Much has been made of Drake’s fusion of diasporas on More Life – but no one does it more effectively (and legitimately) than J Hus on Common Sense. Hustler’s debut blends cheeky UK one-liners with joyously infectious production from his right hand man, JAE5. Alongside him, Hus can do no wrong – Common Sense fuses tinges of Afrobeat, Grime, House & mid-noughties hip-hop into a zestful, 17-track album that completely surpasses all expectations.
The 21-year-old broke into the Top 10 in the UK charts with the album, which has been racking up the summer radio plays ever since. Having just jumped on French Montana and Swae Lee's summer anthem "Unforgettable" with JAE5 and his own idiosyncratic lilt, Hus represents one of the only British rappers that can mount a challenge to getting featured on stateside charts. But while he's taken a sonic palette taken from all over the globe, his international acclaim is still pending. With festival slots this summer and a European tour lined up for later this year, we caught up with the rising UK rapper to talk through his debut project, working with Jhené Aiko and whether he's Wenger In or Wenger Out.
Firstly, congratulations on Common Sense. Are you happy with how it's been received?
Thanks, yeah I feel really good. The reception's been great, some good feedback. We've got top 10. I'm proud. It's done everything I wanted it to do.
What were your personal expectations, if any, before the album dropped?
I didn't really have any expectations, but I had certain goals which I wanted it to achieve. I wanted to show everyone that I am one of the most diverse artists in the UK; that even though I do all these crazy melodies and that, I can still rap... I wanted to make good music, and have certain songs with good messages in there, like "Spirit." And, obviously, just represent the UK in the best way I can. So those were my main goals, and I think I've achieved that with the album. And I was in the studio when I heard the news about getting Top 10, working on the next project.
What was your main motivation behind the album?
Just life in general. Anything in life. Most of the songs are experience, like ... This is the way I write, I just go do things, I'll experience something, I'll write about what I went through that day or thoughts in my mind throughout the day. Yeah, so it's generally just life and I do what I do, what I experience in my life. I think it's just crazy diverse, and set new levels for myself. It's just a sound that no one's really heard before. I'm advancing my sound. That's what I mean by next level that this ... I mean this is an album you can't compare it to no other album.
You wear the ugly tag as a badge of honor. Has that attitude got you to where you are today?
I guess you could say that ... I'm just embracing my ugliness so I don't really care what no one thinks. I'm doing my thing. So yeah, I guess it has helped me come this far.
When exactly was the moment for you when you realized that you were blowing up or you were hitting those levels?
From the beginning, from when I first started, it's always been something distant. It's been steps. There's been steps from when I first started ... the first freestyle release, the reaction of it was amazing. And it just keeps getting better. It kept getting better, and better, and better. So now, it's like there's no limit.
What were your other milestones?
I started basically summer of 2014. I was releasing tunes on SoundCloud and that, but by ... That was by September ... I stopped releasing tunes on SoundCloud. Maybe October. I released a free style and went from there, and once I released that freestyle, other freestyle YouTube channels started contacting me so I started doing more link up TV, SBTV.
So you, Abra Cadabra, Belly Squad, Mostack and a host of other UK rappers are all blending different sounds together into your own unique styles. Is that something that you were kind of exposed to when you were growing up, or is it just kind of an East London thing?
Yeah, I guess so cause everything that I'm influenced by I just put it in the music and create a new sound using different vibes. I grew up on all different kinds of music, I just used that to influence my own music.
Who do you think's the next to blow up out of the UK?
There's a lot of talent coming through. I rate Dave and Nines a lot though.
So, everything we hear is what you kind of listened to when you were growing up?
Yeah, but at the same time, it's like I'm talking about what I've experienced now, so basically it's like the sounds ... of the music I enjoy. The lyrics are more, obviously, it's different because it's more personal. I blend a lot of things: big, little, a lot of different little things. That's what makes me unique.
Yeah, as you were trying to get into the industry, who was kind of influencing you the most in terms of what moves to make and what steps to take?
I can't ... There was no one. Just me and my team. It was a conversation with my longtime friends, and my one of my oldest friends is still managing me. Mo, K2 yeah. He was like, "Yeah, you can do this!" Even though, I didn't want to be a rapper, everyone knew that I had a bit of talent. So he was like, "You know what, we might as well make something out of this." And then we started.
You've come a long way since then. You're from East London, but I've heard you support Arsenal?
I was actually born in Islington you know. I've always been ... I've always loved Arsenal. Thierry Henry and that and Bergkamp. Yeah, I don't know. I just used to cry when they used to lose as a little kid.
You're probably happy that they won the FA Cup though, right?
Yeah, at least we got that.
Are you Wenger In or Wenger Out?
I don't even have a personal opnion... I respect the geezer innit. So I don't wanna say either or... I don't know, I respect him too much. At the same time, he needs to fix something up.
Who would you like to work with?
Jhené Aiko. She's sick! It's just like ... I love her music, and I like her style. I like her character. I love her music. I feel like we could make a wicked thing. We've never had talks about it though.
What do you read about yourself or that annoys you the most?
Nothing? Everything's positive?
Yeah, I guess so. I don't really read. I'm not really into papers or none of that. I don't even listen to what people say. I just do my own thing.
We all know you like your Fanta with no ice - but what's your go-to drink?
Whatever's on my rider.
What do you ask for on your rider?
It's my managers that sort it out. It's mostly a special Ciroc and the Serrano. What's the one? I don't know why they get this. They get Malibu. Nah. When I went out before, I used to mix all of them together.
(Laughs) It was a madness. Lit... Lit.
(Laughs) Have you written some of your best lines for us being in that state?
Nah. I don't really get in that state that lot (laughs.) I don't really drink. I'm not a drinker nowadays.
What're your plans for the rest of the year?
Let the album sink in. Do more shows, festivals, head out on my European tour. Then I might drop a little something after I'm finished. Come support us!
J Hus's 'Common Sense' was one of our best albums of 2017 (so far.) Check out the best of the rest right here.