Jack Harlow, "Come Home the Kids Miss You" (Atlantic)
The Louisville rapper's second major-label album is full of sumptuous thumpers about the disorienting spin of new stardom, becoming an object of craving and good old-fashioned throne-taking ambition.
He is a notably adept technical rapper, cocksure and also sometimes witty; some of his earliest breakout moments were punchline-packed radio freestyles. But Harlow — a commercially successful white rapper, still a rare thing in hip-hop — is craving centrist hip-hop acclaim, not a connoisseur's classic.
"Come Home," primarily produced by Harlow with Angel (BabeTruth) Lopez and Rogét Chahayed, deliberately straddles constituencies — fans who savor his intricate rapping and clever punchlines, and others who clamor for his beard and smile.
Emblematic of this approach is "Dua Lipa" — essentially an up-tempo arena trap song. It's not a song about Dua Lipa (nor does she appear on it), but one that uses her name as a way to catch the attention of curious pop listeners.
"First Class," which set the tempo for this album's release, can be read various ways. On the one hand, the beginning is essentially a hyper-engineered TikTok trend, a sample of Fergie's "Glamorous" that lends itself to phone-screen-friendly choreography. But get past that and the song's verses are packed with internal rhymes and tensions.
And "Nail Tech," which takes its name from the modern parlance for a manicurist, is among the tougher songs on the album, dexterous enough to make Kanye West post that Harlow was among the "Top 5 out right now."
In many ways, West's "808s & Heartbreak" and the Drake innovations that followed set a template for Harlow. But when he worked with Drake on a song for this album, "Churchill Downs," he opted not for a melodic, pop-oriented song, but rather an intense rap fest: "I thought that restraint would be refreshing. Just us showing our love for the craft."
JON CARAMANICA, New York Times
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