inimitable charisma shines throughout. With its layered, dirty bass and Hus’ gruff vocals, ‘Fortune Teller’ epitomises this fixation. The beat is almost skeletal and the vocals meld into the background, allowing the bass to take centre-stage.
“Deeper Than Rap”, the album’s closer, is an in-depth analysis of J Hus’ life. It’s the kind of song you couldn’t imagine on ‘Common Sense’: over two piano chords and a violin, he begins, “I think about my life / And I analyse The gunman was aimin’ at me but he wasn’t precise / I looked down the barrel of the gun and saw paradise”. The growth and progression here is stunning.