How J hus Will Break America


America is the black culture capital of the world. Of course Africa, the Caribbean and parts of Europe contribute; but no country has been at the centre of black culture more than America.

So naturally when us Brits see someone representing our bit of God save the queen/ patties sold in Greggs culture we’re proud. Skepta and Giggs get no.2’s, Stormzy gets a no.1. Proud. Skepta and Giggs appear on the biggest album of the year and their streams go up 146%. Proud.

And as much as there’s always someone like: ‘I don’t care about them Americans bruv‘; truth is, when they embrace something, the world does.

And we like that. For many reasons. 1. It’s nice to see someone fly the flag. Especially if they look like us; this makes them an inspirational figure.

And 2. Anyone thinking of becoming a rapper can now ignore the story of So Solid (career practically destroyed overnight by The Daily Mail in conjunction with the police) and look to the Tinie’s, Dizzie’s, Skepta’s and the Stormzy’s.

So things are looking great and with each release, it seems more global success for the UK scene. That’s great, it genuinely is; but there’s still some resistance. And somewhat eyerollingly it’s the accent. While plenty are embracing and loving the Giggs and Skepta’s of the world; the accent is proving a barrier for our artists to fully breakthrough in the US.

Skepta mentioned in a documentary that he would like the UK accent to be seen as just another state accent:

The way you have NY hip hop and Atlanta hip hop. Which makes sense until you factor in the amount of boarder line hatred the south faced when they wanted to push their sound.

Yeah we all love Outkast now as one of the most important parts of hip hop; but when they won a Source Award for best group in 95:

So it only took another 2 decades for the south to be considered the home of hip hop. So whether grime or just UK music urban music will be taken seriously on a ground level remains to be seen. It could definitely happen.

And again, while we don’t (need) an American audience to have our music validated; due to streaming the money isn’t really in music sales as much as it is in touring. And the touring opportunities in America can create millionaires out of artists you’ve never heard of. As far as an American artist is concerned touring the entirety of the UK is a LEG of the tour, but many artists can make millions from North American tours alone. That’s why breaking America is so important. The tour money can sustain an artist and prevent them from having to ‘get a real job’ like so many in our scene are forced to.

All of that is to say Trap music is dominating right now. You know the music is dominating when JAY Z is using it on his last album; Nas rapped over the ‘March Madness‘ instrumental and the biggest single off Katy Perry’s new album is one featuring Migos. So like it or not Trap is the dominant sound of hip hop. And there’s a million reasons why some people don’t like that, but the one being discussed today is lyricism.

There’s plenty of Jeezy lines about trapping and Future lines about depression but honestly punchlines and lyricism was never the focus of trap. And the more popular trap becomes, the more that audience hungry for lyricism grows.

Which brings us to J Hus. Despite the many many stylistic similarities between Afro Bashment and Trap, Afro Bashment is not Trap. And J Hus‘ sound in particular isn’t just British Trap music. It’s a combination of Afro beats, Bashment, Trap and even traditional Bad Boy era soul sampled Hip Hop. But regardless of the instrumentals he raps over he stands out because he’s lyrical. While he’s not giving Wretch any sleepless nights, he’s far from a ‘mumble rapper’

‘Still put a motherfucker in a bodybag, still help his mother with her shopping bags’

J HusLeave Me

The Young Thug, Lil Yatchy, Future, wave hasn’t been embraced to the same extent over here. Autotune is used but not to the same extent and lyricism is still more important than it currently is in the US.

And this is where Hus comes in. His album combines all the elements of urban music that have made it the most popular genre of music on the planet. ‘Did You See‘ is a catchy song, with ear worm instrumental. ‘Clartin” is important though. Because it sounds nothing like Trap, Afro Bashment or any light catchy sound dominating right now. It’s aggressive music. No singing, no auto tune; just an aggressive rap song about shooting guns.

If someone were to hear ‘Did You See?‘ ‘Clartin‘ is the last thing they’d expect. But that’s exactly how music a few years ago. Lil Wayne’sA Mili‘ is on the same album as ‘Lollipop‘; Kendrick’sBackseat Freestyle‘ same album as ‘Swimming Pools‘; and ‘Heat‘ and ‘21 Questions‘ are both on ‘Get Rich or Die Trying‘. J Hus isn’t supposed to be the exception; albums are supposed to have ‘Did You See?‘, ‘Clartin‘ and even the soul sampled ‘Common Sense‘. They aren’t supposed to sound like one long track; but be balanced.

That’s actually what people want. It doesn’t matter what they say, everyone loves pop music. People love catchy songs, but they also love content and lyricism. The problem (that some have) with Hip Hop right now is that it’s gone too far in one direction. Where we could usually rely on a catchy lead single to promote the album, now the entire album is the lead single. With the Kendrick’s and Cole’s being the exception. But this also goes back to why people say Cole’s music is ‘boring’. It’s not boring it’s just not what we’re used to.

Even 10 years ago albums tended to be quite well balanced. A hip hop album was made up of mostly hip hop, a few R&B singles and a big catchy single to base the promo campaign around. Problem is, with people deciding to buy a 99p single instead of an 8.99 album; more and more albums are just made up of the slightly different version of a catchy single that sold well.

So in response J Cole goes in the complete opposite direction and drops an album made up of ‘real’ hip hop and no catchy hooks. So you either have Future with all hooks no bars or the J Cole’s with all bars and no hooks. J Hus, manages both and pulls it off with ease.

And it’s a style that is appearing more and more. Mostack is another who uses strong hooks but never slacks with bars. Mist is another. And the more successful these artists become the more their influence spreads, creating more rappers with this particular style. And up against Americas currently dichotomy of extremes…well honestly maybe not today, or tomorrow but someday, it could take over.

Yeah it’s fair to say it does seem impossible that the UK would ever become the ‘home’ of hip hop. But again I’d turn your attention to Atlanta. In the era of Ruff Ryder’s, Bad Boy, Roc A Fella, Murder Inc if I told you that Atlanta would be running hip hop and the overwhelming majority would be singing badly and the ones that didn’t, would be rapping badly; and everyone would be loving it, that’d seem insane. But who knows where 20 years could find us?

There is certainly greater focus on the UK. Skepta just played the New York governors ball. Where grime reaching the states used to be a pipe dream. Now Skepta’s informing New Yorkers about what is and isn’t him. ‘Did You See?‘ is played on Frank Ocean’sBlonded‘ radio show and fresh from Drake’sMore Life‘ album, Giggs is being embraced stateside.

So with Drake embracing the key elements of British urban sounds and opening US audiences to them and artists like J Hus, Mostack, Kojo Funds and Mist filling a much needed gap in the market; its very likely we could be looking at more than just stateside success for our scene and the start of global artists on the same stage as Drake, Kanye and Jay.