When Jack Harlow first announced the release date for his sophomore album, Come Home the Kids Miss You, people couldn’t help but notice the timing. It was set to be released on May 6, right between the album rollouts for Future and Kendrick Lamar. Dropping between two of rap’s biggest stars is a bold move, but to Rogét Chahayed and Angel Lopez, the album’s co-executive producers, it was divine timing.
“We’re sandwiched right in between these titans, but to me, it’s the echelon that Jack deserves to be standing in,” Chahayed tells Complex.
Chahayed and Lopez both connected with Harlow earlier this year, before getting started on the album. Harlow was just coming off the success of big hits like “Industry Baby” and “Whats Poppin,” and there was a lot riding on him. But Lopez says their goals for the album, on a sonic level, were clear from the beginning. “We want to make a rap album for Jack where he is heard clearly, but you’re also able to digest and enjoy the musicality,” he says. “We don’t want to tap into the territory of filtering things and using certain drum sounds and sticking to reversed, obscure sounds and filter sounds, as a lot of hip-hop and rap music is right now.”
In its first week, the 15-track album, which includes major features from Drake, Lil Wayne, and Pharrell Williams, is on track to sell between 110,000 and 135,000 first-week units. Both Chahayed and Lopez predict that more accolades will come as people digest the album, but they’re focused on more than that. “I want to spark the conversation with creatives to step up to the plate.” Lopez explains. “Let’s bring substance back. Let’s bring real stories and delivery [back]. Let’s bring the care of music back, and not just let A&Rs call you up and ask for a hundred beats so that an artist could just treat it like fast fashion. This is not fast fashion. We really brought it to a designer house, and I’m proud of it, and I stand next to it, and I feel that this album’s the greatest album of this year to come out. And I say again, I’m standing strong on that.”
Complex spoke in length with Rogét Chahayed and Angel Lopez about executive producing Jack Harlow’s Come Home the Kids Miss You, sample clearances, and why Jack is a “once-in-a-decade” artist. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
How did you each come to meet Jack Harlow and work on this album?
Angel: I met Jack in March of 2021, via Timbaland. I’m part of Timbaland’s production team, and he invited me over to the Jack Harlow session, then we progressed. We did two days with him originally, then he called me on the third day and said, “Hey, I’d like for you to be here. I’m here the whole week working with other producers.”
Rogét: In May 2021, I just checked my DM one day and got a message on Instagram from Jack. He just said, “What’s up, fam?” And I was like, “Wow.” I was taken by surprise, but also had been manifesting working with him because I’d been such a fan and I wondered how I could get in touch with him. I ended up joining the sessions around that same time, and that’s where I met Angel. Later on, Jack told me that Don Cannon had actually put him onto me, so shout out to him for connecting the dots, and shout out to Timbaland and everybody. It’s such a blessing.
“We put in a lot of work—12-hour sessions, every session, really no breaks.” – Rogét Chahayed
You are both credited as executive producers on Harlow’s album, but what does that mean in terms of contributions?
Angel: When Jack started the sessions, there were a lot of producers coming in, and he was just trying to figure out what direction he wanted to go. Then everything started getting narrowed down when Rogét showed up. There were a lot of other contributors, but we were in there every day with Jack during the process. Overall, we were heavily involved in overlooking everything from composition to arrangement to vocal production. We do have that executive producer credit, but if you could picture Jack as the person in the middle, we’re just the hands, and it was a very intuitive process with him.
Rogét: I was literally going to say what Angel just said. If you could imagine a ship or a spaceship, he was the guy saying this is the way we’re going, and me and Angel were just figuring out what we needed to do to get there. We were just putting the pieces together. And as executive producers, I feel like it just means whatever role that we have to take that day, whether it’s finishing a song that he had from before, or starting something from scratch completely. We really wanted to make sure that his vision was properly executed, and the sound that he was looking for was going to stand out and be different. Between what me and Angel have to offer musically, it’s all about our taste, our ear, and being able to give the artist something that they’ve never had before. We’re really grateful for the title, but we put in a lot of work—12-hour sessions, every session, really no breaks. I know that sounds long and crazy, but we wanted it. Any time Jack called us or texted us saying, “Hey, I’m in LA. I need you guys here these days,” me and Angel dropped whatever we had going on, whether it was important family stuff or other sessions. We slowly started to realize how important this role was and how important this album was to both us, Jack, and the rest of the world.
