It’s well-documented by now that J Hus, cover star in the latest edition of Music Week, is one of the hottest UK rappers around, with a platinum-selling debut, Mercury Prize nomination and hundreds of thousands of sales to his name.
His journey to this point began in a parked car in Stratford, East London, where the MC grew up. Hus was sat with Moe Bah, an old primary school friend, discussing a possible move towards a career in music. Before they knew it, Bah’s brother Kilo Jalloh was involved, they’d called themselves 2K Management and were making moves to drum up support for Hus’ freestyles from platforms such as GRM Daily, Link Up TV and SBTV.
Gradually, it worked and, with help from industry figures including SBTV’s Isaac Densu, Primary Talent International’s Craig D’Souza, XL’s Caroline Simionescu-Marin and Renowned Management founder Zeon Richards, Hus signed to Black Butter Records.
The rest, if not quite history, certainly feels like history in the making. Pick up the magazine or click here to read every detail from Hus, 2K Management, Black Butter Records president Joe Gossa and DJ Semtex. Here, meanwhile, is an extract from our interview with Bah and Jalloh, in which they discuss just why Hus has connected so well and how the campaign came together.
Why has J Hus connected so strongly? Is it down to more than the music?
Jalloh: It’s because he is just… He’s passionate about his music and from the beginning we’ve stayed true to the music he’s making because that’s what people like him for. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Bah: I definitely think the urban sound is working and people are loving it. We just never changed it and we always knew there would be a market for it. That’s just the way it’s going now so it’s good times for the urban scene, for the grime scene as well, the afro scene. It’s just urban is always just winning, so it’s good to see.
Did you look at campaigns from artists such as Stormzy or Nines and think, What can we take from that into J Hus?
Jalloh: No, because Hus is a different person, we always like to think outside of the box. We appreciate everyone else’s campaigns but not at any stage did we feel like, We need something like this. That’s why our campaign wasn’t the biggest; because it works for us. Really and truly, we didn’t even have a listening party. All we had was basically Did You See and a few looks here and there with PR. Imran [Malik, press officer] in particular; he did his job amazingly, just the little looks here and there. Hus is not the most sociable person so us putting him out to do something like Soccer AM, which was offered, it was like that would kill his image more than do something good for it. It was like, Let’s keep you, you. We know you love the photo shoots, the little modelling shoots, you love trying on fashionable clothes, then let’s work with that rather than put you into something that you’re not comfortable doing and portray this image of something you’re not. We know that there will be many more hits. We don’t want to do everything in one go.
Bah: We know he’s going to make long-lasting music, so…
Did you think the album would sell like it has? It has a Mercury nomination now, too…
Jalloh: I had no doubt in the music whatsoever. The thing is, if we could get people to listen to it, we know there will be a lot of people that like it. That was our only concern. I know the music is amazing, the album is amazing. It’s just getting people to hear it and getting the word to spread eventually because I know the album is good.
Bah: With the Mercury, the names that are on the list as well… It’s crazy, phenomenal, man.
Jalloh: Twelve albums of the whole year and your artist is on there, it’s very heartwarming. We’ve come a long way but we still need to keep our heads down and push it.
How far can the scene continue to grow, and Hus along with it?
Jalloh: It’s the same thing with the album, as long as more people hear it, they will realise how good it is. At the moment we’re struggling to keep him out of the studio and he’s a very impatient person with his music, he’s ready to put out another five or six songs and we’re like, No it doesn’t work like that, we’re still working on this album, I’m sorry mate! You can’t doubt that the music is good music – it’s just expanding the audience that needs to happen.
Bah: I think it’s been a long time coming for the urban scene. I feel like it’ll last a long time, because I just feel like everyone is just on for this at the moment.
Jalloh: That’s the thing, it will last a long time as long as the people that are doing this sound continue doing this sound rather than changing it to something that it’s not, or something that’s not essentially in this genre.