Jack Harlow’s “Come Home the Kids Miss You” maintains the status quo – and that’s a problem

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Parth Mishra

“Come Home the Kids Miss You” released on May 6.

Everyone loves Jack Harlow.

What’s not to like about him? Known for his bounding charisma, Harlow can’t help but possess a penchant for well-meaning mischief. He’s equal parts demure and sleazy, relatable and dreamlike, lighthearted and solemn. In fact, his meteoric rise to the top of the rap game can be half attributed to his colorful personality, which he has worked hard to cultivate in the past few years – a worthy claim to the throne in its own right.

Considering his adept portfolio (in the making since Harlow’s adolescence), and this cult of personality Harlow had formed around himself prior to the release of his sophomore album, fans were rightfully looking to have Harlow’s next brainchild on repeat for many more summers to come, especially after the young man’s multiple successful attempts at hyping the EP up to the fullest.

So it might come off as a surprise to the average listener that Pitchfork, possibly the most reputable music critics on the planet, gave Harlow’s latest effort a 2.9/10, waving it away as one of the most “insipid, vacuous statements in recent pop history.”

It’s not easy to point out the obvious flaws in the album if you go into it without any real expectations. To the average listener, Come Home the Kids Miss You can certainly be an enjoyable experience. Anybody who’d listened to even one song off the album could tell that Harlow has polished his flow to an absolute mastery, and thus is able to set himself apart from the glut of white rappers out there. It is also evident that the production of this project has been handled by the likes of reliable producers such as Jetsonmade (“I Got a Shot”), Pharell Williams (“Movie Star”), longtime partner 2ForWOyNE (“Talk of the Town”, “Young Harleezy”, “Dua Lipa”, etc.), and many more.

Assertive and nonchalantly charismatic, CHKMY manages to build upon Harlow’s image as a heart throb both on the carpet and in the studio. So why has Harlow’s sophomore effort been universally criticized despite its overt listenability and musical competence?

To put it simply, Jack Harlow adheres to the mainstream formula of musical success in Come Home the Kids Miss You. In more specific terms, his music does not have substance, and what little there is fades into obscurity as influences from other, more established artists become discernible.

The project starts off strong- “Talk of the Town”  details Harlow’s come-up, the effort that he put into his craft and its extravagant rewards that he reaps almost continuously. Following that up with an arrogant statement about the girth of his wallet, Harlow transitions into “Young Harleezy”,  a bold self-reflection concerning the troubles that arise with being labeled a celebrity, whoozing over a Westside drum beat with Snoop Dogg sneaking into the track to steal the show with his few words of wisdom. 

However, a strong start is not the only indicator of album excellence. From “Side Piece” to “State Fair”, Harlow pushes his stagnant lyricism through the trudgiest of sludge, never looking back to realize that his features are the only ones maintaining a semblance of variation in his music.

And it is easy to see why Harlow falls pray to stagnation, when you realize that most formulaic mainstream releases are made to be radio-famous, a collection of “bangers” that settle for making the listeners’ head bop every once in a while with catchy flows flowing serenely over expensive, overly stimulating synth coupled with a generic drum pattern.

Harlow says that with every album he’s getting closer to becoming the artist of the decade, but it takes a lot more than shallow braggadocio and vague introspection to get to that level- you need a certain depth to your work, be it through self-reflection strengthened by a great deal of connotative language, discussion of sensitive topics with an understanding eye, or even a remotely interconnected structure unified in implied meanings. 

Additionally, while Drake maintains his cool arrogance throughout “Churchill Downs”  through clever one-liners and understandable reminisce of simpler days, Harlow fails to perform. The sole reason behind such an underwhelming performance lies in Harlow’s tendency to forsake his own style in order to attempt at imitating those he derives inspiration from, most notably Drake and Lil Wayne (who is featured on the song “Poison”). This attempt ends up further taking away from “CHKMY’’s memorability, a project already steeped in forgettable lyricism and overly one-dimensional introspection.

Every track on “Come Home the Kids Miss You” is similar yet different, but in a bad way. On the surface, every track sounds similar in flow and consistency, and yet the material discussed in each track is varying and terribly vague to boot, as if Harlow didn’t deign to go beyond simply describing his come-up struggle and his apparently “complex” and “convoluted” love stories. Music is a precarious balance of both show and tell, and Harlow fails to both craft a viable visual image for the listener to ponder upon or explain the themes he brings into the album in greater detail.

It is obvious that Harlow has what it takes to become the next big thing in Hip-Hop; the Louisville native has been at it for a decade now, and has clearly demonstrated instances of nuanced thinking in tracks like “Baxter Avenue” off “That’s What They All Say” and “Sundown” off “Loose.” However, while “Come Home the Kids Miss you” may have been conceived with honest intentions, it feels more like a cash grab than a blockbuster project solidifying its inceptor’s legacy in the expansive pages of rap. But, this is also the perfect opportunity for the young man to learn from constructive criticism and grow into a more refined artist. Despite the letdown that was CHKMY, Harlow still possesses the chance to bounce back and drop a Hall of Fame-worthy EP, one that would rival the discography of those he calls his role models.