What was the goal that Jack and the team wanted to achieve with this project?
Angel: I think it took time for us to get the clear route. I got this firsthand experience with Kanye West: You show up and you have something in mind, but you can’t fully articulate it until you get the pieces in the room working, and you start mixing stuff around and getting colors from everybody. So, there was no clear direction. Once Roget [came in], it was like a ring to a finger, because we came in and started realizing that we had the same common goal, where we wanted to make music that was clear. We wanted to make sure Jack could be heard clearly, most importantly, but also preserve the musicality. There’s certain music that brings back this certain nostalgia and feel, and we wanted to add that in. So, the message was clear: we want to make a rap album for Jack where he is heard clearly, but you’re also able to digest and enjoy the musicality, because we don’t want to tap into the territory of filtering things and using certain drum sounds and sticking to reversed, obscure sounds and filter sounds, as a lot of hip hop and rap music is right now. We wanted to push the boundaries, and we’d love to bring some taste back without distracting the listener. I feel like we did an incredible job at allowing Jack to shine first and foremost, and us to just be the band behind him.
Rogét: I agree. Obviously, there’s a lot of the same things that you hear today in hip-hop, in a lot of rap songs, especially in the beats. A lot of ambient sounds, a lot of low energy. And I actually had this conversation with Jack, maybe the third or fourth session that I ever had with him. We sat down for an hour and talked about the importance of bringing back identity to the actual music riffs. Growing up, when you heard a song like “Still D.R.E.” come on, you heard those keys before you even heard the hook or the song or anything. You just knew. The energy was right there. So we really wanted to incorporate identity, urgency, and things that people remember, once they hear the piano or the strings or the baseline or whatever. There has to be moments, not just in the song itself, but in the music to amplify what’s happening. We wouldn’t have been able to make an album like this if he didn’t trust us and if he didn’t have that vision.
Literally, 90 percent of the album was made from scratch in the room. And then obviously, we were blessed to get beats from a few incredible, carefully selected producers that we still touched up. It was almost like we were performing surgery on the other beats, adding small things in between, not trying to overstep our boundaries, but sometimes you’d be in there for a whole day and all I ended up adding was maybe two piano notes or maybe one drum thing. But it doesn’t matter, because each day we accomplished something really important that was bringing us closer to the finish line.
“The message was clear: we want to make a rap album for Jack where he is heard clearly, but you’re also able to digest and enjoy the musicality.” – Angel Lopez
There are a lot of popular samples on this project. What was the process of clearing songs like “Glamorous” and “Beautiful”?
Angel: I have this text from Jack. I was just reminiscing on the process last week and I came across a text. He sent me a playlist of samples on November 30, and we had discussed early in the process about just finding something obvious that’ll connect with people instantly. He sent me a playlist of about 12 songs and said, “Choose from this. Let’s just dissect something.” A couple months passed, and we were in a session [where we used the “Glamorous” sample]. We went into it, caught the hook, caught the chords, and cracked it open with Charlie Handsome. And we’re like, “Oh snap, I think we’re onto something.” Then you start thinking, “Damn, are we going to be able to clear this?” Because [“Glamorous”] is such a classic record. We were so excited, but we’ve got to remember we’re working with Jack Harlow. I’ll say this loud and proudly, he’s a once-in-a-decade artist. He really maneuvers himself in that way, so I knew it wasn’t going to be an issue. Thank God he got everybody’s blessing that was a part of that record. It’s a beautiful moment to know that we were able to tap into a song that I connected with in the 2000s in the midwest. It was really a beautiful thing to be able to take something that was already so great and just pay homage to it and allow for an artist to shine within that scope.
