Jack Harlow has been on a hell of a run over the past couple of years, and he brought all of that momentum into his new album Come Home the Kids Miss You.
The project’s second single “First Class” went viral before it even dropped, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and there’s been a lot of hype and speculation about what direction Jack would take on the rest of the album.
“I think the game needs some urgency, with everything being kind of a vibe right now,” he told Billboard in December. “It will be a boost of energy for people. You’ll be able to hear in my voice that I’m realizing what I am and what I could be and what I need to work hard to be. My star is rising, and I’m kind of documenting that process and showing you where I want to take it next. I’m stepping into being a star comfortably. I want to entertain.”
So, did it live up to the hype? What’s the best and worst thing about it? Members of the Complex Music team—Eric Skelton, Jordan Rose, and Jessica McKinney—shared their first-listen thoughts, which you can see below.
Eric: “Young Harleezy.” It opens with some self-reflection, before the beat switches and he brings that signature Jack Harlow confidence and charisma for the rest of the record. I would cringe to hear some artists rap about a “heartthrob lifestyle,” but hey, that’s the life he’s been living lately, running around red carpets (and occasional trips to Turks and Caicos with Drake), so he’s got the credibility to pull it off here. Bonus points for getting Snoop to jump in and play hype man for a minute. (I hope no one is actually calling him Young Harleezy, though.)
Jordan: “Churchill Downs” is the one for me (although my opinion might be influenced by listening to the leaked version very often over these last two weeks). Jack tightened up his verse and added a minute of new bars, and Drake raps better than he did on most of Certified Lover Boy. He also talks more about his personal life more than he has lately, which is a refreshing choice.
Jessica: “First Class” is still one of the strongest songs on the album. The Fergie “Glamorous” sample is great, and it’s got a lot of replay value. “I Got A Shot” is a close second.
Eric: “Movie Star.” Before the album dropped, Jack shared a clip of himself in the studio with Pharrell, who was hyping up their collab. Man, it’s a big letdown, though. I like that Pharrell pushed him to try something new, but this thing is all over the place. The beat doesn’t lend itself well to Jack’s flow at all, and it’s easily the most awkward, out-of-place track on the album.
Jordan: “I’d Do Anything To Make You Smile” has way too much going on for me. I wish he would have stuck with the first beat, rather than changing it twice to some weird techno flips that don’t sound right together. The flow switches don’t work well, either. The thought was there, he could have executed much better.
Jessica: “Young Harleezy” is the least appealing to me and it comes off a little corny. And I’m not a fan of saying “Young Harleezy” as a nickname.
Eric: The album has a nice flow to it. The production is great (the budget must have been crazy) and Jack has a nonchalant delivery that’s pleasing on most of these songs. It’s the kind of album you can put on loop while you go about your day, without needing to get up and skip anything, which is likely by design (DSPs love that shit).
Jordan: Every beat on this album sounds expensive, and Jack snagged some wild samples. Using a slowed-down sample of “Beautiful” on “Side Piece,” followed by the Pharrell feature on “Movie Star” and “Lil Secret” was the best three-song run on the album. I liked how Jack was experimenting with different flows here, from tapping into his melodic bag on “Like a Blade of Grass,” to rapping alongside his idol on the final version of “Churchill Downs.”
Jessica: It’s a solid album with a lot of upbeat, catchy songs. Jack shows his skills as a rapper on “I Got A Shot,” while also showing his mature, club appeal on songs like “Dua Lipa” and “Like A Blade of Grass.”
Eric: I wish Jack dug a little deeper, lyrically. On “Young Harleezy,” he says, “Now I make it sound like I write the bars easy,” and that approach has worked out really well for him over the past couple of years. He has a laid-back, effortless style that appeals to a lot of people, but he gets caught in that lane more than I’d like on this album. I wish there were more moments like “Keep It Light” from That’s What They All Say, where he turned his gaze inward and revealed more about himself. Instead, this album stays surface-level a lot of the time, and some of the lyrics have a way of just washing over you. That’s not a horrible thing—it’s a pop-leaning record that has other goals in mind—but I was hoping for a few more lyrical moments that jumped out and grabbed me. Instead, some of these songs end up sounding like background music.
