Album Review: J Hus Solidifies His Sound On ‘Beautiful And Brutal Yard’
14 Jul 2023
J Hus already has a back catalogue that grants him legendary status within UK Rap. After announcing himself on ‘The 15th Day’ and delivering a classic debut album with ‘Common Sense’, the Eastender backed this up with another sensational record when he dropped ‘Big Conspiracy’. Each record showed a growth and development in sound, while Hus also improved as a rapper, performer, and vocalist along the way. After a three year hiatus, the artist has returned with his latest project, ‘Beautiful And Brutal Yard’.
The title, conveniently abbreviated to B.A.B.Y, gives us an idea of what has been on Hus’s mind during this elongated spell away from the spotlight. It explores the dichotomy of the artist’s relationship with the area he calls home. The title points to the harsh realities that Hus has found himself in and had to explore internally, whilst also finding positivity within his circumstances and successes.
This idea of light and shade shines through across the album. Hus brings the heat on the opening track, ‘Intro (The Goat)’, delivering a tirade of bars with the pent up energy of someone needing to get things off their chest. The pace is then slowed down on ‘Massacre’, one of the standout tracks across the album, leading into a stellar run of Afrobeat influenced tracks that see the artist find his element. The blending of different sounds and emotions in Hus’s performances of throughout the album play into the polarity of the title and the album cover itself, whilst still being part of the same entity.
Executive produced by TSB, the attention to detail and use of live instrumentation on ‘B.A.B.Y’ has helped to create some of Hus’s best music to date. ‘Who Told You’ has already staked a firm claim for being the song of the summer, while ‘Militerian’ with Naira Marley sees both artists elevate each other to create what feels like an instant classic. A series of rich guitar riffs and grooving bass lines make up the spine of the album, while both artist and producer are not afraid to showcase their talents across different genres. Songs like ‘Cream’ and ‘Nice Body’ lean into more of a Drill soundscape, before Popcaan brings a Caribbean influence on ‘Killy’.
The album however is not without its faults. Coming in at 19 tracks, there are moments in the tracklist where the project feels like it is losing momentum. Just past the halfway mark there is not enough variation in style or sound to maintain the heights that the first half more than delivered on. The start of ‘Fresh Water/Safa Kara’ for example follows the same pattern as ‘Cucumber’ on Hus’s last record, and ‘Alien Girl’, whilst still possessing a serene instrumental, feels like one of the rapper’s weaker lyrical performances. The artist does manage to wrestle back control towards the back end with tracks like ‘It’s Crazy’ and ‘Bim Bim’, but the lull could be avoided if the album was condensed to between 12 and 15 songs.
The features on ‘B.A.B.Y’ are also somewhat hit and miss. There has been a lot of conversation about Drake’s verse on ‘Who Told You’ already, while Hus’s link up with Burna Boy on ‘Masculine’ also feels slightly underwhelming given their scintillating track record of working together so far.
This is not to say that ‘B.A.B.Y’ was not an enjoyable listening experience. J Hus is an exceptional talent, but as such he should be held to a higher standard than the rest of his competition if he is to achieve even higher heights. He has already gone clear from the vast majority of his compatriots in UK Rap and has consistently shown throughout his career that his ability to combine the hard hitting with the melodic sets him apart from his peers. Where ‘Common Sense’ and ‘Big Conspiracy’ felt like a progression of each other’s respective sounds, ‘B.A.B.Y’ is more of a combination of the two styles, leading to some patches where more innovation was necessary, but also delivering some of the best music J Hus has ever produced.
Star Rating: 4/5