RETROSPECTIVE: 'Big Conspiracy' and The Artistic Evolution of J Hus
"I looked down the barrel of the gun and I saw paradise"
In the 10 months between J Hus jumping on stage with Drake, and the release of his sophomore album, one thing had become evident: nobody had captured the hearts of the ‘urban’ music scene in this country quite like Hustla. A number one album with no music videos, media promotion or tour is typically something reserved for the man he shared the stage with at the O2, and yet Hus had managed to boldly tread where no rapper from these shores has ever trodden before.
"You don’t have to find me, when I’m looking for you"
J Hus raps in the opening line of the album’s title track and intro; and when he was ready, the music found us. Big Conspiracy, a 44-minute long and 14-track effort, sees Hus display continued musical growth – both sonically and thematically. After serving 4 months of an 8-month sentence, J Hus returned with a new sound and a new perspective. A far cry from the club anthems we had enjoyed from Hus this far, the artist delved far deeper into his spirit, whilst still providing us with infectious head-nodders. Tackling the duality of his street life and his career, constant paranoia, mortality and the obstacles facing young black men in the UK, Momodou Jallow truly came of age artistically with his latest LP.
The album's singles ‘Must Be’ and ‘No Denying’ initially drew surprise for their well-developed instrumentation, but were merely the indication of a new direction. Big Conspiracy is a body of work that would not sound out of place in front of a live orchestra, a credit to producer TSB and long-time collaborator Jae5. Whilst the latter took on the role of evolving the ‘Afro-Swing’ sound he and Hus pioneered, TSB dealt with turning what seemed an unnatural sonic progression into a perfect fit; the haunting guitars of the album’s first two tracks, accompanied with the impressive musical score behind the albums lead singles, TSB’s Midas touch is a defining element of the album.
The old Hus is still present, but with far more direction. The Burna Boy assisted ‘Play Play’ enjoyed major chart and radio success as well as an appearance from Jamaican starlet and Grammy award-winner Koffee on ‘Repeat’. As strong as the features are, Hus shows us on ‘Reckless’ how easy it is for him to hold his own with an anthem that sounds like 50 Cent linked up with Wizkid’s producer. Despite a wealth of big-name features however, the show was mercilessly stolen by his own sister, iceè tgm. The newcomer is a calming ying to her brother’s hard-hitting yang, lacing both the title track and ‘Helicopter’ with her icy (sorry) vocals. In an era where the UK’s R&B scene seems overcrowded, the refreshing uniqueness of iceè’s sound indicates she might be creating a space of her own.
The real takeaway from the album though, is the maturation of J Hus' storytelling. The sporadic mentions of his time in prison are more so vehicles to express change in mentality; his infamous Twitter rants centred around the power of words and here, he displays it. More militant, more anti-establishment, more aware of what it is to be a black man in the United Kingdom.
"No blacks, no dogs, we were segregated
they took our history and they went and erased it"
he raps on ‘Deeper Than Rap’, referring to the racial tensions of the 1960’s. An era of black British history filled with struggle, enlightenment and creativity, but is largely ignored by society. You could be forgiven for drawing the natural comparison between that and his work, but one thing is for certain; this is a body of work that cannot be ignored.
They say the second album is harder than the first, but Hus passed that test with flying colours and seems almost unstoppable going forward. The man of the people had struck again with Big Conspiracy, but this time he had taken our minds as well as our hearts. Much is made of that moment in time at the O2 arena where J Hus shared the stage with Drake to rapturous cheers, but in reality that was merely a glimpse into the future of a blossoming young career.
Micah Chudleigh is a third-year Journalism student at the University of Westminster. The majority of Micah's time is spent watching football, reading comic books and out-and-out avoidance of his degree.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England.
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