Jordan: There are too many holes on this album for me. There are moments where it finally finds a rhythm, but then gets thrown off by an out-of-place song. The sequencing isn’t bad, but a few songs could have been cut to make for a more cohesive project. There are some moments where it sounds like Jack is doing his best Drake impersonation, but he’s not Drake. I wanted to hear how his sound has evolved since the last album, but instead, it feels like Come Home The Kids Miss You is trying to sound like Nothing Was The Same or If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late with all the beat switches.
Jessica: There is nothing that sticks out as extremely terrible about this album.
Eric: Drake. This is the sharpest he’s sounded for a while. Maybe the CLB criticisms lit a fire under him?
Jordan: Drake, and it’s not even close. I don’t know if he was in a bad mood while he was vacationing with Jack in Turks and Caicos, but he got a lot off his chest on “Churchills Down.” This is the best rapping we’ve heard from Drake in a minute. From talking about going to therapy for his abandonment issues, to sending a few subliminal shots, he sounds hungry, and it’s dope that Jack was able to bring that out of him. It feels like Drake wanted to use this feature as a way to remind people that he can still rap like that, and he succeeded.
Jessica: Drake’s verse on “Churchill Downs” stands out the most. Drake and Jack could have made an upbeat track that worked for summer functions and boosted their appeal to female fans, but I appreciate that they took a different approach. “Churchill Downs” is more of an introspective record, where they both focus on storytelling. I like that we got to hear Drake get in “journal mode” and slow things down instead of taking the easy route and gunning for a radio hit.
Eric: This album accomplishes what it set out to do. For 45 minutes, a charismatic rapper does charismatic things over expensive beats. There are some hits on here that’ll do big numbers, which will make the label happy and push Jack’s career forward. He’s figured out a formula, and he’s had a lot of success with it so far, but I do hope he breaks out of that box a little more in the future. Rapping alongside Drake on an introspective song like “Churchill Downs,” it becomes clear he still has room for growth, lyrically, especially when it comes to peeling back layers on his own story. This album does what it needed to do, but I think we’ll get better from Jack in the future.
Jordan: My favorite thing about Jack Harlow is that his music usually sounds authentic to him, but on this album, it almost seems like he was trying to live up to the fantasy that his now-massive legion of fans have created of him. He used great production and impressive features to try and beat the sophomore slump allegations, but it only resulted in a slightly above average project for me. I do think Come Home The Kids Miss You will grow on me, because it’s a good album, but there were too many moments where it felt like he was trying to rap like Drake or emphasize his already natural charisma. My favorite Jack Harlow song is “Baxter Avenue” from the last album, because he got personal on it, and opened up about the trials and tribulations of coming from a small town and suddenly getting ridiculously famous. He raps about how his family responded to his newfound fame, trying to keep his hometown sweetheart away from the prying eyes of the public, and navigating hip-hop as a white rapper. That was compelling, and really told me something about him, but there was none of that here—just impressive features and flexes.
It’s dope to see how much Jack has grown since songs like “Sundown” and social media virality, but on Come Home The Kids Miss You, there are moments where feels like he’s cosplaying as the rappers he idolizes. He’s long since shed the spectacles, and his rapping has improved, but I think this album lacks some of the spirit that made Jack worth following in the first place. In the first verse of the album’s outro, he raps about wanting to return home and escape the constant attention of fame, while simultaneously highlighting his need for power and respect. I’m not sure what I believe anymore.
Jessica: I enjoyed listening to this album. It’s fun, catchy, and it flows nicely. Not every song is a hit, but there are a few tracks that I imagine will be on rotation this summer. If you’re not a fan of Jack Harlow already, this album probably won’t convince you any differently, But if you were already coming around to him, you’ll enjoy this one.