Louisville rapper Jack Harlow is a rapper who seemingly became famous overnight. Originally having a relatively small following from the release of a few mixtapes and EP’s, Harlow’s name became renown following the success of his hit single “Whats Poppin” which has recently been certified at achieving 4x Platinum status. Following the success of “Whats Poppin” Harlow received approval and recognition from big names in rap ranging from Lil Wayne to DaBaby where he then went on to be nominated as one of XXL’s Freshman of 2020 and provided what I believed to be one of the best freestyles out of the Freshmen. As a newer face in the game, Harlow has nothing but potential and it seemed that his first album would deliver on that potential, solidifying that the Louisville native earned his spot in the limelight.
Unfortunately, That’s What They All Say (TWTAS) is a bland sounding and hastily assembled project lacking the substance and concept it needed to propel it into relevancy.
As much as I was looking forward to this album, I couldn’t help but be extremely disappointed in the end result. Consisting of 15 tracks that run for about 42 minutes, TWTAS managed to understand that not all modern projects need to hit the one-hour mark for them to be considered “real” albums. Nobody was in Harlow’s corner as much as myself and I feel that this is all the more reason why this subpar project is as disappointing as it is. Most of my severe disappointment stems from the unintentional pressure put on this project to prove that Harlow was capable of stacking up with his peers. Considering how Harlow’s career essentially ascended from near irrelevancy overnight, he had the chance to provide a unique perspective that others around him couldn’t replicate. Instead of attempting to stand out from the crowd, Harlow instead made the decision to painfully blend in as generically as possible as his album is riddled with derivative subject matter, generic production, and less appealing takes of styles done much better by his peers.
Normally, I like to list of things I enjoy about a project before I delve into the negatives. With TWTAS I find myself unable to come up with even one element that I found enjoyment from. It’s painfully bland to the point where every style executed on this album can be found elsewhere with much better quality, leaving me wondering why I’m spending my time with a subpar product in the first place. The ONLY tracks I would find enjoyment from were already spoiled in what I like to call the “Joyner Lucas Effect”. What this self-coined expression means is that all the good elements for this project were prematurely spoiled as a result of releasing them as singles. Had “Tyler Herro” been held off till release, I would have been able to at least say ONE reason why this album is worth having in your library. Unfortunately, when you release all of the good tracks that your album has to offer, all that’s left are scraps that can’t amount to anything on their own.
Harlow’s flow on this project is painfully bland as he fails to expand it outside of the track he is currently on. What I mean by this is that there is little to no deviation in his cadence once he finds one that he enjoys for the track. There are relatively no switch-ups within songs outside of “Tyler Herro” and “What’s Poppin” which very well could be part of the reason why those songs are so well received compared to the other tracks on this project. Harlow’s energy is even off-putting on certain tracks, such as “Face of My City (feat. Lil Baby)”, where his vivacity is easily outshined by that of Lil Baby’s.
The production on display is so similar throughout this project and this is mostly due to the absolute monopoly that JetsonMade has over this project. Under normal circumstances I find that JetsonMade is a phenomenal producer who perfectly captures the style of the Southeast. The issue is that you can’t have one producer have (nearly) full creative freedom over your project unless they are either multifaceted and versatile across several genres (i.e., Logic’s producer 6ix) or a pioneer in their sound such as Kanye or No ID. JetsonMade is too new to have the experience required to effectively be an executive producer and producer on the album simultaneously. The end result of this decision is that all the tracks sound similar to your ears despite each one having unique sounds and samples. It’s a difficult concept to put to words but essentially all of the songs, except a select few, sound like they belong in a college frat house party.
As a minor tangent, I am all for producer recognition in songs through tags or other means. My main gripe is hearing “JetsonMade another one” shoehorned throughout this entire project. This kept pulling me out of every track that I tried to immerse myself into, with the exception of “Same Guy (feat. Adam Levine)” taking a unique and ,personally welcomed, gospel choir twist to the generic producer tags we’ve all become accustomed to.
I can tell that Jack Harlow has a unique sound and voice to offer to the culture but I’m not quite sure if he was ready to release an album at this point in his career. As of now, I believe Harlow would benefit more if he drew inspiration from Joyner Lucas and Russ by releasing more singles until he figures out what he wants the listener to absorb from his music. The lack of vision and shortcuts taken on this album were extremely noticeable and I guarantee that this album will become less than obscure within the next six months. To best sum up this album, it’s best played when you’re trying to waste time; and even then it’s a waste of your waste of time. I pray that Harlow’s next endeavor is handled better now that he has had time to get comfortable with his newfound fame as I really do wish him nothing but success in an industry that can be very cutthroat; especially to new faces.
That’s What They All Say is a bad album in every facet and I guarantee that’s what all of its listeners are saying.
Written By: Michael Miserendino