Photo credit: Sukruthi Yerramreddy
AuxCordFM is proud to present the fifth installment in our ‘Best of 2018’ albums countdown. The ten albums selected by Editor James Shotwell will be announced and celebrated through a series of essays. Click here to review the full list and follow us on Twitter for additional updates.
“I’m a Kentucky boy ’til the death.” – Jack Harlow, “SUNDOWN”
There are more artists in music today than ever before. Hip-hop and all other areas of rap may have the fiercest competition of them all. To stand out, performers need to deliver something utterly unique. They must keep up with the latest trends while providing something fresh and exciting all their own. Jack Harlow is barely in his twenties, but already the Blue Grass state native has found the perfect balance of originality and familiarity needed to take the world by storm. His 2018 album Loose makes this point clear while offering just enough to ensure listeners are left champing at the bit for whatever comes next.
Geography isn’t the only thing that separates Jack Harlow from his peers, but it no doubt helps. Kentucky has been largely untapped by rap, and in many ways, that fact has given artists hailing from that region an advantage. If you don’t think anyone is watching you care less about what those outside your inner circle may think. Harlow and his crew, the musical collective that is known as Private Garden, have created a soundtrack to life entirely their own in Louisville while everyone else was focused on coastal cities and Midwest hubs. They ride wavy production and experiment with sounds that more mainstream talent may ignore. They embrace the challenges of being utterly unique, and the results of that acceptance is present on Loose, which plays as both fun and deceptively lighthearted.
Girls and parties? That’s here. Egos and dreams of possessions not yet acquired? That’s here too. But — and that is a very big but — that is not all there is to be discovered on Loose. Harlow paints vivid depictions of life in the modern era with all the wit, and effortless charm one imagines a young Jeff Goldblum might have possessed. He’s at once the nerdy kid in the back of the class and the coolest guy in any room. It’s impossible to hear his flow on tracks like the viral hit “SUNDOWN” or the fan favorite “SYLVIA” without recognizing his potential to change what’s popular in rap today entirely. He’s not creating a moment through his music as much as he is a movement. He urges us to lose ourselves in the journey of life rather than obsess over the end goals. He wants us to know our worth and to celebrate every achievement with those closest to us as if it is the greatest thing ever to happen because you never know what tomorrow may bring.
All this is nothing new to many supporters of Harlow’s work. He’s been courted by labels and management since he was barely in his teens, and a number of his fans have been with him for just as long. Perhaps this is because Jack Harlow evokes a modern take on the classic DIY success story. He might not have a guitar or sing songs born from hardships experienced in his youth, but along with his friends, Jack has created a place in music all his own. Every aspect of his career, from his music and style to his music videos, are the product of his imagination. He is, more than any other fast-rising artist in the genre, entirely his own man. He alone knows what will come next, and because of that, he possesses a certain engaging quality that cannot be fabricated. You know he’s an original simply because that’ what he is. He doesn’t know how to be any other way, nor would anyone want him to be. In a time of repetition, Jack Harlow is bucking trends while crafting something others will no doubt attempt to copy in the months and years ahead.
Loose is, more than any other release in his catalog, Jack Harlow’s calling card. It’s the kind of record that transforms anyone who hears it into Marvin Berry from Back To The Future, rushing to tell anyone who will