Back in June of last year, Redbull Culture Clash winners Mixpak made one of the biggest surprises of the night with the arrival of special guest J Hus. His appearance on the night made it his first since the previous Christmas and his return did not go unnoticed. Hus picked up, straight where he left off with tracks ‘Playing Sports’, ‘Free Up’ and ‘Clean It Up’, giving the choice to his fans on what track they wanted to see released. He also teamed up with a number of artists, supplying them with hooks and verses, from the likes of Mostack ‘Liar Liar Remix’ and Dave ‘Samantha’ to Nines ‘High Roller’ and Stormzy ‘Bad Boys’. But the biggest news came when Hus broke the news of his debut album ‘Common Sense’. Following the success of his 2015 mixtape ‘The 15th Day’, ‘Common Sense’ looks to take J Hus to the next level, but does he match up to the hype?
Title track ‘Common Sense’ is a perfect intro to the project and kicks off like a 90’s West Coast banger. JAE5 and The Compozers lay down a thumping piano bass, soulful organ fills, and a soaring synth to create a beat that is full-bodied and glistening. J Hus flows over the beat effortlessly, switching from a melodic hook to his fast-paced punchy verses. It sets the tone for the project, celebrating his achievements and catching a positive vibe. The confident streak stays high with ‘Bouff Daddy’ (a nickname given to Hus due to his love of money) as he blends elements of dancehall and bashment with his African flow. The only downside to this track is that the hook and chorus are SO infectious that the verses don’t quite hit the mark but this doesn’t detract from the overall track.
“Bonsam, I’m tremendous, dress code horrendeous. Making six figures moves, we’ve got different agendas”
The vibe seems to take a darker turn on ‘Clartin’ with high pitched sax and piano being switched out for slow claps and drums with Hus attacking the beat head on. The track marks a more aggressive flow with Hus almost barking his way through his verse, a sharp contrast to the two tracks previously. Leaning towards a more drill/trap theme on this one allows him to experiment with his flow and is reminiscent of his earlier singles. Talking of experimentation, ‘Leave Me’ sees a mellow, guitar backed instrumental and Hus trying his best to navigate through out the best he can. Both these tracks act as new territory for the East Londoner and shows the confidence to challenge and test himself.
J Hus has always been a gyalist and looks to make tracks for the females. A personal favourite of mine has always been ‘Calling Me’ from his 2015 mixtape ‘The 15th Day’, talking about his love of girls and the reality of road life. On ‘Closed Doors’, it seems like the story he tells has evolved. Now he has time to chill and flows over a jazzy beat, using metaphors and witty lyrics to discuss his “private life”. Next up is the track that built the most hype in the lead up to ‘Common Sense’s’ release – ‘Did You See’. The single not only helps to cement his reputation as one of the leading Afrobeat artists in the UK today but also puts him in a lane of his own. His signature sound and style is never as prevalent as it is on this track and it shows through his exuberant energy coupled with the combination of his playful innuendos and concept.
Following on from what is essentially the lead single is no easy feat but I think this eventuality has been thought through as next track ‘Like Your Style’ switches the pace without confusing you. The track does have an aged quality to it, as if it could have been featured on his previous project but I guess that goes to show that Hus can transform on the spot, switching between genres, and flows with ease. This tradition is carried on ‘Plottin’ which not only highlights his versatility but Jae5’s creativity working on production. The beat has a nostalgic UKG vibe, which Hus tackles like a pro without losing his sense of identity. He talks on everything from girls in Stratford to Dublin and passing the ketchup but he does so in such a way that he can’t help but sing along and bop your head.
