Jack Harlow – Come Home The Kids Miss You: Review

Establishing himself as an artist with great potential, Jack Harlow delivers less than projected on Come Home The Kids Miss You. Unlike the visceral shiftiness of That’s What They All Say, this follow-up by the Kentucky rapper misses the mark. It’s underwhelming. Jack Harlow is too linear as a lyricist, layering corny rap bars that are nuanced to his character but still lack that oomph of peak creativeness. There is never a sense that Harlow is trying to use his storytelling talent to its max potential. He has matured, but that maturity feels askew as he boasts himself to an established globe-trotter that has amassed a kind of lifestyle mirrored by his analogies. Within Come Home The Kids Miss You, some solid tracks come together by fit, but at times, Harlow sounds like he is drowning in establishing something he isn’t, which is a modest carbon copy of Drake. There are some clean beat-flow switches and some smooth lyrics in the crevices, though ultimately, there isn’t much to herald in high regard. 

When Jack Harlow came through with the first single for Come Home The Kids Miss You, “Nail Tech,” something cliqued that might have made you think Harlow would grow exponentially from a technical perspective. It got subsequently reaffirmed with the boldness of “First Class,” which saw a wicked awesome flip on “Glamorous” by Fergie as he rapped humbly about his growth in music. Though it gets subverted with the slight boredom deriding Harlow’s flows and content–which doesn’t stray from its core themes of excess and success–certain tracks slide over others due to quality, despite not being as great as the two singles. A lot of it becomes more apparent between the more stripped-down production, allowing him to show vanity, but you hear a discerning difference compared to more cross-appeal-driven tracks. On “Poison,” he becomes the third fiddle to the eloquence of the production and Lil Wayne’s fun and short verse. It isn’t the first time for Harlow; the beats take the wheel consistently, even when they are tame.

What’s striking about the production: it stays on a consistent wavelength tonally. It plays with percussion to elevate or deescalate the tempo without detracting you, and it gives enough Jack enough range to switch between trap and direct rap. It’s similar to Jack Harlow’s straight and linear bars that are as corny as lamenting the times he chased after the girls he was attracted to, one that specifically wore Aeropostale and Abercrombie. His creativity wanes, and if you listen closely, it becomes more apparent how poor it is. On “Movie Star,” after it becomes a snooze-fest with his first verse, Harlow raps: “But I’m just so inspired by the way you wear that thong/You know I like to dictate things, Kim Jong/I know that drink strong/You know we keep that bourbon out the barrel, Diddy Kong.” He’s trickling down to using off-color references to make a rhyme connect. That’s only one aspect of Harlow’s poor lyricism on the album, but often it doesn’t get balanced by his flows, as it feels like Harlow is trying too hard to assimilate styles cohesively.

Unlike the production, Jack Harlow’s lyricism makes you take a step back with lines like “I don’t care what frat that you was in, you can’t alpha me, keep dreamin’/Pineapple juice, I give her sweet, sweet, sweet semen” on “First Class.” In “I Got A Shot” amidst flexing, Harlow drops this sidebar: “She think I’m cold, I seen her nipples (Seen ’em).” In “I’d Do Anything To Make You Smile,” Harlow offsets the weirdness with cordial corniness with lines like: “Nice dress but your birthday suit’s a better outfit.” Surrounding these lines, Jack is rapping about women and his successes concerning status without much effect. He never keeps it interesting as sometimes it mirrors aspects of Drake, like the flow switches and writing structures, and the sound of it makes me want to listen to CLB instead, even if it’s as weak as Come Home The Kids Miss You. Though no fault of his, as he tells us early on, he wants to drop the gloves and brush off the humbleness; however, there is no arrogance or emotional finesse to hook you vigorously; he’s simply there, and his features do so similarly. 

But Jack Harlow has shown us he has earned an elevated status in hip-hop and pop, but the final product shows us differently. It sounds more like an artist delivering on auto-pilot without taking the time to listen to himself. Harlow brings plenty of interesting features to Come Home The Kids Miss You, some of which reflect the hierarchy of his state. Unfortunately, most are afterthoughts like Justin Timberlake on “Parent Trap.” It was a feature–on paper–that immediately piqued my interest but muddled when the chorus hit. Justin Timberlake continues Harlow’s streak of feeble choruses, though it gets interesting in the second half as it implements more break-hip-hop styles instead of the simple soul chords. Other than Timberlake, Drake, and Lil Wayne, bring quality verses and properly outshine Harlow on his record.

