Jackman shows actual signs of progress and seeking stability in his newfound stardom.
When you get on the mainstage of rap stardom, a litany of good can come with that. TV commercials, high-end production, working with your heroes, and invites to the biggest events. It’s a fever dream when you feel the rise. The new white-boy wonder Jack Harlow is well on his way to having that mainstay name. He has top-charting singles and albums to his name on Billboard. He has worked with hip-hop legends like Drake, Pharrell, and Lil Wayne. Now in the sequel for “White Men Can’t Jump.” That is quite the start of a successful career.
His charisma, charm and confidence jump off the page; which is why he became so popular to begin with. His chemistry and videos with comedian Druski made him all that more likable as a human being. With all of that growth in fan-base and popularity, the quality took a nosedive. His last full length album Come Home The Kids Miss You was the computerized version that we know the Louisville rapper to be. There was no personality or swagger in his voice and bars. Just meaningless samples and awful renditions of songs we have loved for many years. It didn’t even sound like Harlow, just whatever industry version that has been created since “What’s Poppin” took off. The critics shared the same sentiments; it’s devoid of anything entertaining or personable.
On this new release, Jackman, it shows the exact reason we gained interest in him. This Harlow sounds refreshed, seeking the balance of life and touching on topics that he normally wouldn’t go after. The album is short, working at just 10 songs and 24 minutes. Yet, it brings back all the elements that made Harlow enjoyable for the common hip-hop fan. His delivery is sharper and more boisterous, proving to rap fans that he belongs. “Common Ground” starts off the record with Harleezy calling out white privilege. He doesn’t ease into it either, from beginning to end he is calling out the white kids that wear NBA jerseys and become condescending rap journalists. The harmonies in the background only elevate the point to greater measures.
You hear a much more aggressive tone from Jackman throughout. “They Don’t Love It” drives home the point that his hunger is next-level and preaching that his city is up next. The animation in his voice is a lot more feisty this go-around. He is firing on all cylinders as a rapper. His bread and butter becomes apparent when he raps over the soulful and softer beats, like on “Is That Ight?”. He once again comes from the perspective of a go-getter, demanding that you chase your dreams without the attachment of needing inspiration. It’s refreshing the fans of what his career was projecting to be.
The story-telling aspect of Harlow’s pen was non-existent until this project, specifically on “Gang Gang Gang.” The battle of friendship and how it changes when they do something mortifying puts a lot on your plate. He processes, what seems to be in real time, his two friends committing heinous acts of rape and pedophilia. It’s stark and you can feel Harlow’s brain not being able to wrap around the thought of those two committing that type of crime. That overused phrase “ride for my dawgs” changes it’s tune when your homie is facing real shit.
“Denver” shows the cracks of what fame and stardom has done to his psyche. Suddenly all the appearances and events he is being forced to do aren’t fun, “Just got off the stage on the TODAY Show and I basically felt soulless.” Everything seems to be a drag for him. However, hearing that disconnect between him and the real world felt so potent.
While there are some very positive moments on this project, his weaknesses are still obvious. He can fall victim to making tedious love tracks. “No Enhancers” would have fit perfectly on the CHTKMY record from last year for its boring perspective. “Ambitious” is the continuation of “ They Don’t Love It” only longer and less engaging. And while I do think that he is taking more risks with the topics at hand, some don’t nearly further a conversation, merely an observation. We’ve known white privilege is a thing, and that frat dudes like to pretend to be a part of the culture until it doesn’t benefit them anymore. Although I do appreciate him going after condescending white hip-hop journalists, there are more than a handful.
These two tracks “It Can’t Be” and “Blame On Me” are exactly what I would like more of from Jackman Harlow. The messaging of “It Can’t Be” is spotty, but his fierce cadence and swagger exude through the headphones. He believes in himself and his ability to be atop of the rap game, regardless of his somewhat tone deaf analysis of why he rose to the top.
“Blame On Me” hits a multi-level perspective of how men have been raised and the cause and effect of their actions. From being a little kid feeling neglected by family, to the older brother being entitled and hating himself for it, to the father being a cold-blooded hardass. Harlow knows the bad things that were said about him, that’s why he came back with this type of album. He is seeking stability since his newfound stardom. If this is the Jack Harlow we’re going to get; the driven, swagger-filled bars with some deep point of view bars over soulful beats and serene hooks, I’m game. The cookie-cutter version wasn’t cutting it, we already have enough NPC’s in hip-hop.