Rogét: Part of us had the concern of, “Is this going to go through?” Because some people don’t even care about how good a song is, or how good you use their sample. Some people just don’t clear things, period. But I felt so confident about how we executed it. There’s no way they wouldn’t clear this, or don’t want to be a part of it. So we had a few concerns like that throughout the album, but I think the music is so good and so true, and I feel like we did justice to the samples, and especially with the way “First Class” came about. We’re so grateful and happy that it went No. 1. To have a No. 1 song that has that musicality and has that different touch—which I’ll proudly say it does—it’s not your typical, ordinary, big No. 1 song. The music portion of it is really based around what Jack is doing, and we left it a little more open intentionally, because the real star of that song is the sample. And even Jack, in his approach to the hook, is floating around it in a way that’s so tasteful. We’re spelling glamorous, but the stuff that he says in between it is just… He’s conversing with the sample.
Rogét: Shout out to Fergie and will.i.am and everybody. She loves it and she reposted it and said, “I’m honored.” It’s just a beautiful thing when it all comes together and it still feels great. I feel like that record will stand the test of time and it will be playing at clubs, parties, anywhere, while you’re driving down the beach or whatever it is. To have made a song that feels like a classic, it feels good. But at the same time, it’s like, “OK, how do we keep doing this?”
“90 percent of the album was made from scratch in the room.” – Rogét Chahayed
Angel: It’s gratifying to know that this idea is something that came out of Jack’s heart. Like I said, it’s a playlist that was sent from him. It’s music that matters to him. It’s part of his musical DNA. So this one’s very special because it was an inception from a true artist’s perspective. And from the production side of it, I’m really proud that we were able to pay homage to the sample. I feel like we did this in a special way that stands out and stands in its own lane. We have our own thing with Jack now where the sample is not just background music. Jack has found a way to make those samples and just turn them into his own, and you see it in the intro, “Talk Of The Town.” It’s another example of conversation.
What’s each of your favorite songs on the album? And what’s the story behind that track?
Rogét: “State Fair” is such a sophisticated, incredible piece of music. [I like] the story that he tells on it and how he talks about being back home and coming back to Kentucky. There’s really nothing like an artist paying homage to where they come from, and Jack is very proud of being from Louisville, Kentucky. Even though I’m from Los Angeles, I feel like there’s a part of Louisville in me. I feel very connected to where he’s from, because we worked on part of the album there and we just got back from the Derby. “Young Harleezy” is another one of my favorites—just the combination of the two beats, especially the second half. We were having the time of our lives when we made that, and I feel like people can feel that. We were just in the studio having fun, jamming out, and all vibing off each other. In the moment, we realized we were making something different.
Angel: We have “Poison” on the list. Definitely “State Fair.” That beautiful music you hear is Rogét, and then Pooh Beatz made a great loop out of it. Then we came in and dissected this track. We gutted it. I was talking to Jack about this: it’s like the art of subtraction. A lot of times, in this current production state, you think it’s all about coming in and adding. But a lot of the time, it’s really about subtracting, because ultimately the goal isn’t to have a dope beat; the beat is meant to be complementary. Ultimately, it’s for the artist and the voice to shine. At least that’s how Timbaland has taught me to approach production. So with “State Fair,” I feel it’s a masterclass on a rap song. It’s a masterclass on an outro, because you really get to hear him wrap up the whole album, where he’s at right now, what he’s feeling. We were able to do it in such a tasteful way, where you hear this beautiful music playing, and the way Pooh Beatz came in and made this loop work, it allowed for Jack to flow.
The other one I really love is “Young Harleezy,” another example of just creating a moment and being able to bring back a certain feel. Thank God we had Uncle Snoop in there, too. He just came and embraced it. The music is clear. Sit back and pop some champagne or have your favorite glass of wine and just enjoy it. “Poison” is an amazing record that I love, but the one thing I’m really proud of is the intro. Jack mentions this album is a museum on “State Fair,” so if you look at it like a museum, when you walk into it and hear “Talk of the Town,” it’s the perfect way for you to be welcomed into an art gallery. It’s digestible, but the message is loud and clear and it’s very minimal, which is meant to be. This whole album was meant to be that way.
