Jack Harlow knows exactly who he wants to be. The Atlanta-by-way-of-Louisville rapper is obsessed with words, purity, and harnessing the fire of a night in or the chaos of a night out. The young man’s discography is littered with breakneck raps (“Sundown,” “Dark Knight,” “Ghost”), introspective poetic flexes (“Eastern Parkway,” “Tightrope,” “River Road”), and straight-up jams (“Warsaw,” “Rotten,” “PICKYOURPHONEUP”).
Harlow hasn’t made it quite yet, but if you take a look at the scoreboard—nearing two million YouTube views on his single “Thru The Night” in a quarter of the time it took “Dark Knight” to crack one million—it seems like his breakthrough is on the horizon. With his newest mixtape, Confetti, Harlow steps into himself and strikes gold.
Confetti's theme is assuredness. On his 2018 project Loose, Harlow concerned himself with lyrically letting go, freestyling verses, and going off single takes, but on Confetti he is fine-tuning that creative freedom to the point of perfecting his delivery and swagger.
As “one-take-Jack,” Harlow comes across as the most confident version of himself to date. We open the project with “Ghost,” a timely track about making it in music, while still getting ghosted by women. It’s cheeky and humanizing. Harlow has these little moments of balance all over Confetti. He is the man we see in the music videos, stunting, yet in tandem, he is just a kid from Louisville trying to make his team proud and keep his city on.
The following track, “Rotten,” is one of Harlow’s best raps to date. With all the energy of “Sundown,” the bravado of “PICKYOURPHONEUP,” and the thump of “Dark Knight,” he delivers the pinnacle of brag-raps over a haunting production. The strings creep from the corners of the beat, while Harlow spits about his upcoming cottage purchase.
You can hear the way he likely danced in the booth while recording his verses and the hook. “Rotten” is the sound of Jack Harlow letting go of all creative constraints and leaning into what makes him special: charisma, confidence, and sly boasts. It’s refreshing, it’s catchy, and it’s remarkably lilted. He evidently spent the time between Loose and Confetti refining his technique. Harlow sounds positively enamored with spitting.
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Across the tape, Harlow’s blend of traditional rap structures and melody falls in line with the likes of Drake and Bryson Tiller, the latter who is featured on “Thru The Night.” The fourth track, “Sunday Night,” so brilliantly walks the line between singing and rapping. Harlow’s voice becomes water flowing over the production. There’s a touch more texture to single “Heavy Hitter,” packed with stuttering vocal tricks to keep our ear engaged. “Goin Back Down” has a groovy grandiosity. In all, Jack Harlow is a student of his lineage, with an added Louisville touch. Confetti does the important work of pushing the ‘Ville sound forward, defining it, and giving it body. Consider Harlow the city’s bellwether.
For all the jubilance Harlow packs into the tape, there are also heavy notes. Over spazzing trap hi-hats, he uses “Rain” as a moment to bring himself down to the level of the listener. Harlow muses on his relationship with his father, his inability to be alone, and the fleeting nature of his youth. His somber vocals tip us off to the fact that even on a party album, he possesses the ability to keep us grounded. On the cusp of abiding fame, Harlow’s lyrical exercises appear to be reminders to himself. He does not wish to forget who he is, where he came from, or his purpose for making music. At 21, it’s easy for a man in his position to be consumed by hubris, but instead, Jack Harlow makes music to keep himself humble.
“Rain” is only a teaser for the true highlight of Confetti, “River Road,” which is a four-minute poetic epic and spiritual successor to his 2017 album Gazebo’s opener, “Eastern Parkway.” With gorgeous jazz sax backing him up, Harlow invites us in on his host of anxieties—from his penchant for drinking to his homesickness. In huge contrast to a track like “Rotten,” where he professes to be the hottest out, “River Road” brings him down to size. It’s an interesting trick, a way to circumvent any critique his ego is overtaking him. Summoning his own ego death and admitting he still has a ways to go, we find “River Road” to be the most endearing track of Jack Harlow’s career. It’s been a long road here, too, since we remember the aimless braggadocio of The Handsome Harlow EP.
What makes “River Road” so stunning is his ability to see himself for who he is. Rising stardom has not blinded Jack Harlow, but only fueled him further. The raps on Confetti are his most impassioned to date. You can hear the confidence, the candor, and the pure joy packed into each punchline. Tracks like “Ice” and “Warsaw” have such gummy melodies, it’s impossible to detach yourself from Harlow’s music once you press play. He grasps your full attention.
The great triumph of Confetti is Harlow’s delivery and self-awareness. Never hyper-serious, and never stepping away from his vision, he delivers a concise project that captures his growth and growing pains to phenomenal results. What Confetti lacks, then, is a look forward. The project is very of the moment, and while this moment is a sweet one, we get the sense that Harlow is capable of even more. It would serve him well to step outside of himself and push his pen and his production the way he pushes his mic presence. “River Road” is a clear winner in terms of writing, but there are times where the syllables catch him slipping, as on “Big Chillin.”
Confetti is Jack Harlow’s “making it” moment. The soft-spoken and methodical rapper delivered the perfect blend of the brood of Gazebo and the fluidity of Loose. This mixtape is a promise Jack Harlow understands his artistry and the roots of his growth. Throw some paper Confetti, Jack Harlow is here to stay.