There are few greats who immediately stand out on their debut projects. From Beyoncé to SZA, to Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and more, these artists amazed us leaving us wanting more. Maintaining that same energy is none other than the 22-year-old Kentucky native, Jack Harlow. On a first listen, one might not imagine the young rapper to be a white kid from Kentucky. In fact, his Hip-Hop exterior and sticky rhymes made many believe he was actually black (Seriously, Black Twitter was shocked once they found out Jack was white.) Along with white artists such as Mac Miller, Justin Timberlake, & G-Eazy, Harlow is another name that adds to the culture.
If unfamiliar with the stylings of Jack Harlow, the young rapper burst onto the scene with his sensational, Billboard-charting hit “What’s Poppin” in January! Afterward, Harlow released his successful EP, Sweet Action in March. Now to cap off a very successful 2020, the Louisville slugger is back with his debut album, That’s What They All Say. Released on Friday (Dec. 11), the debut project gives listeners a closer look at who Harlow is. Staying true to his Louisville roots, he praises his city, reflects on his success, but makes it clear that this is only the beginning. The project contains 15 songs and runs for about 45 minutes. For features, Harlow recruits a few Louisville fellas such as Bryson Tiller, EST Gee, and even the late Static Major. Other key features include Big Sean, Chris Brown, Adam Levine, and more.
The album holds the hit lead singles such as “Tyler Herro,” the insanely bass-booming, “Whats Poppin,” and the song’s star-studded remix.
On the project’s Hit-Boy-produced opener, “Rendevouz,” Harlow reflects on his global 2020 come up. He raps about achieving high accomplishments at the mere age of 22, staying true to himself, and overcoming all odds. While still new to fame, his demeanor is very calm and confident. Although a rookie, his flow exudes the energy of a veteran. Harlow knows exactly what he brings to the plate and he puts it on full display. On “Face Of My City,” both Harlow and Lil Baby trade verses repping their respective cities. Lil Baby, another who has been having an amazing 2020, floats over the Sonny Digital beat with ease. On their first collaboration, the two celebrate themselves, their roots, and their success. Harlow’s flow is crunchy here. He relentlessly flows without showing fatigue or limits.
Soulfulness is an element that is seen and felt throughout the entirety of That’s What They All Say. Beginning with 21C / Delta, Harlow’s flow is just so… suave. Over striking, bouncy production the rapper flows about his way with relationships and his attempts to impress the various women he encounters. Again, the flow is just… organic. He creates a mood within itself. His delivery is relaxed and oh so confident. While although it’s his debut album, his flow mirrors that of a decorated champion. His way of storytelling paints a picture for listeners to feel as if they are experiencing exactly what he’s saying.
“Funny Seeing You Here” seamlessly follows maintaining that very smooth appeal. Harlow again is in a reflective state. He flows about a past lover (that he still desires). He humorously toys with her over this easygoing Dj Dahi-produced beat. His voice is low-toned, alluring, and persuasive. The soulfulness briefly pauses to give way to the catchy, upbeat “Way Out.” Released days before the album, “Way Out” taps none other than Big Sean. Produced by Jetsonmade, the two boasts about their success, wealth, way with women, and more.
Once again tapping Jetsonmade, the two link up for the suave, hypnotic, “Already Best Friends.” Harlow keeps the features coming adding the legendary Chris Brown to elevate the track to an utter banger. The story is simple, Harlow, and Brown detail their encounters with two women who are familiar with one another. In each of their stories, they both get quickly acquainted with the pair of friends, and ultimately everyone gets… very close, very fast. From beginning to end, the entire appeal of the song makes you feel good. From his verse to his ad-libs, Chris adds that pure magic that literally transforms the song. The energy switches on the more serious “Keep It Light.” Over Harry Fraud’s classic production, Jack re-enters his reflective aura observing and looking back on his success & real and fake friends. He observes the weirdos but handles them with grace and a humble attitude.
“Once people lose touch with ya
They start to hate ya
Start to show you they true nature
Start to be the ones in the comments
That’s talkin’ ’bout you like you a stranger
Talkin’ ’bout ya like y’all didn’t have class together
Talkin’ like you not humble now or you acting better
Speakin’ on the things you’ve done that they haven’t ever“Jack Harlow – Keep it light
On “Creme,” Harlow’s delivery mimics that of Post Malone. With a melodic tone, he raps about essentially being done with a woman who apparently tried him. He no longer desires any parts of her. As the album continues, the soulfulness returns on the gospel-styled “Same Guy.” Here Harlow takes us to church. Soulful, powerful, and funky, Adam and Jack create a standout moment on the album. Adam’s background vocal additions and ad-libs truly bless listeners as Jack continues to reflect on his mistakes. While only 22, he proclaims his flaws and wrongdoings. There’s a sense of urgency as he declares that he “can’t keep letting shit slide.” The best part of the song comes at the very end. Harlow enlists a choir to truly take the song up a notch (seriously, it’s the choir for me). I mean, have you ever heard a Jetsonmade’s producer tag sound so angelic?
Continuing to rep his city at all times, Jack teams up with fellow Kentucky native, EST Gee on “Route 66.” “Bitch I’m from Kentucky but this ain’t no f**kin’ Dixie Chicks,” Harlow raps. Bringing new life to Kentucky, Harlow and EST Gee put for their home grounds. The bass matches the hunger as Harlow raps about his time being now and making his city proud. Another standout moment arrives at the larger-than-life- “Luv Is Dro.” Keeping the Kentucky energy flowing, Harlow recruits Bryson Tiller and the late Static Major. Sampling Static’s “Love Is Dro,” Bryson and Harlow breathe new life into the record and create this R&B BANGER. Jack taps into his inner Drake bringing the melodic rap and song-like flow & delivery. Bryson’s chilling vocals satisfy listeners’ minds and Static’s voice leaves goosebumps as you vibe to this smooth gem.
City praise continues on the album’s ender, the Drake-appealing “Baxter Avenue.” Synonymous to Drake’s 9 AM in Dallas (and other similar Drake tracks), Jack continues to look back on his roots, even naming the song after the main street within Kentucky. His storytelling here is great and he delivers pure traditional Hip-Hop bars. The classical Hip-Hop production matches the flow and makes for one of the album’s most solid listens.
What better way to end the year than with an outstanding debut release? Whether this is your first look at Jack Harlow or not, the skill is undeniable. His verses are clever, sharp-tongued, and unique. His delivery, while youthful is still so poised and clean. Ultimately, the moment That’s What They All Say takes off, it goes full throttle without looking back. Every track brings a compelling element that makes listeners love both Jack and the album the more they play the album. The production choices are solid, the storytelling is great, and the execution is nearly flawless. Although only 22-years-old, Jack Harlow sets himself apart from the rest of today’s rappers. He aspires to be no one but Jack Harlow. With grace and humility, he looks back at his roots while remaining confident and optimistic for the future. That’s What They All Say earns a 9.5/10
Top 5 Tracks From That’s What They All Say:
- Luv Is Dro
- 21C / Delta
- Already Best Friends
- Face Of My City
- Same Guy
Honorable Mentions: Way Out, Route 66, Baxter Avenue, Funny Seeing You Here