Come Home The Kids Miss You is boring, and it’s disheartening; you’d hope Jack Harlow to add more than some standard rap bars about flaunting his successes. But at the end of the day, it’s retroactively forgettable and a step back for him. If you’re a fan, there will be some stuff to enjoy, but ultimately, you’re better off just keeping Future on repeat. I mean that wholeheartedly.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Future – I Never Liked You: Review

Recently, GQ dropped a profile on Future where they declared him the best rapper alive. Though the writer may have his merits, he clearly doesn’t understand or listen to hip-hop as a whole, which may have swayed the title. It isn’t to discredit Future, as he is amongst the best to ever do it; however, his lyrical and technical prowess is only as strong as the construct backing it. We’ve heard him at peak greatness with his first three albums, subsequent mixtapes, and dwindle with his last few Hip-Hop albums. It continues to be the case with his new album, I Never Liked You. There are excellent tracks, but it flops as it juggles weak features, boring content, and poor contrasts of similar styles.

Future begins I Never Liked You strong, but it becomes a misconception of how the rest of the plays out. It’s inconsistent; Future is tapping into boastful and sensitive emotions, trying to display range, but sometimes it left me yawning. It’s what separates the appeal between tracks that go hard like “I’m Dat N****” and “Love You Better.” While the former expresses that keen flex-Future, the latter tries and fails to capture the nuances of Future’s R&B moment with HNDRXX. But there are like-minded tracks that flow better within the R&B-sphere, like “Voodoo” with Kodak Black. Though Future is primarily rapping, he brings melodic flows matching the potency of the moody-piano-driven production. Kodak and Kaash Paige add remarkable harmonies to the fold in the chorus and bridge, respectively. It all intertwines into one a great heart-break banger.

Unfortunately, Kodak Black is one of three features that land and the one that doesn’t fit the mold of the album since Future’s choruses barely reach that level of singing at its core. Most of the features fall flat, which includes Drake’s first verse, who comes dialing it in with little emotion or ingenuity. It turns “Wait For U” from a heartfelt dance track to a write-off that should have been left on the cutting room floor, like the previously mentioned track “Love You Better.” But we get a handful of Future’s boastful–rightfully so–which has a soft layer of nuance as he comes with a perfected craft and a consistent delivery that gets lost through levels of inconsistencies like the oblique verses from Gunna and Young Thug on “For A Nut.” Future is composed, instead of Young Thug who raps “I just put some diamonds in her butt (Butt)/And I seen it shinin’ when she nut (Nut).” 

Kanye West’s appearance on “Keep It Burnin” is delivered with arrogance excellently; he contrasts Future’s eloquent confidence and modesty, further creating this bombastic banger that stands as one of the best tracks. It’s there with “I’m On One,” which is the second track with Drake. Like Lil Yatchy, hearing Drake on trap beats is fun, ear-popping with his braggadocio persona coming across naturally with hard-hitting bars. His verse is snarky and smooth with dominant lines like: “I don’t know why the fuck niggas tryna test me, what/I’m just all about my goals like Ovechkin, what.” Contextually and musically, it offers a great contrast in style between features, as they elevate each track with Future. Though it doesn’t say much since I Never Liked You boasts a handful of quality tracks, and they are undermined by the bad, which are poor features and boring content. 

Adjacently the content of some tracks doesn’t have enough creativity and feels half-baked, like “Massaging Me” and “Chickens.” Or they carry some redundancies like on “The Way Things Going;” it creates these oblique moments that take you away from the good on a first listen, that it could’ve used some trimming on the fat to have a more concise album, where the extra tracks are weighted properly. Though it’s more stagnant in appearance, it keeps I Never Liked You from being more than just an okay album with enough in the tank to replay. Besides Future, a lot of it is due to the consistent production from some usuals, like ATL Jacob, Wheezy, and Southside. The percussion stays on a path of vibrant consistency, giving you something fresh and new as it’s incorporated within these distinguishing overlays, like the energetic, hard-hitting “I’m Dat N****.”

