Kentucky MC Jack Harlow has been making and releasing music for over a decade now. He started gaining steam with his 2017 mixtape “Gazebo,” which helped him get signed to Atlantic Records and DJ Drama’s Generation Now record label. Signing took his career to the next level, and with underground hits such as “Sundown,” and “Thru the Night (ft. Bryson Tiller),” it wasn’t a huge surprise when he took his career to an even higher level with the 2020 hit “What’s Poppin.” Sitting at over 700 million streams on Spotify, the seven time (RIAA) Platinum track put Jack on the biggest stage.
His previous success makes the failure of his 2022 album “Come Home the Kids Miss You” come as a surprise. While the album still brought in streams, the album was one of the worst released by a major artist last year. With bland, uninspired production and lackluster features from Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake, and others, the album was a disservice to the talent Jack had. It felt that every song in that album tried to be a radio hit, leaving little tangible substance to the album. However, one positive thing it did was set the stage for “Jackman,” his latest album released on April 28.
Whether Jack felt offended by reviews or if critics motivated him, it’s not wrong to say “Jackman.” is one of the better rap albums of the current year. The one-minute, 40-second intro song “Common Ground” sees Jack reflecting on life and giving a small sampling of what the album is going to feature. In the album, Jack steps back from attempting to make every song a forced radio hit and releases more raw, conscious rap. “They Don’t Love It” features similar aspects with a vibey soul sample, with the only difference being that it’s more energetic.
The best tracks on the album are “Denver” and “Ambitious.” “Ambitious” sees Jack continuing the formula from the first two songs. The thing that separates the tracks is the sample. Retrieved from the 1979 song “Living My Life Just For You” by the 7th Wonder, the sample has a pleasant vibe. Meanwhile, “Denver” sees Jack reflecting on his massive success over the past couple of years and the negatives that have come with it. With lyrics such as, “I don’t wanna do no press,/I’ve seen enough of me on this lil’ screen,” and “I’ve become so vain and insecure ’bout everything,/ I feel all this pressure to live up to what they tell me I’m gon’ be,” “Denver” sees a rare level of reflection that is rarely seen in his braggadocious raps and because of this, is one of my favorite songs this year.
Despite being FAR from perfect, it’s hard to find many negatives in this album, which in a way is a fault. One could say Jack isn’t the best or most consistent lyricist on the album, but that falls within expectations considering his past. It feels like this album isn’t good enough to have no criticisms, but the production is solid, and there aren’t any mixing/audio quality issues or other major mistakes. At the end of the day, it’s a solid album, and thankfully an improvement from previous releases.
Favorites: “Ambitious,” “Denver”
Least Favorite: “No Enhancers”