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January 8, 2018Feature

Cóilí Collins caught up with rapidly-ascending UK artist J Hus for Issue 003.

“I want my sound to be the sound of the UK.”

Grime and hip hop have been the leading lights in the UK’s rise to the summit of mainstream culture, but one of its own beacons has never really leaned too heavily on either on his course to stardom. J Hus’ Caribbean-infused R&B style has slowly but surely carved out its own firm place in Britain’s diverse soundscape, so much so that it was recently nominated for a Mercury Music Prize.

While R&B artists emerging from England and beyond aren’t anything especially new, Hus’ most notable quality may be the passion that exudes from every note he hits. In the same vein as his music, Hus is never one to be proclaiming his success online, or flaunting a false persona, something entirely unique in a landscape where any artist that picks up a mic now has the right to build their own ‘brand’.

J Hus is a breath of fresh air amidst an already fresh UK line up, but more importantly, he’s only coming off the back of his first album, with magazine covers and star-studded co-signs already in tow. Passion and raw energy have not only placed J Hus on the same pedestal as storied UK MCs and artists, but they’ve made ugly, sexy.

In the lead up to your album you managed to work with a couple of other UK artists, how did that support help develop your sound?

It’s good. I haven’t done the most features, but I do some here and there. All the people on my album, whenever I asked any of them for a favour, they respected it and I really appreciated that.

Even though you’re so big worldwide, your popularity within the realms of the UK is definitely where it’s at its peak, which shows how organic the scene is there…

It’s really good, I’m getting recognised everywhere I go. I was in Ghana shooting a video and I was getting recognised in Africa, so that really shows how big the scene is getting and how far the music is going.

The UK scene has swollen so much, but your sound isn’t necessarily similar to any of the major artists. Even though the scene has forged you to some degree, your sound is entirely unique. When you look at grime, it’s not just about the MC, it’s about the energy and the feeling of the entire music altogether, even more so with your style. How do you manage to convert music into energy?

I just want to put my own sound across all genres, in an effort to represent myself in the best way. I just want to keep it J Hus. I feel like I can jump on any track, it’s just about being me, that’s what I think about when I’m jumping on a track. Even if it’s a different beat or sound, I still keep it J Hus.

One of the most distinctive aspects of J Hus is your emphasis on ‘ugly’. Was that something you thought of consciously?

My friends used to call me ugly as a joke, when I first started making music I thought ‘I’m gonna say it before every else does!’ then it just became a thing. It stuck with me, every time it’s Mr. Ugly, Mr. Ugly, but I say it now before they do. It’s about embracing your insecurities, making ugly, sexy.

So much UK music at the moment is very aggressive, but plenty of the younger generation’s tracks follow an R&B style, a lot to do with you kicking that off. What’s it like to be in that position?

I want to be the number one. I want my sound to be the sound of the UK. I never really just fall back on my achievements, because I always want more. The ultimate goal is to be the number one artist and to make my sound the sound of the UK, I want to be the one repping the UK. I find it’s a compliment (if people are mimicking his style). If you want to be the sound of the UK, obviously people want to use that sound and I’ve just got to see it as compliment and keep it moving.

One thing that really solidifies you amongst the ranks of other top UK artists is your authenticity.

It’s the most important, I want to be able to look back at the people that knew me from the beginning so they can say, ‘Yo, J Hus is the same guy as he was in the beginning’. Obviously, you grow up, change is always good, but at the end of the day, I still want to stay the same as I was in the beginning. All the way up, it’s my life story, it’s everything I go through.

Is it hard to maintain a private life when you’re trying to remain authentic in the public life and is there a difference between private and public anymore?

It’s not really that hard. I like to be in the studio, I like to be with my friends, so if you want to be private you can be private, innit? It’s not really hard, anywhere I go is always for a reason. I’m a very private person. I’m not too serious, I’m very disorganised and laid back, so it’s hard (to maintain a particular brand). Even if you plan everything and structure everything, it still mightn’t come together. You might as well just have your goal and let it be. If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.

Most of the attention on you has orientated around your sound, rather than the public image surrounding you?

That’s because I’m not really that out there on social media. People don’t get to see my face too much, apart from on YouTube, so it helps them focus more on the music rather than what I’m doing. I’m not active on social media or an outspoken person, so people get a chance to let it sink in.

Photography: Olivia Rose

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