By Jonathan Santiago, May 16, 2023
Jack Harlow jumped back onto the scene with the release of his third album “Jackman.”
“Jackman.” represented Harlow reinstating himself into the rap scene with 10 tracks. Harlow worked alone, carrying all the songs without a single feature, allowing listeners to fully embrace his work.
The album opened with “Common Ground” where Harlow touches on a sensitive subject, stating that he is not a “culture vulture.” This is something that white rappers face: people assuming they emulate Black culture for success. Harlow rejects this in the song stating, “Never seen the hood, still can’t help but have comments / Never had a convo with a kid from that climate / Common ground ain’t that common.”
The track that has created the most buzz is “Gang Gang Gang” where once again Harlow touches upon an uncomfortable subject. The song addressed friendships and whether they will remain when friends or “gangs” cross the line and commit crimes. The song told a story of childhood friends Marcus and Kevin who committed heinous acts: “Dogs until the lifting of the fog / Unconditional love becomes very conditioned when push comes to shove / And all that talk of takin’ bullets suddenly feels foolish.” This song poses the question of if one will have their friends back until the end no matter what or if they should be cut off when push comes to shove and circumstances arise.
“They Don’t Love It” is a standout as Harlow spoke about where he believes he stands in the rap game. With the line, “The hardest white boy since the one who rapped out vomit and sweaters” Harlow declared he is the heir to Eminem’s throne. It is the swagger and arrogance in this song that was a driving force throughout the rest of the album.
Track 8 is “It Can’t Be” where Harlow dives headfirst back into the subject of race. Harlow plays the part sarcastically agreeing with his naysayers that his skin color is what has brought him to the top of the rap game with lines such as: “It must be my skin. I can’t think of any other reason / I can’t think of an explanation, it can’t be the years of work I put in.” Harlow has paid his dues and cemented himself as one of the best emcees in rap right now, and a track like this helps put these egregious thoughts against him to rest.
“Jackman.” closed with “Questions.” It is here where Harlow asked himself 33 questions throughout the song. It is a self-reflection covering every aspect of his personal life to his career. “Why am I so flawed? Why am I so skeptical of God? / Why am I not the superhero I thought? / Or as perfect as these diamonds that I bought?” Here we get to see the human and relatable side of Harlow as self-conflict and confusion is something that many deal with.
One main critique of the album would be the short run time. The album is a quick 24-minute listen. The longest track on the album is “Blame On Me,” totaling about four minutes. “Jackman.” can leave a little to be desired as the album is seemingly over before it has even started.
Although short in length, the album proved to be different from Harlow’s previous projects. Every track had the same style of a sampled beat with a nice groove to it. There were no hard 808s or cheesy rap lines. Everything in the album was Harlow seemingly freestyling, trying to prove his worth as an emcee. This allowed him to display his lyricism and touch on subjects that concerned him.
While it may not be for all, “Jackman.” is definitely worth the 24-minute listen as it does contain good work. It is yet to be seen what will come from this album, but Harlow has definitely laid the foundation for a successful career in the rap genre.
Feature image courtesy of Lauren Wong
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