Review: J Hus, ‘Big Conspiracy’

UK rap’s biggest savant excels once again on his sophomore record, solidifying his status as the nation’s finest generational talent.

The past two years for J Hus reaped nothing but turbulence. In 2018, he began to serve a sentence for the possession of a knife, shortly after losing his father. He took to the internet to let his stream of consciousness lead to further troubles, which often left fans concerned for his wellbeing. The success of his 2017 debut album Common Sense propelled J Hus to the pinnacle of British talent, championed by both the critics and the average music fan. His ability to meld hip hop with pop, Afrobeat and dancehall caused for a devastating formula, one that embarrassed his lesser talented contemporaries and those mimicking the recipe. An amateurish leak only heightened the anticipation for the rapper’s long-awaited comeback. Right at the start of the year, the fans demand and J Hus supplies.

While Common Sense could be assumed to be the peak of J Hus’ versatility, Big Conspiracy condenses the sound he’s pioneered in a focused 40 minutes for another potential UK classic.

Its predecessor contrasted summery, afroswing tracks with hard-hitting rap cuts. Big Conspiracy often undertakes a darker tone in tracks like “Helicopter” and “Fight for Your Right”, but ensures it doesn’t leave out the fun that’s extracted from Hus’ humorous personality (“Cucumber”, “Reckless”). The production team, consisting mainly of Jae5, TSB and IO, demonstrate they are in a league of their own, effortlessly blending genres that serves as the backbone to every addictive track. The title track’s string melody channels vintage Craig David, carrying a strut perfect for the opening credits to a movie. Its saxophone solo is one of the many examples of colourful instrumentation incorporated across the album (“Must Be”). It is a quality that lived on Common Sense but breaths youthfully on Big Conspiracy.

The Stratford rapper takes centre-stage for the most part but begins the album with two appearances from the obscure Icèe TGM. In a now-deleted tweet, Hus revealed this is his sister, confirming that talent runs in the family. Her soothing vocals pulsate on the hook of “Big Conspiracy”, and are James Bond-esque on the nocturnal “Helicopter”. The vocal tone is slick and addictive, providing a vocal layer to J Hus’ music that was unknowingly missing on Common Sense.

Hus’ bars are more engaging than ever before, articulated with a conviction that’s reflective of the album title. “How you gonna run the world, you can’t even run your life / I’m destiny’s child, everyday I survive”, he proclaims on “Fight for Your Right”, delivered in a subdued fashion to match the lowkey beat. Alongside his usual braggadocio are bars reflective of the album’s title, where Hus is like a teacher schooling his students. “Use knowledge and wisdom, in this Babylon system / […] My bredrins are goblins / I’m aimin’ it top bins, while inhalin’ these toxins / I’m weighin’ my options”, he raps on “Helicopter”. It’s Hus’ choice of vocabulary that makes his rap style protrude. Closing track “Deeper Than Rap” dishes out quotable after quotable, poetically packing in the stream of consciousness that wasn’t so expertly conveyed through his Twitter (“God made you sexy, so why you bleachin’? / How you send your son to school and don’t know what they teach him?”)

Even the rapper’s hook game is sharper than ever. “Repeat” will be a 2020 summer anthem with its playful pronunciations and perfect performance by Koffee (“Weh yuh dey go? We go where the money deh / Then we répéte, répéte”). “Fortune Teller” is the cousin of Big Spang track “Dark Vader”, channelling the same energetic flow and attitude. As expected, Big Conspiracy is not short of addictive melodies, but the way they are balanced with improved lyricism refines a formula that was already faultless to begin with.

By the end of the record, there is a welcoming feeling of satisfaction as a listener. Big Conspiracy provides the whole package. Whether it is the boundary-pushing production, addictive melodies or Hus’ words of wisdom, Hus is now two for two in modern British rap classics. If one thing is for certain, it is to keep quiet when Hus is preaching.

Rating: 9 / 10

Best tracks: “Helicopter”, “Fight for Your Right”, “Deeper Than Rap”, “Big Conspiracy”, “Love, Peace & Prosperity”, “Fortune Teller”, “No Denying”