Jack Harlow returns to what he does best on “Jackman”

Jack Harlow plays at the 2022 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on February 18, 2022. Photo credit: Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In May 2022, Jack Harlow dropped “Come Home The Kids Miss You,” which disappointed most rap fans with bland production, poor performances and little variance or talent by our favorite Louisville Rapper.

On his latest release “Jackman,” Harlow returns to his musical origins, with beautifully produced classic instrumentals backing up conscious raps delivered with stylistic flows.

Harlow keeps us thoroughly engaged throughout the 25-minute album. “Jackman” seems like a therapy session in musical form as the rapper rants about his upbringing, familial relationships, career and place in rap, which has been a topic of discussion for many rap fans.

Harlow began his career with mixtapes “18” and “Gazebo,” but gained some recognition with projects “Loose” and “Confetti.” His breakthrough came with the single “Whats Poppin” from his project “Sweet Action.”

“Whats Poppin” preceded his2020 album “That What They All Say,” which stuck with his enthusiastic deliveries on top of Drizzy Drake-style instrumentals. However his 2022 album, “Come Home The Kids Miss You,” was a complete mess.

Harlow’s failure to bring anything new to an already-redundant form of hip-hop while riding off of cringe lyrics angered most critics, who complained that his stardom was a result of his online persona, looks and ethnicity. On “Jackman,” he addresses these critics directly.

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The album’s opening track, “Common Ground,” talks about Harlow’s doubters, who he says have no place commenting on his place in hip-hop, considering their favorite artists have no relatability to their lives.

On “It Can’t Be,” Harlow sarcastically refutes that his skin color made him a star, explaining that his struggles at the beginning of his career and the millions of hours he put into honing his craft are the actual reasons he rose to the top.

The song “Gang Gang Gang,” is probably Harlow’s most daring track, which has polarized his fans and haters alike.

On this track, Harlow reflects on how some of his closest friends were accused of rape and sexual assault and discusses the feeling of ignorance that followed the revelations. Saying “Ride for my dawgs, lie for my dawgs, die for my dawgs,” Harlow comes at “bro code” from a satirical lens and remarks how life-long friendships can end in light of problematic conduct.

Though addressing an important topic, Harlow comes at it harshly, with lyrics like “Molested by who? By Kevin. Nah, it’s gotta be a different Kevin.”

Though Harlow’s introspective raps are a fresh start from the mess in his previous works, a softer approach to addressing sexual assault would be easier on the ears and still have the same effect.

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Lighter songs like “No Enhancers” and “They Don’t Love It” have the classic Harlow flows and instrumentals combined with his smooth deliverance and swagger, perfect for nighttime rides.

The album’s strongest track, “Denver,” features a beautiful instrumental backed by a pitched-up sample and acoustic guitar, which carries Harlow through a powerful verse. The Kentucky-born rapper talks about his rapid rise to fame, his insecurities and occasional desire to be less famous and return to his old self.

In truth, the track sums up the entire album: The Louisville rapper has talent, yet his persona, looks and attitude all created a celebrity that removed himself from his niche. He knows this and has attempted to create some sort of musical journal, hoping to write himself back into the hearts of his fans and the praise of his doubters.

Has he done this with “Jackman?” No, not yet. Though thought-provoking and sonically sound, the album is too short and too uniform to be considered great.

What he has done, however, is make something that people can actually listen to outside of malls and retail stores. It requires thought, focus and re-listens, something that Harlow has yet to do in his career.

It’s an enormous step forward for the young rapper who has enormous, untapped potential. “Jackman” can provide a backbone for a real career in rap — one that can stay “poppin” for a long time.