“You won’t believe who we’ve just seen!” A throng of tracksuit-clad schoolkids have congregated outside the doors to our shoot, already on their phones telling their mates. The object of their excitement, though, is remarkably humble in person - regardless of this newfound attention.
“The way I’d describe my music,” J Hus begins, “is it’s different. I’d like to say it’s something you’ve heard [before] and something you’ve never heard at the same time.” For a metropolitan generation that’s grown up guzzling tunes from all over the globe at the touch of a button, this statement should make absolute sense.
Perhaps the best way to describe his music to the uninitiated is as a blend of the sounds pouring out of cab windows, barbershops and bedrooms in the melting pot communities of the country’s capital. Arriving somewhere between Afrobeat, hip-hop, dancehall, trap, grime and UK funky, it’s difficult to try and categorise Hus’ discography without looking like you’re drafting a flyer for Shoreditch’s latest hipsters-please-try-harder clubnight.
Not that this bothers him. “It was only a matter of time before it was picked up,” he says, referring to the recent pop chart penchant for weaving dancehall, soca and Afrobeat rhythms into tracks. The infectious quality of these sounds appears clear when you consider the rapidity with which they’ve been taken up by a mainstream audience.
J Hus’ own rise has been similarly rapid. Last year’s ‘Dem Boy Paigon’ was a bona fide estate anthem, and his ‘The 15th Day’ mixtape proved he was no one-hit YouTube rapper. After being picked up by Sony offshoot Black Butter, he’s built a steady buzz, with ‘Friendly’ and ‘Playing Sports’ keeping club and car soundsystems warm.
He’s clearly grateful for the doors that major label connections have opened. “I’m learning I can’t just release all my music on Soundcloud anymore and whenever I feel like it,” he says, “there has to be a plan.”
The plan thus far includes an album - an ideal setting for Hus’ interplay of joyous tones with tales from the blunt end of life on a London estate. “2017 is 20JHus. That’s going to be my year,” he says, apparently unaware that he’s already left a pretty indelible mark on 2016 too.
- - -
- - -
WHERE: Stratford, East London
WHAT: The soundtrack to those block parties you wish you were still young enough to go to.
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Playing Sports’, ‘Friendly’, ‘Bangers & Mash’
FACT: He inadvertently made headlines in August last year when Shomrim NE London tweeted a video of a party in Hackney being shut down by police. The soundtrack? ‘Dem Boy Paigon,’ of course…
Words: Will Pritchard
Photography: Sophie Mayanne