In the last couple years, London has emerged as a hotbed of hip-hop, with artists like Stormzy and Skepta getting worldwide recognition and respect in the American hip-hop scene.
There were the token Drake features and Noisey documentaries, and Stormzy and Skepta have become legitimate stars, but the whole grime scene appears, at least from across the pond, to be pretty monolithic.
Of course, with any burgeoning music scene, the stars of the genre will drive the direction of the sound and the aesthetic, but grime has been pigeon-holed, at least in the States, by Skepta, Giggs, and Stormzy’s success.
Skepta and Giggs in particular make sense to an American ear; this familiarity has translated to worldwide success for these dudes, but grime is a much more diverse and multifaceted genre, than Skepta domination and Atlanta trap cosplay.
That’s where J Hus comes in.
The East End MC from Stratford, London has been active on the grime scene since 2015, with releases like “Lean and Bop” and “Dem Boy Paigon” showing a promising young MC having some fun over dancehall beats, but neither of these releases pointed to anything beyond making fire music for the club.
J Hus got the approval of grime godfather Stormzy, appearing on February 2017’s Gang Signs & Prayer‘s “Bad Boys” along with Ghetts.
But J Hus’ new album Common Sense, might be the most interesting U.K. hip-hop record in recent memory.
The kid from Stratford combines elements of grime, U.K. garage, dancehall, Afrobeat, hip-hop, and R&B seamlessly, all punctuated by piercing wise-cracks and boastful roadman rhymes.
J Hus shows his complete diversity as an artist throughout Common Sense, announcing himself as the new torch-bearer for a burgeoning genre trying to escape Skepta autonomy.
On “Did You See” J Hus is at his boastful best, rapping “Came looking like a ganja farmer/
Your daddy betta hide his daughter” over a springy, steel drum-driven beat, and a bouncing bass. It’s safe to say Stormzy is a fan.
Oi I've heard this one. It's very mad still 😳 https://t.co/TL3ocoKy2X
— #GSAP (@Stormzy1) February 28, 2017
The instrumental on “Did You See” could easily stand on its own in any dancehall or garage setting, shit just belongs in the club.
“Common Sense”, the eponymic second single of the album exhibits a pretty big sound, sounding very early 2010’s Maybach Music, for the typically minimalist genre. But J Hus isn’t the typical grime artist.
“Clartin” is a banger about drive-bys and ‘opps’ and could be held up to any Chicago drill or Atlanta trap, but it isn’t an attempt at copying that sound, rather a response to it. It’s London’s answer to drill and trap, not a replication of it.
After we emerge from the dark streets of London’s East End, J Hus takes us inside the crib on “Closed Doors”, a love, or perhaps more accurately a sex ballad, with some jazzy live horn instrumentation and a smooth as fuck drum kick.
The production on Common Sense makes it one of the most diverse hip-hop albums in recent memory, especially in the sometimes monolithic grime genre.
From the dramatic strings, reminiscent of early 2000s era G-Unit on “Goodies”, to the post-dubstep drums on “Plottin”, London-based producer Jae5, who produced the whole album, has created the canvas for J Hus to paint his lyrical art.
Listening to Common Sense, you get the feeling this is a record that could only be made in London at this particular moment in time.
J Hus, the son of a Gambian mother, brings in elements from across the world to make a truly global-sounding album. Common Sense is representative of the cultural tapestry of London, drawing from the litany of styles and subgenres that have popped up in the clubs and neighborhoods throughout London in the past twenty years.
But ultimately, the most crucial aspect of Common Sense‘s success the album’s basic authenticity.
There’s no token American rapper feature, no Skepta or Stormzy appearance, although both have endorsed J Hus. Common Sense makes no attempt to appeal to American audiences or craft a crossover hit to find a way onto Hot 97 or a tour with Drake.
J Hus has announced himself as a very serious force to be reckoned with, not only in the U.K. grime scene, but in the hip-hop genre as a whole.
Common Sense is a special record made in a very specific time and place. We’ll be banging this shit all summer.