Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Label: Black Butter
The trials and tribulations of Momodou Jallow, better known as J Hus, have kept eyes and ears glued. From his humble east London origins, to his 2017 Mercury, BRIT and MOBO-nominated debut album Common Sense, the Lead Militérian has galvanised black music – afrobeats, UK rap, dancehall and R&B — with swagger, purpose and phenomenal zeal.
Reality caught up with Hus during a stint in prison in early 2019, yet the movement never wavered and a triumphant surprise appearance (via Drake) at London’s O2 Arena last April recemented Hus as a major player in the UK scene. So far, so hectic.
Hus went back to work on his second album immediately. The feeling was expectant, the anticipation reaching fever pitch. Lats year’s patience for new Hus music was rewarded with a one-two punch of singles Must Be and No Denying alongside features with Skepta and Dave.
The general revolutionary fervour of No Denying is laid out on sophomore effort Big Conspiracy, an audio demonstration of Hus’ physical, spiritual and emotional maturity. “How you gonna run the road when you can’t run your life,” he says on second track Helicopter, pointing to his internal shift toward self-improvement. Here, his intent is twofold: to maintain a secure sense of self through seeking knowledge and using those powers to lead an army of underdogs, of brethren.
Hus is refreshed and reborn, stimulated by a new sense of purpose: bettering himself. He seeks knowledge from a “bird’s eye view” on the eponymous intro track while his commanding flows and wordplay fit like a glove. Tracks like Reckless, Helicopter and Fight For Your Right are gentle reminders that beneath his trademark melodies and one-liners, the Bouff Daddy’s lyrical power remains intact. Stronger, in fact. He is effortless in finding new dimensions in which to address the haters, women and his own introspection. “You’re not a hitman, you’re a hit and miss” he proclaims on No Denying, speaking to his fearlessness against those who continue to plot against him.
Production across the board by the likes of Jae5, Nana Rogues, Levi Lennox, iO and more contribute a slick sound that further ties together the respective worlds of afrobeats, UK rap and R&B to the point of holy matrimony. Developing the rawness of early project The 15th Day into a refined, almost super-sound of sophistication, they constantly meet the high lyrical standards met by the star of the show. Play Play, featuring Nigerian titan Burna Boy, is a heatwave hummer with enough rays to shine on the club, cookout and Carnival. Meanwhile, Koffee tap dances over Repeat, inviting the sounds of Jamaica into Hus’ musical diaspora.
On closing track Deeper Than Rap, Hus taps into a poignancy, reflecting on his journey. “I’m from the roads you don’t think I’m intelligent,” he says, a perfect summation of the inescapable confines through which certain sectors of society view him and his like.
As he likens himself to a visionary, though, the feeling at the end of the album is that Hus has found the foresight he seeks to lead a revolt from the bottom, to address the world’s problems, even if he doesn’t know where to begin. Perhaps this explains his ongoing Twitter onslaught, ranging from insightful to out of touch ideology, but pointing to his constant growth, of his desire to learn from his mistakes and refine his world view on a public stage. This album will have certainly aided his enlightenment process.
Never running out of steam, Big Conspiracy represents the cheeky, bonsam-chasing young man’s renaissance moment, a cornerstone in a still-early career and his cementing as a formidable man of the people.