“We were standing behind Jack’s mom Maggie [at the Kentucky Derby] and she just turned around and said, “Is this really happening?” – Angel Lopez
“Churchill Downs” was another big record. How did it come together?
Angel: It’s a very important record because it’s a super important moment. Obviously you have Drake, the greatest artist of right now, coming in, and they’re great friends. It was a very special moment when that beat was sent in. It was actually Boi-1da. He did that with a couple of his collaborators in his circle. We heard it, and it was just one of those [beats] where it spoke to everybody in the room. There was something jarring about it. Sometimes music tells you what to do to it, and sometimes it just says let me be. This was one of those records where it was important to respect the space, especially because it’s Boi-1da.
Boi-1da is a crucial person in Drake’s DNA. So we were like, this track just feels the way it needs to feel. Sure enough, Jack always starts the sessions like, “Load it up.” He locked in and it was one of those moments where you really just let him have that conversation. He took that over with him to Turks and Caicos, and that moment happened. I don’t want to get too much into the whole leaking thing and how that went down, but obviously it hurts everybody, because even though we’re not a part of that record creatively, we did help in terms of going over the bars and making sure every bar was good with Jack. He’s a perfectionist, and sometimes it was like, “Bro, it’s good already.” But he’s such a perfectionist that he wants to push every performance and every bar to its top limit.
It was important for that moment to happen. And it was important for it to be the way it was, which was Boi-1da bridging the gap. He’s great friends with Jack, as well as co-producing with us on this album, too. It was a very tasteful moment. And sure enough, when Jack came back from Turks and Caicos, he played it for us and we were absolutely blown away. It was like, wow, we have the moment.
It’s very easy to say, “Oh, let’s make a banger.” That’s in the bag. It’s very easy to think of a Drake and Jack Harlow moment as the summer smash, but Jack is not moving from that perspective. He said it in “State Fair:” “I want respect, I don’t want flowers,” and sure enough, this is the type of rap record that demands that, because it brought the best out of both of them. It’s one of my favorite moments on the album by far, and especially living in “Churchill Downs,” it really was absolutely surreal.
Rogét: I even went up to Boi-1da while we were in Louisville this weekend, and I was like, “Man, I feel like you wrote the script to a crazy movie and now we’re actually seeing it unfold.” Because obviously he talks about having a box at Churchill Downs, and for us to actually be there in a private box with Jack and Drake, and seeing it all unfold, it felt like a movie. There aren’t many times in your life where you really get to experience that kind of stuff unfold.
Angel: It was beautiful. One of my favorite moments was when we were standing behind Jack’s mom Maggie, and she just turned around and said, “Is this really happening?” I could only imagine her sitting there, watching her son in that moment.
What was the process like selecting features?
Angel: It was Jack orchestrating. Jack is somebody who knows what he wants, and nothing is by chance here. He sets a target and he goes for it, in a very tasteful way. He wanted people in the world of music that are respectable. He wanted people that are like the knights, the people that are in that position in Mount Rushmore.
One of the moments we could talk about is Justin Timberlake. That’s another moment where we said we could make a club banger—we could make something that people will respect—but it was a very personal moment that went down. I remember the night we made the beat. Rogét started playing these amazing chords. Sometimes you get that perfect set of chords with the perfect sound, and it’s almost like you identify right away with it. We had a drum group going, but we stripped that out, and once that beat was finished, it was like, wow, we have an incredible beat that is so minimalistic. Then it’s like, how can we bless this? Jack was saying, “This is the moment.” I’m actually working with Justin Timberlake, and he was saying, “Man, this might be the one. This might be the one.” So we went over there during the day and I introduced Justin and Jack. I don’t want to talk too much about that day because hopefully Justin’s able to talk about that story, but there were some real personal things that went down that day in Justin’s life and it was the perfect track where he was able to just hone in. It’s a very special moment because of the substance and what the record is about.
