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.

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.

Dame D.O.L.L.A – Different On Levels The Lord Allowed: REVIEW

Portland Trailblazers Superstar Damian Lillard is a rare breed. He is an extraordinary basketball player and a great rapper. In the beginning, I had skepticism about his foray into Hip-Hop, considering past basketball players, not named Master P, haven’t been the best rappers; Shaquille O’Neal was okay, and Allen Iverson didn’t take the time to hone the craft. To fans, it has become a black mark on their respective career since they try not to talk about much unless it “Can’t Stop The Reign.” Unlike them, Dame has grown to create an authentic identity with his music. His past work isn’t bad, but they were slightly basic. However, on his new album, Different On Levels The Lord Allowed, Damian personifies the acronym from his moniker with unique flows and verses, albeit some generic choruses and production.

Looking back on Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson’s work, the sound is a time capsule for the time. And like them, Dame has done so with the sound of his music. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This sound is prominent with conscious hip-hop; however, Damian Lillard brings slick wordplay and rhyme schemes. It’s a glaring difference between the music from the past and then. Damian is a kid from Oakland, and he doesn’t shy away from his roots, even though it doesn’t always reflect the final product for each song.

But to me, there is no doubt Damian Lillard is talented, and his verses/writing speak for themselves. Unfortunately, he has consistently faltered into mediocrity due to the surrounding aspects of his music. The production usually takes familiar beats from current styles in hip-hop, except they don’t explore it beyond a basic concept. It isn’t as noticeable, and Damian is to thank. His intricate flows and wordplay have brought about more depth than expected.

Damian Lillard has witty wordplay and metaphors, which shows the range of his talent. It speaks louder when he can deliver songs with a positive message and avoid being hammy. And at the same time, reflect that on his verses. Unfortunately, he is limited to two styles as his love-centric songs end up hammy. There is unison between the love-centric “For Me” and “IYKYK” that their tangent is written off quickly as Dame circles back to what he knows best. That is why, Different On Levels The Lord Allowed starts and ends on a high note, as we hear Damian Lillard at his near best. 

Starting with “The Juice,” Dame delivers a statement that significantly contrasts himself from others with his approach to music and social commentary. He is more like Q-Tip, who was more subtle than Tupac and Radio Raheem of Do The Right Thing. “The Juice” is a reflection of him as a rapper, full of confidence and clarity. From here, listening to Different On Levels The Lord Allowed felt like a breath of fresh air because, albeit some basicness, Dame still has a high level of confidence to back his braggadocio nature on some songs.

As the album continues, it starts to act like a rollercoaster ride with the highs and lows. After “The Juice,” there is a small low with “Overnight,” as its runtime left me wanting more, similar to J. Cole’s “Punchin The Clock.” “Right On” takes us back up as Damian brings Lil Wayne and Mozzy to spit about their status in their respective hoods. The vibrant percussion has the thermostat high, and Lil Wayne and Mozzy break it with the heat from their verses. Mozzy, being a non-pop artist, brings the mojo that the other two bring their A-Game, and there is nothing more refreshing than a non-pop Lil Wayne feature. But this isn’t to say Dame is never on his A-Game. He is constantly delivering; however, some off-color and standard choices make certain songs forgettable. 

The choruses are the weakest aspect, as they don’t stand out. Blxst and Jane Handcock don’t deliver bad vocal performances, but the lyrics come across as bland. Sometimes they fall in line with standard conventions of uplifting soul. And it isn’t just them, as it stays an issue when Dame is in control of the chorus. Similarly, Derrick Milano delivers a simple 1-2-3 hip-hop chorus on “Kobe,” which doesn’t come as a surprise as he did it before in the song “For Me.” “Kobe” has solid verses from Damian Lillard and Snoop Dogg over an adequate, albeit simple percussion-heavy beat. 

The high note Different On Levels The Lord Allowed ends on makes you feel better about the poor non-factors of the last few songs (the choruses). After the journey Dame has taken you on throughout the album, “GOAT Tier” reminds you about the flawed nature of Dame. He speaks on his failures and shortcomings as a way to demonstrate strength from growth. It is like the three-year span where he didn’t make an All-Star game after previous selections, to being 1st Team All-NBA and a Top 5 MVP Candidate in back-to-back years, respectively. The bouncy production is my favorite as the soulful tones elevate add levels of creativity, especially with Raphael Saadiq’s eloquent performance on the outro.

The production’s wrought simpleness doesn’t hinder the final product, but it does leave you saddened that Damian Lillard’s ear for beats isn’t as profound. It works for what he is going for, and if it doesn’t affect you, then this is for you. It connects on many fronts, as the production does fit the style cleanly. As well, the features bring a lot of energy to elevate the surrounding aspects of the album. And fortunately, it doesn’t take away from the focal point, Damian’s rapping.

Rating: 7 out of 10.