There is enough to marvel and enough to throw in the trash bin, which has been the case with Future. It’s hard to mask the weak within explosive rhymes, but maybe that’s what he meant by the track “Mask Off.” I kid; this album by Future doesn’t incur the thought, as it carries the external potency expected of a Future album, without much of the gravitas.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Drake – Certified Lover Boy: Review

With a title like Certified Lover Boy and an album cover that is twelve pregnant female emojis, you’d question if this is reality. It is. Unfortunately, this reality contains one where Drake becomes a parody of himself instead of bringing his consistent wit and unique social commentary to the forefront. What we are ultimately delivered on Certified Lover Boy is a 90 minute mess full of corny Drake songs and some solid and focused Drake.

Certified Lover Boy is bold. Drake uses unique samples and delivers some baffling lines. It is the first album by Drake where the only lead-in single didn’t make the cut, and oddly it should have compared to other songs on the album. From the random Life After Death Intro sample on “Love All” to the Right Said Fred sample on “Way 2 Sexy,” CLB keeps itself on a path of obscurity. It continues with the music video for the latter, as Drake, Future, Young Thug make a video that makes less sense than the song. The artists alternate through eras like the 80s and 90s, as well as other pop culture references — Los Angeles Clipper Kawhi Leonard makes an appearance, and he is doing what fans would expect he’d do.

In the song “Girls Want Girls,” Drake tackles his toxic masculinity by implying that women from Toronto are a tight-knit group, and it makes it hard for Drake to pursue at the club. Like Drake, we’ve heard the “oh I’m gay” or “I only girls,” but Drake and Lil Baby keep the pursuing consistent. They try to imply their common ground with common traits like the love of pussy and more. It doesn’t help that it halts you at the end of the chorus as Drake implies he is a lesbian.

It sort of continues on the song “Papi’s Home,” one of the better songs on Certified Lover Boy. However, it is one of the few songs where you start to get confused by who Drake is directing these raps to. It begins with these braggadocios bars about his career compared to the competition, and it ends with a beautiful soliloquy with backing harmonies from Montell Jordan. His son is the target as he reassures him for a better future with love and care. Listening to it once through, it doesn’t come across that way; fortunately, it doesn’t deter you, like “Girls Want Girls” and “In The Bible.”

Certified Lover Boy shares one thing in common with Donda, and that is the plethora of features. Ironically, the best songs are when Drake is performing by himself. Some features stand out, like Future and Young Thug on “Way 2 Sexy” and Rick Ross and Lil Wayne on “You Only Live Twice.” The latter is a new path for Drake after the YOLO era, “You Only Live Twice” is a monstrous song.

What works for Certified Lover Boy is that Drake accepts himself, and he rides it out. A lot of the music details aspects of love, betrayal, personal worth, and promiscuity, though it is more prevalent in the second half. Like Donda, CLB has a great album stored inside a bloated mess of corny and focused songs. Fortunately, the messiness is in the first half, where it’s hard to understand what Drake is trying to embody, except for the opening song “Champagne Poetry.”  

The second half of Certified Lover Boy has better features and songs, which has Drake focused on his career and life. After a slow first half, Drake took me by surprise with the intricate and aggressive “No Friends In The Industry.” What follows isn’t always aggressive; however, the intricacies between production and construction give most of them a better footing. “No Friends In The Industry” is about his relevance within social groups as he realizes who is around his orbit. He isn’t taken aback and has a clear understanding and focus on what he wants to say. His delivery and flow are better than most of the songs in the first half, as we get that wit and slick and truthful commentary that was predominately missing in the first 11 songs.

Certified Lover Boy isn’t devoid of great samples on the production. “Knife Party,” featuring 21 Savage and Project Pat, is a personal favorite. It flips the Three 6ix Mafia song “Feed The Streets” into a sample that helps boost the identity of the production, which is chopped and slow and reminiscent of the predominant style of the area. 21 Savage sounds a little more natural with his flow than Drake, but Project Pat steals the show, despite only being on the intro. I’ve never heard these artists over this kind of production, and though they deliver with finesse. Ultimately, you’re left wondering why they wouldn’t include Project Pat more. 