Rogét: Jack knew exactly what he wanted. He would say, “I want Snoop Dogg to come here and say some stuff,” or, “I think Lil Wayne wants to hop on this,” like on “Poison.” We all looked at each other like, “Yeah.” How can you say no to that? Then obviously, towards the end, the JT feature and getting that Pharrell feature was like the real fourth quarter.
When you have a release date and you have a deadline, the pressure just seeps in. There were nights where I couldn’t sleep because I was like, “What’s going to happen?” For the last month, I haven’t really slept as consistently because I was just thinking about if everything sounds right. The sequencing was another thing that we almost lost sleep over. There were a lot of heavy, heavy discussions about that. But honestly, having all the features coming in really helped us see the full order of everything.
We also had contributions from John Mayer on a few songs, which is incredible. So, it’s like, oh my God, [these are] all the heroes and the GOATs that me and Angel grew up listening to, and that Jack also admires, even though he’s a little bit younger than we are. I still feel like he’s on the same wavelength as us, and really likes a lot of the same things that we grew up listening to. Jack is ahead of his time but also did his homework and knows his history and knows his songs from every era. It’s really incredible to be able to be with somebody who’s so knowledgeable and cultured like Jack.
“Jack knew exactly what he wanted. He would say, ‘I want Snoop Dogg to come here and say some stuff’ or ‘I think Lil Wayne wants to hop on this.’” – Rogét Chahayed
There are a lot of producers credited on each song. What was it like to have so many “cooks in the kitchen,” so to speak?
Angel: I think the status of music production right now has changed a lot over the last few years, because you have these “loopmakers” and you have beatmakers. I know we all start somewhere and we get to do that, and again, all respect to the producers that enjoy it… When you make a beat and send it to an artist, you’re producing a beat. But to produce an actual song, it takes a lot more than that. I’ll shout out Hollywood Cole, who sent us on two separate occasions two different pieces of music, and everything had to feel like it was part of the body of work, from transition to sonics. So if they sent something, we needed to make sure it fit the body of work.
That’s what happened with “Side Piece.” Hollywood Cole did that with a couple other contributors on his end. He did the first half and the second half. When we got to it, it was like, you know what, let’s piece this together. We added our stuff to it, and we redid some bass notes with some people. Ultimately, we’re in the producer chair and we’re trying to emphasize the song and make sure the artist shines, make sure that it doesn’t sound like the typical, “Oh, I sent a beat in and this is what the artist did.” That’s the typical fashion in today’s music, where you don’t really get that type of hands-on [production]. Having Jack there, and knowing what he wants, he put us in that door to just say, “All right, let’s take this, and let’s make it part of the body of work.”
Rogét: That’s how I was trained, because I used to work for Dr. Dre, who was my mentor and my boss. I was over at Aftermath in the room with him and several other musicians and producers, and he was always taking the lead. Not necessarily playing anything or touching anything, but actually handpicking sounds, snare drums, hi-hats, everything. And it’s the same [here]. We are really good at collaborative effort, and I think you have to be a team player to be in this realm. I know a lot of people like to make beats on their own, or a lot of people like to say “I produced this and this and that,” but we didn’t care. Maybe this beat has three or four people on it before everyone added their little thing to it, but once it got to us, we really wanted to make sure that there was a cohesion between everything that we had made from scratch. And we also [wanted to incorporate] these beats that Jack really liked, like the Hollywood Cole beats, which were damn near perfect. It’s almost like we had the meal right there in front of us, but we just needed to add some spices and herbs to make it really like a Michelin star experience for your ears.
We didn’t want any song to feel like it was really so different from the other one. The sounds that we use and the approach that we take has to be recognizable, and we’re really proud of what we’ve done. we’re really happy to have had the contributions of other incredible producers. But like Angel was saying, I think it’s really important that producers understand there is a difference between making beats and finishing songs and finishing an album. It’s a completely different thing, so I really hope that the term “producing” is seen and recognized. What does it really take to make a beat and what does it really take to finish an entire body of work and make it a story from beginning to end?