Doused in his patented “white boy” swagger and poignant anecdotes from the rarefied heights of his newfound POV, Jackman illuminates the genuine soul of burgeoning Kentucky-bred rapper Jack Harlow.
Stepping away completely from his penchant for flashy singles and bombastic frills, Harlow amplifies vulnerability on this record and comes off more incisive than ever before.
While the expectations that accompany the concept of a self-titled record are towering, Jackman doesn’t shy away from the pressure whatsoever and instead finds some way to soar far beyond the noise.
For quite some time, the idea of being a “white rapper” wasn’t very “cool” until Eminem came through like a storm and decimated the trend of mediocrity that many fell victim to back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Some notable artists that come to mind include the infamous Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark (better known as actor Mark Wahlberg) and the Funky Bunch.
Since the initial rise of Marshall Mathers, the demographics of hip-hop artists have drastically evolved and that notion isn’t mutually exclusive to white rappers. There’s Machine Gun Kelly. There’s Mac Miller. There’s Russ. There’s Lil Dicky. Hell, even room has been made for the likes of a relatively notorious Macklemore. At its core, the “white rapper” archetype has expanded and is nowhere near as one-dimensional or trite as it once was.
With hip-hop being much more pluralistic and inclusive nowadays, there is more room for purveyors of all backgrounds. This rationale includes white people as well. Harlow takes full advantage of this stipulation and by virtue of it, decides to lean into a more personal sphere on Jackman.
Instead of making feeble, half-hearted attempts at crafting a false and/or corny narrative, Harlow flips the script by indulging the 100% authentic arc of his life and trajectory as a middle-class man from Louisville, KY. Landing somewhere between coming so far from where he started but also still being keenly cognizant of his status as a relative newcomer, he puts his current stature into glaring perspective and approaches it from every angle.
Essentially, Harlow understands his role as “next up” and has chosen to lean into it wholeheartedly. He shows on this project that he isn’t a fan of sugarcoating or phony affectations. He utilizes Jackman as a vivid canvas for unflinching honesty about a lot of different topics.
He grapples with the complex evolution of friendships on “Gang Gang Gang” and “Blame On Me.” He declares his ongoing pursuit of his not so lofty ambitions to reach his apex with tracks like “Is That Ight?” and “Ambitious.” There’s a level of acute consciousness and personal reflection on this project that has been unseen throughout his career thus far.
On “It Can’t Be,” Harlow gracefully quiets all the naysayers that foolishly credit his success with solely the color of his skin.
On the project’s sole single “They Don’t Love It,” Harlow illustrates his unshakeable hunger. He states with absolute conviction:
“Ya boy strivin’ to be the most dominant ever
The hardest white boy since the one who rapped about vomit and sweaters
And hold the comments
‘Cause I promise you I’m honestly better
Than whoever came to ya head right then
They ain’t cut from the same thread like him”
Subliminally but not so lowkey putting himself in the same boat as Eminem, who is undeniably one of the greatest MCs of all-time, Harlow undoubtedly has some big shoes to fill but this caliber of semi-delusional fervor is necessary to reach his desired altitude.
From a sonic paradigm, the “First Class” rapper steps into a fresh bag with a litany of chipmunk soul instrumentation, which is something relatively novel for the Louisville rapper. Aiming for a lower-frills aesthetic this time around, the assortment of classic, golden-era beats on this record perfectly coincide with the original goal at hand: asserting the most authentic version of himself.
While some might disapprove of his candor, the unswerving level of honesty and vulnerability on his self-titled record is admirable. In his process of striving for clarity and understanding, he is calibrating his unique voice and distinguishing himself further in the process.
Harlow’s deepest hope is to be recognized as a legitimate musician and formidable force in hip-hop regardless of his race or ethnic background and that yearning is very palpable on this project.
In a matter of only 24 minutes from onset to ending with zero features to distract from the goal at hand, he aptly presents another tasteful dimension of his artistry.
If nothing else is taken away from this record, it does a stellar job at providing a refreshing lens into Harlow’s current mind frame and delineates the next tier he is mercilessly peddling to reach.
Based on the sublime nature of Jackman, he is on the right track.