Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

J Hus – Spirit

Since we last covered him, he’s been nominated for the Mercury Prize, but more importantly his Jukebox average has risen a whole point…

Ryo Miyauchi: What a one-two punch from J Hus, going from an innocent bewilderment at bigger checks to a sobering look at the importance of his new cash flow. He barely lifts his voice above his usual bashful mutter. But his monotone only presents pieces of his history like “I know how to treat a woman proper because I’ve seen mama suffer” more as a statement of truth.

Alfred Soto: All manner of instrumental distortions and swoops contribute to this dense track, compensating for an awkward chorus where J Hus sounds off the beat. But this works musically too — he’s smiling while the world collapses.

Tim de Reuse: J Hus’s off-kilter flow compliments the clunky beat well, especially in the chorus, which is a loose clutter of sweeping sine waves, 808 snare fills, and stereo-widened clicks. What really gels the atmosphere together, though, is the geniality of the lyrics — the half-rhyme of the line “lookin’ spectacular in my spectacles” alone communicates a wonderfully casual tone, jokey and proud in equal measure. Despite the hook’s focal point of “building an empire,” J Hus comes off as friendly far more than he does braggadocious.

Eleanor Graham: The afrobeat exuberance of “Did You See” made braggadocio endearing, and this does the same (“looking spectacular in my spectacles/all my bruddas are stylish and fashionable”) but not on the hook, where generic sports-compilation empowerment rhetoric fails to lean in to the menacing, industrial production.

Maxwell Cavaseno: Producer JAE5 is an under-regarded maestro in the confounding merge of afrobeat and road rap into seemingly undeniable urban pop success. J Hus melodic (common) sense and casual charm is of course essential, but on a beat like “Spirit”, he manages to take the slinky grooves and lash them atop strings that don’t just give a sense of pomp, but really dig in alongside the bass and burrow down with all the flangy warps playing cheeky. It speaks to the vibe of the record to perfectly uplift, encourage, and provide a sense of strength and resolve without ever feeling schmaltzy or hectoring.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The seesawing synthline really seals the deal for me, and it’s one of many details on “Spirit” that prevents it from sounding like impersonal uplift. Its chipper tone reflects the sincere encouragement that J Hus is able to transmit so effortlessly, and the way it teeters back and forth mirrors him telling you to “hold your head higher.” JAE5 provides more unassailable afrobeats production, and J Hus sounds infectious as he always does. I can’t remember the last time a song so adamant in its goal to inspire had so much warmth.

Ashley John: I love the shifting weight in “Spirit,” which takes us between the heavy lyrics in the verses to the breezy chorus. J Hus lets the song expand as he does, becoming light with hope and reflection without dulling the work of the past.

Julian Axelrod: J Hus’s nonchalant delivery, which worked wonders on “Did You See,” drains this would-be anthem of all its bite. He recounts stirring tales of loss and redemption with all the passion of a DMV clerk. But the track really comes alive on the hook, as Hus rides a synth line that sounds like an EDM drop with the edges shaved off. Here, the lean structure reads as restraint; on the rest of the song, it just feels ambivalent.

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