By Geoffrey Rowlands
J Hus could have died in September, 2015. The man born Momodou Jallow, who celebrated his 22nd birthday last Friday, was attacked and stabbed five times. Luckily, none of the wounds caused any major problems. Hus even posted a picture of himself on his Instagram account while receiving treatment in hospital.
The photo wouldn’t have been so bad if Hus had not been making the hand gestures of what appeared to be a C and a firing gun. This was understood to be linked to gang culture in the Canning Town area of London.
The accompanying caption and hashtags made things even worse. They read, “5 stab wounds could never stop me #AntiCh #F***DaOvaSide”.
Condemnation from anti-knife crime and anti-gang violence campaigners came so quickly that Hus rapidly deleted the post. But the damage had already been done. Despite being available to view for such a short time, the post attracted nearly 1,400 likes in just 20 minutes. Hus now realises the influence he has on other young people.
“Getting all that media criticism was the first time I really discovered and understood how many people were watching me. A lot of them are kids and they do get influenced by the things I do. It made me appreciate I had to be more careful.”
Those last few words could be the mantra to his life. Born in Stratford, London, to a single mother originally from The Gambia, Hus was not a model pupil at school. Although he was good at English language and drama, he didn’t much care for the rest of the curriculum.
“I wanted to be an actor. But around Year 10 or 11, I started getting into a bit of trouble. The result of this was I ended up being kicked out of school.”
Some of the ‘trouble’ proved financially rewarding, at least for a time.
“I came across a lot of money. Then I was broke again. I was stressed out.”
Two of his friends, Kilo and Moe, saw an obvious solution to his situation. His ability to freestyle rap was well known. If Hus would curtail his other activities and concentrate on music, they would be willing to manage him.
“The first thing was sorting out my name. I liked the Hus thing. It’s short for hustler. I liked the way it sounds. It’s short, simple, easy to remember and unique. I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone with a name like that.”
Next came the music. Afrobeats, grime and British rap were the most prominent sounds in his neighbourhood. But Hus wanted his music to be as unique as his name.
“I had always been a rapper. I had no experience of singing. But I wanted to create something brand new. A lot of rappers have a road image. They don’t want to sing because they’re scared it will mess with their image. But I didn’t care what anyone thought. I wanted melodies in my music.”
An admittedly impatient guy, Hus was less than pleased when his first few postings on SoundCloud did not turn him into a star.
“I needed to make money and music wasn’t making me any money. I told my managers if it still wasn’t working by the end of the year, I was quitting music and going back on the road.”
The problem was that Hus hadn’t really promoted his music. The fan response changed dramatically after he made numerous appearances on virtually every black music media outlet.
His musical fusion of Afrobeats, rap and grime drew critical acclaim and enormous fan support. His track, Dem Boy Paigon, blasted out from every party in London. Lean & Bop, written for his much younger little brother, is now approaching ten million views on YouTube.
His debut mixtape, 15th Day, enjoyed the kind of sales success which prompted a deal with Black Butter Records. Despite clearly being on the path to stardom, Hus did not leave his chequered past behind. After recovering from his stab wounds, “a bit of trouble” turned into something more substantial. In early 2016, Hus was sentenced to five months in jail.
After being released last June, he threw himself into working on the songs which would make up his debut studio album, Common Sense. Not content to continue pursuing his style of melodious rap, which other artists have now copied, the album includes songs which feature elements of other musical styles such as U.K. garage, G-funk and jazz.
“I wanted to dabble with other sounds to make the album different. I wanted to present a more grown up J Hus.”
Universal critical acclaim was followed by hitherto unknown sales figures. Common Sense shot straight to number six on the UK albums chart and took pole position on the Rap Albums chart.
Lead single, Did You See, has also massively outperformed all of his previous releases hitting number nine on the UK chart. Eight more tracks from Common Sense are also in the top 100.
“I’m thankful for everything I have. I can’t thank everyone enough for their support. They should know there’s more to come. People think I’m shy but I’m just quiet, always thinking about a lot of things. Like my song, Plottin’, which is my favourite track on the album, I’m always thinking about my songs for the future.”
Things are certainly starting to look up for Harry Styles.
The One Direction star topped the UK chart with his debut single, Sign of the Times. But sales figures compared unfavourably with those of Harry’s former bandmate Zayn Malik’s debut single and One Direction’s first release. So much so that many critics labelled Sign of the Times as a failure.
An unusual marketing strategy was also blamed for the relatively poor sales. It was thought this would change for the release of Harry’s self-titled debut solo album. It has, to some degree, but the end results have still been at least somewhat mixed.
His album has soared straight to number one in both Britain and America. It has also hit top spot in a number of other countries.
In the US, Harry registered the highest first week sales for a debut album by a solo male artist from the UK in Billboard chart history. His 230,000 actual and equivalent sales eclipsed the 166,000 copies of Sam Smith’s 2014 album, In The Lonely Hour, which were sold during the first seven days.
UK sales have been less spectacular. The first week figure of 57,000 copies does not even match the number registered by Sign of the Times and this was considered disappointing.
Perhaps Harry’s promotion has been better in America. Maybe he is now more popular there than in his homeland. We will have to wait and see what the sales of future releases may bring.
Drake / Cher
Adele no longer holds the record for receiving most Billboard Music Awards at a single ceremony. Her mark of 12 fell to Canadian superstar Drake who took home 13 gongs from the 2017 event staged at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Categories in which Drake was triumphant included Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album, for “Views,” Top Rap Artist, Top Male Artist and the biggest prize of all, Top Artist.
After receiving his 13th award and being announced as the new record holder, Drake was generous enough to give a message to Adele. He said; “I want to say, hold tight Adele, because when a new thing drops you’ll be back here to get the record back.”
The Billboard Icon Award for achievement in music was given to singer and actress Cher, who turned 71 on the day before the awards show. Wearing a stage outfit which much younger women would struggle to get away with, Cher performed two of her biggest hits, 1989’s If I Could Turn Back Time and Believe.
Ironically, Cher did not want to record If I Could Turn Back Time. The story, as told by songwriter Diane Warren, is that she had to physically hold Cher back in the studio until she agreed to record the song. After doing so, Cher loved the finished track.
Believe was a world-wide smash in 1998 reaching number one in almost every country in which the song charted. It has sold well over 11 million copies and, despite all of Adele’s more recent success, remains the highest-selling single by a female artist in UK chart history.
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