‘Sweet Cheeks’ acts as a bridge between the two halves of the album, blending an Afrobeat instrumental with a laidback Hus flow. The topic flips throughout, one minute focusing on relationships with girls to next minute, talking about his life on road. This juxtaposition is summed up in the line: “All up in business, she’s noisey. Big man like me I sneak out on the lowkey”. As well as serving as a bridge, ‘Sweet Cheeks’ seems like a vocalisation of an internal battle as he tries to balance two lives. However, by ‘Fisherman’, the mood seems to have changed and Hus has delved into full on “hustler” mode. When the snippet of this released online, I already knew that it was going to be a banger and I was not disappointed. Bringing through Mist and Mostack was an excellent idea and on the track, they all blend together perfectly, backed by melodic piano keys. Both Mist and Mostack have promised future collaborations between the trio and if this track is anything to go by, there is a lot to look forward to.
“Fisherman slash Casanova. Guarantee I get my ting before the dance is over”.
The collaborations continue on the next track ‘Good Time’ with Burna Boy coming through to supply a hook which could see this song pushed as the next single [fingers crossed!]. The track is another reminder of how far Hus has come as he handles his own on the track and uses his arsenal of ad-libs and melodies to keep the track on pace. This will certainly be one for the clubs and festivals of the summer with his mainstream appeal. Backed by a heavy rhythmic Afrobeat-tinged beat, ‘Spirit’ carries on a high vibe but sees a reflective stance from Hus as he looks back on his journey. This certainly seems like a personal track and if not for the party feel to the track, it could be a lot darker. But in typical J Hus style, this is not about getting hung up on the mistakes of the past but using those as a basis for change and celebrating his current success; “Build a zoot and then build an empire”.
J Hus flows so well with Mostack and this has shown on a number of previous releases and their chemistry is reflected perfectly on ‘Mash Up’. The title not only also describes the mash up of varied flows that the two can deliver but also highlights the beat, which seems to chop and change throughout. The two go back to back in a lyrical game of one-upmanship and is a fun inclusion on the project. Showing that he doesn’t take himself too seriously is also shown on ‘Goodies’, a hark back to the early freestyles that helped make the Stratford MC make a name for himself back in 2014/15. Going over a beat that wouldn’t be out of place of a 50 Cent album, Hus shows his lyrical weight and shows that he isn’t a one trick pony.
One of my personal highlights on the project is ‘Good Luck Chale’, a track which brings in UK artist Tiggs Da Author for a hook. Tiggs deserves an award for the work he’s been putting in, especially over the past 12 months. He has worked on standout tracks with Bonkaz ‘Life Support’, Nines ‘Hoes’ and Avelino ‘Ring The Alarm’ and his presence on ‘Common Sense’ does not go unnoticed. His hook elevates the track to the next level, bringing a certified quality to it and pushing Hus to his best. My only criticism is that this is not higher in the track listing as this could easily be a lead single.
The same sentiment could be shared for ‘Who You Are’ which closes out the project with Hus at his peak. It seems that the past 2 years have been a learning curve for him, balancing his lifestyles while looking to succeed. It hasn’t been easy but he has gotten to a point where he is comfortable, using every challenge as a lesson: “All the losses we been taken, young bosses in the making”. He has evolved and you genuinely feel like he is asking who he is. While previous release ‘Friendly’ actually takes the final track spot, it was dropped way back when and it’s hard to review it in the context of a full project. The same was done with Stormzy who included ‘Shut Up’ on GSAP and its easy to see why it has been done, looking to entice a casual fan to the album but I think that Hus had the confidence to push through without the track. However, the track itself is a classic and was a main component in J Hus’s success so it can’t be discredited.
‘Common Sense’ has already surpassed everyone’s expectations, mine included. The project has allowed him to experiment in styles and with genres, while he looks to make everything as authentic as possible. His features added yet another layer to his already infectious vibe but in their own individual way, from Tiggs and Burna to Mist and Mostack. Few projects take you on a journey nowadays but J Hus did so with ease, reflecting back on hard times and tribulation and eventually celebrating his accomplishments and success. I felt like a viewer to his storytelling and he did so with charisma and energy. Every element on the project seemed to have been done so with forward thinking and everything seemed to have been done for a reason. I guess it was just Common Sense.
FINAL RATING: 4/5