Jack Harlow’s sophomore effort is a tedious affair to work through, built upon a disappointing collection of stock hip hop beats and routine bars.
“Back when I was a young man / I liked them girls that was in the Abercrombie / I likеd them girls that was in the Aeropostalе / Now them same girls got coke in they nostrils / Somethin’ done made the youth hostile / Maybe it’s the fuel from the fossils.” So muses Jack Harlow on “Side Piece,” a performatively solemn track surfacing somewhere toward the middle of latest project and second studio album, Come Home the Kids Miss You. A comically shallow attempt to parse through The State of Things, sandwiched between rigid chorus and a rambly verse about hanging out in Argentina, “Side Piece” is classic Harlow, as far as one could hope to define that — a mishmash of not really connected ideas, sanded down into something that plays smoothly enough.
Indeed, one could confidently describe the bulk of Come Home the Kids Miss You’s 45 minutes in similar terms, the 15 songs included herein bearing a uniform nondescriptness, somehow unfocused yet overly manicured at the same time. Backed by the assertion that Harlow “can raaaaaaap,” it becomes clear early on that he can’t do much beyond that, stamping his name on a fair number of boring beats in an unnecessary strain for credibility undermined by the team of producers backing him up (13 total on “I Got a Shot”!) from track to track. Clearly a lot of work was put into building Harlow a stage to flex his technical proficiency, but even here he falters, delivery, flow, etc. all reaching the strata of “serviceable” and not much beyond; obviously the rapper’s forte, but not really noteworthy or exceptional in the context of the broader culture. So why this guy exactly? It’s hard to say, and becomes no more obvious by the time Come Home reaches its conclusion with “State Fair,” a pokey lament for simpler, pre-fame times in Harlow’s native Kentucky. Regardless, it’s clear the industry is all in.
The songs leading up to that point tell a similar story, except when they don’t, bringing in a savvy selection of features (Weezy, Pharrell, and, most on the nose, fellow cultural tourist Justin Timberlake) to cosign the MC’s mundane, conflicted observations on fame (sometimes it’s a lot of fun, sometimes he misses his friends). It’s a classic move straight out of the Logic playbook, one that these various elder statesmen are happy to oblige (most egregiously an uncredited Snoop Dogg cameo on the painfully titled “Young Harleezy”), but the resulting effect is that of a coronation for somebody we don’t care about, who hasn’t accomplished much of anything. Even Logic at least has an angle, proudly steering into the rap nerd label to create these unwieldy, overly involved concept albums that aren’t very good, but which at least exemplify some kind of imagination. Harlow doesn’t even offer that on Come Home the Kids Miss You, using this release to position himself somewhere in between that type of studied genre aficionado and Drake’s softboi romanticism (well represented here on their collab “Churchill Downs”). A rather cringey combo that nevertheless seems to hold some appeal for a significant enough chunk of the general public, one struggles to conceive of the sort of person who would want to return to this collection of stock hip hop beats and routine bars. It’s a patently tedious project to work through, one that bodes poorly for Harlow’s long-term future in this scene.
Published as part of Album Roundup — May 2022 | Part 3.