J Hus has long held the crown of the “People’s Champ”. Thanks to his back-to-back classic albums – 2017’s ‘Common Sense’ & 2020’s ‘Big Conspiracy’ – he isn’t compared to other artists so much as he is to himself. Rarified air indeed. Now on album three, ‘Beautiful and Brutal Yard‘ sees the Uju Militer remind us why he’s so adored.
‘Intro’ finds Hus sounding rejuvenated and full of new source material, briefly touching on sticky situations faced during a jail spell, referencing confrontations at the mosque, before elevating to the time he “shut down the O2 with Drizzy”. ‘B.A.B.Y’ doesn’t offer too much in the way of personal touches or anecdotes. It’s a shame (although not all that surprising) that Drake turned in such a god-awful feature for ‘Who Told You’, but Jorja Smith and Burna Boy offer some of the tape’s most interesting melodies. On the sensual ‘Nice Body’, Jorja’s interplay with Hus is a highlight as the two trade lyrics about mental stimulation. ‘Masculine’ is exactly what you’d hope and expect from Hus and frequent collaborator Burna Boy, who conjures magic in a hook that will keep parties turned up all summer and beyond.
The swooning bassline and sorrowful strings of ‘Comeback’ pull him to look inward and also draws a standout verse from the featured Villz. To this point ‘B.A.B.Y’ doesn’t yet settle into its rhythm but as Hus half slurs/half slings his casual threats on ‘Problem Fixer’, the album enters its best spell. The Popcaan-assisted ‘Killy’ follows, another cold, creeping cut that rolls into the murderous lead single, ‘It’s Crazy’. Concepts of love and war have characterised Hus’ whole discography, and as we get into the battle anthem ‘Bim Bim’ with its brilliantly dramatic production, the east Londoner channels the energy of a hardened warmonger. Filmic, graphic with its blood spill, you find yourself unable to look away from Hus’ bloodthirsty craze. ‘B.A.B.Y’ hovers above its preoccupations of desire and conflicts of the world on penultimate track ‘Gambian President’ as Hussla draws directly from his Gambian roots. Album closer ‘Playing Chess’ sounds like it could have been taken from ‘Big Conspiracy’ – which is a big compliment.
Although TSB has done a fine job executive producing ‘B.A.B.Y’, it doesn’t quite reach the alchemical highs between Hus and Jae 5, the architect of his previous classics. ‘B.A.B.Y’ bypasses the spiritual, soothsaying aspect that elevated his previous two albums, and there is less of his story when we were clamouring for more. Nevertheless, no other artist commands rhythm and rhyme like Hus, and it’s patently clear that the Stratford rapper is enjoying making music again, which is a blessing for the rest of us.
Words: Dwayne Wilks
Photo Credit: Nwaka Okparaeke