Just over two weeks into 2022 and I’ve already spent the best part of it spiralling from some of life’s big questions. Could crypto really be the key to unlocking my best remote-working, rich auntie life? Why did Dro make it into the Insecure season finale and not Daniel? And will HBO ever make it up to us with a season 2 of Lovecraft Country? Who the hell is naming all these variants, anyway? And while we’re at it, hurricanes too? Then there’s most pressing questions of them all: where is J Hus and when are we getting new music?
It’s coming up to a solid two years since we last heard any music from the nation’s favourite Stratford native. Ever since the UK rapper’s sudden hiatus – during which we at least got to proud-parent-watch his pursuit of greener pastures with the launch of The Ugliest, his all-in-one clothing line packaging luxury, lifestyle and legacy – all eyes have been on the J Hus-shaped hole that his absence has etched onto the music scene. It’s not like there are no other good UK artists out there, but no one else’s music hits quite like a Hustla’s. His last album Big Conspiracy has been ageing like a fine wine since its January 2020 release. Despite there being no music videos to promote the singles, Big Conspiracy topped the UK Albums Chart. Because it’s a masterpiece.
But it’s 2022 now and the streets are parched. Hot on the heels of increasingly chaotic Tory government antics and amid the century-old debris of a crumbling monarchy, the idea of new Hus is one of (let’s be honest) the very few things promising to lift us out of the vat of the UK’s perpetual bad vibes. On Twitter, all hopes and dreams around a new album were ignited by his longtime collaborator and producing heavyweight Jae5, who claimed the album was dropping on the 15th January (OK, so that was a Saturday and albums usually drop on a Friday, but stranger things have happened, right?) and just as quickly dashed by their mutual management team. The timeline went wild when the apparent tracklist, allegedly posted then deleted by J Hus according to some Twitter users, appeared and credited feature guests such as Stormzy, Dave, Pa Salieu, FKA twigs and 21 Savage. Again, 2K management mockingly shut down the rumour.
And yet, a quick glance at J Hus’ Instagram page is enough to give us hope: one brusque new bio, three fresh grid posts and a set of cryptic captions later, you get the sense that something is well and truly cooking for our crazy Eastender.
Away from the noise of album sales, streams and TikTok remixes, I like to think that the timeout has been sobering for both J Hus and his fans alike. Some of us have come a long way from screaming trademark ‘Hustla Baybayy’s and ‘Ahh-ahh-ahh’s on the way to local parks and under-21 raves in Dagenham. Have I always seen eye to eye with some of Hus’ more recently expressed politics? A hard no. But will rinsing early bangers like Want From Me and Calling Me on Soundcloud during the mid-2010s forever be up there with some of my fondest memories? Yes.
So what exactly will Juju J’s next era hold? Will we be seeing more from the gift that keeps on giving that is the holy Jae5 and J Hus alliance? Or will Hus be stepping out of the hyperbolic chamber and into natural light armed with a new suite of UK producers, such as the likes of TSB and IO? From the rough exterior of The 15th Day to the smoothed-out soundscapes of Common Sense, between the medley-style Afrobeats of the Big Spang EP and Big Conspiracy’s decidedly more mature veneer, the growth charted with every new instalment of J Hus is truly something to behold.
With each body of work J Hus goes from strength to strength, moving from one track to the next with chameleonic effect to showcase a multiverse of musical influences, moods, aliases and states of mind. Whether you’re more into No Denying than Bouff Daddy; if you’ve memorised Dem Boy Paigon or prefer to meditate on the gems of knowledge in Helicopter and Deeper Than Rap; whether you relish the certified lover boy sounds of Cucumber, Sweet Cheeks and Closed Doors or if, like me, you simply love it all, here’s praying we get all the answers soon.