J HUS embodies raw energy.
Photographing his performance at the Birmingham O2 Academy, I was close enough to the stage to see how intensely he was focused on delivering his bars, squeezing his eyes shut and tensing his body up. His stage presence was amazing – he’s a skinny man and doesn’t take up a lot of space but as his show went on, his camo t-shirt came off and his body loosened up, with him flying around the stage and even into the photo pit to interact face-to-face with the audience for the entire duration of ‘Friendly’.
The night started off with a performance from support act, DC, who had a smooth flow but not enough presence to really get the crowd going. The second support act, NSG, got a better reception, with the six of them taking up every inch on stage, gassing each other up and calling for mosh pits to form in the audience. By the time J HUS took to the stage, with the opening instrumental of ‘Closed Doors’ filling the venue, the young audience were beyond excited. They were so into it! It was quite moving to see all the love they felt for one of Britian’s most exciting talents. The support that young British music fans give to their homegrown artists is the best kind of patriotism I have ever seen.
J Hus played for over an hour and a half, ploughing through the diverse selection of songs from ‘Common Sense’, now certified Gold in the UK, as well as dipping in and out of older songs from his mixtape days to brand new songs, even premiering an unreleased track onstage. The venue was totally bathed in red as he performed ‘Playing Sports’, and intense purple for the crowd-pleasing ‘Spirit’. J Hus sang the super catchy chorus of ‘Bouff Daddy’ while the merch guys at the back of the room sold t-shirts with the same phrase on them. There were plenty of other moments for J Hus’ eclectic ad-libs and catchphrases to shine, with the DJ leading a call-and-response of the distinctive: ‘ahh-AH-ah-ah’ and ‘aawhhhhhh MAN’.
The crazy good UK garage beat of ‘Plottin’ really got people moving, especially when the DJ briefly mixed it with BBK’s ‘Too Many Man’. ‘Fisherman’ got everyone singing along, while ‘Clartin’ got three wheel-ups (rewinds) and had everyone losing their minds, getting ready to mosh three times over. The DJ wasn’t milking it either, people got more excited each time that eerie beat began again. I saw people milly rocking to it, which was mildly upsetting but mostly understandable – everyone was super excited. JAE5, Hus’ go-to producer, showcased his excellent production skills on this latest album which has been rightfully praised for its wide ranging sound which infuses Garage, Afrobeats, Hip Hop and Grime onto a 17 – track masterpiece. In a concert setting the original and inventive beats really shone through, especially as the musicality of the album is so rich.
Performing his and his ‘brother’ Dave’s ‘Samantha’ and his part from Stormzy’s ‘Bad Boys’, J Hus proved that in his short time spent in the UK limelight, he has contributed an awful lot. Every smartphone was out, with no-one wanting to miss the opportunity to boast to their friends that they saw J Hus live. At this point, over an hour into his performance, the man was topless and sweating hard as he launched into his most popular classics. I watched one guy facetime his friend as ‘Lean and Bop’ blasted from the speakers, sharing the experience with him. ‘Birmingham, show me the lean and bop!’, J Hus sang as everyone danced with what little room they had. ‘Dem Boy Paigon’ had J Hus looking like a force to reckon with, sweating hard in front of a backdrop resembling fire. There were gunshot sounds, strobe lights and blasts of smoke, making for a hard-hitting performance.
Towards the end of the show, I was hanging around the back of the room, smelling marijuana and observing how Brummie people get hyped. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I watched a girl dropping her butt and every other part of her body to the floor as J Hus sang ‘baby bend over and break your back’ during ‘Friendly’. Even this far into the show, I could tell that people would have stayed another hour. This makes me excited about his future – he is only going to get better and make the UK scene a more interesting hotbed of creativity and talent. He thanked the crowd and pretended like he was leaving before coming back for one last song. The crowd sang ‘Did You See’ to J Hus, to each other, and the vibe was just the perfect note to end on.
An added bonus for fans following the completion of his UK tour was the surprise video release of ‘Bouff Daddy.’ The incredible visuals clearly show a man on top of the world, carefree as he continues winning in the glistening sunshine.
In J Hus we have found an artist that wants to do his best and we want the best for. He was on top form all night, never running out of energy, not even taking a sip of water, just spitting his cutting bars over excellent beats. His voice is incredible and his dedication is clear to see: J Hus is undeniably stellar.