The first half of Certified Lover Boy contains a lot of the corniness one expects from Drake, and it surprises me when he delivers the opposite on the second half with the songs “Race My Mind” and “Get Along Better.” The glossy and twinkly piano keys add a different element to Drake’s smooth-talking flow on “Race My Mind,” which makes it an easy song to return to and enjoy to the max. The same goes for “Get Along Better,” where Ty Dolla Sign delivers an elegant contrast to Drake’s confliction with a past lover and his directness with the verse.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to make sense what Drake was going for this album. It’s a trove of loosies that could have been left in the vault, since within the ninety minute runtime is a fantastic album if constructed better. However, I’m not Drake and making this was his choice, despite most choices being bad ones. Certified Lover Boy starts strong, before middling into boredom. You can skip most songs after “Papi’s Home,” and find what comes after “Yebbe’s Heartbreak” rewarding — for the most part.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

EP Round Up – Dora Jar & Drake

This weekend saw a decent amount of releases; from the surprise hype project for YG’s record label to the over stylish electro pop album by Zara Larsson, there is a lot to digest and enjoy. However, nothing has been as ear grabbing as the projects from Indie songwriter Dora Jar and, well, Drake, who deliver momentum, in their own way, toward what is in store for 2021.

Dora Jar – Three Songs (Single)

Dora Jar came onto the radar from an Instagram post by Pigeon and Planes, where they highlight independent artists and mark possible similarities to other artists. This is for the purpose of growing a listeners’ base with similar tastes, but from the few songs she has released prior to Three Songs – Single has shown strength through her ability to flow easily through lower-medium vocal pitch-like instrumentations of “Multiply.” Though the title seems to have some misconception with the single tagline, the three songs on Dora Jar’s Three Songs is equivocally more immersive and beautiful than the title suggests.

In keeping with the overtures from rustic acoustic guitar riffs, from her previous singles, the EP adds depth to the three songs. Dora Jar brings different archetypal layers that elevate the emotional grasp she initially gets you with, like on “Quiver.” The opening track has an eclectic array of simple strings and percussion that build upon the mood – re-enforced by Dora Jar’s strong vocal delivery and lowly piano keys. 

“Believe,” unfortunately doesn’t hit as hard as “Quiver” and the closing track, “Look Back.” This is mostly due to the simplistic acoustics that drowns out any undercoating the production has. Dora Jar doesn’t disappoint as a writer. All three tracks have an emotional cadence from her delivery of the words on paper, with each track tackling innate insecurities Dora has/what her listeners can relate to. This and the production is what makes “Look Back” such an eloquent song to cap off the “EP.”

Elevated by a strong opening and ending track, Three Songs – Single is a better-set introduction to her artistry and the music to come as she grows into her own.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Drake – Scary Hours 2

There has been great consistency from Drake when he delivers smaller projects and this is because it allows him to be more concise and structured as opposed to “trying to do too much.” This has been the case for his recent album, but EPs like Scary Hours and The Best In The World Pack have been a completely different animal. Scary Hours 2 continues that trend with a monstrous delivery and insane production. The EP takes Drake back to his more astute lyricism, that he tends to hold back in order to create a grander landscape with the music, but there is more impact this go around.

Scary Hours 2 is a collection of three songs that bring various perspectives about the grandeur-scheme behind success and the way it affects those within the light, like on the standout “Wants and Needs,” featuring Lil Baby. The production has a crisp ambiance that is less reliant on a 1-2-3 1-2-3 base beat pattern, and instead takes on a somber coating to the BPM. The subtlety allows Drake’s infectious chorus delivery to immerse the listener deeper into the context of the themes/contents of the track. Lil Baby’s energetic flow adds a lot of vibrant colors to the track elevating as the best of the EP.

The other two tracks have their own way to create great energy, like the Trap-centric “What’s Next,” and the fully defined “Lemon Pepper Freestyle,” which has Drake and Rick Ross pitting themselves against the pen and paper and giving us introspective lyricism that hits harder on a beach in Miami, with the powerful drums patterns eclipsing the smooth ambiance from underlying vocalizations and soft, but impactful hi-hats.

Scary Hours 2 is a phenomenal tease-hype EP for Drake, whose capability of creating concise and tightly structured mini projects glows on this. Though there are reservations about the upcoming release from Drake, mostly because of the title Certified Lover Boy; however this offers enough new bangers to keep you satisfied until the album.

Rating: 8 out of 10.