How To Rap Like Jack Harlow (Tips + Examples)
Written by Kofi Baffour
In today’s article, we’ll be breaking down the rapper for this topic of discussion: Jack Harlow.
Now, let it be known… I AM personally a fan of Jack Harlow. I think he’s one of the shining stars of this rap generation.
More importantly than the fact that I like his music, I want to highlight techniques as a rapper that Jack Harlow uses in his music to make his songs outstanding and memorable.
A little on myself – I started out producing and making beats and I got into rapping.
Eventually I went to school for audio engineering. Even better news: I’ve been a rap enthusiast and an analyst almost to the point of obsession.
What that means is there are minuscule things that I notice about rap techniques that may go over the heads of those with untrained ears… but never fear.
That’s why I’m here for all of you. Aspiring rappers. I’m here to catch you up to speed. And that leads me to my very first technique I’d like to highlight about Jack Harlow…
#1 Rap The Walk You Talk
Jack Harlow is truly himself, I’m convinced. I’ll tell you why I’m convinced.
Let’s start with his vocal tone and approach throughout his debut studio album, That’s What They All Say.
You can characterize Jack Harlow’s rap demeanor as calm, conversational, relaxed, and almost even nonchalant in the song, “Funny Seeing You Here”.
Jack Harlow appears to recount his past with a former lover… but what’s important to note in the song is his delivery. So let’s read a snippet:
It’s been a minute now
Your friend just started listening to my music but I been in style
You say that I play too much but we both know I been a child
Asked you when you got to town
You say that you been in town, it’s f****d up
So you just wasn’t gon’ hit me?
Lookin’ like this, she thought it wasn’t gon’ tempt meJack Harlow, “Funny Seeing You Here”
So I’m gonna start with the end of my point before I even begin to explain why this is important.
To put it concisely, rap the way you talk.
I’ll say it again. Rap. Like you talk.
It is encouraged to rap the way that you talk. If you listen closely, you will hear that Jack Harlow makes conversational phrases.
Use Conversational Phrases From Real Life
He might even speak in real life this way and inputs them into his raps… “Ask you when you got to town, you say that you’ve been in town. So, so you wasn’t going to hit me?”
In many social circles, we all understand the term hit up or hit me, which simply means phone call or reach out.
Jack Harlow has taken what is a common phrase and implemented that into his verses the way that he would say it.
In fact, if you listen, you can imagine him being at a bar or at the house party and saying that line to a girl you’re in town and you didn’t hit me.
He delivered it his way being himself, which helps to achieve the believability of his presence. You’ve heard that variation in regular speak before.
What Jack Harlow has taken again is a regular, conversational tone and lingo that he may use in everyday speech and has implemented them into his lyrics to present and convey…
A “hyperreality style of rap” at which you could place yourself in this instance or relate to the moment his opening line is, “I know you hate the way we drifted, but we both inside this party and we lifted, so what’s up?”
What you can learn from this is not to talk or speak or sound like Jack Harlow, but to take your everyday lingo, common phrases, colloquialisms, slang, neighborhood jargon, regional speak…
And incorporate them into a verbal pattern accompanied by a rhyme scheme of your choice… a.k.a. a rap bar.
Again, to put it concisely, rap like you talk.
By the way, this ties right back into one of my fundamentals, which is “be yourself”.
While it is fairly easy for the listener to tell who you are… tt is much easier for the listener to tell who you are not.
After all, if you don’t believe yourself, then why should we technique?
#2 Take Bar Breaks
What does this mean to quote the great Jay-Z himself? “Let the beat breathe”.
And that is a lot of Jack Harlow’s bread and butter on this album. Let’s read a snippet of this Jack Harlow song to better understand what I mean by taking bar breaks:
Once people lose touch with ya
They start to hate ya
Start to show you they true nature
Start to be the ones in the comments
That’s talkin’ ’bout you like you a stranger
Talkin’ ’bout ya like y’all didn’t have class together
Talkin’ like you not humble now or you acting betterJack Harlow, “Keep It Light”
Now that you’ve read that, hopefully you somewhat understand what I mean by taking bar breaks.
This is how Jack Harlow creates a mood and a “vibe”. He appears to pause to allow the listener to soak in his words.
He also creates a pace and allows the mood of the music to chime in after his words. That’s right.
The music essentially is chiming in the moments. He does not speak in this case.
It’s not necessary for him to fill every nook and cranny of the beat. With words, you don’t have to be verbose all the time.
In his case, the pauses and breaks, help create a melodramatic feel to his delivery and his demeanor. Again, helping create the sense of hyperreality or relatability.
“Wordiness” Can Work Against You
Now it’s important to note, if you are not a “lyrical miracle rapper” – wordiness, which is what verbose means can work against you.
Sometimes saying too many words, filling every corner in pocket of the beat can actually disengage the listener and it makes it hard to grasp the rhythmic pace, simply put “the bop”.
In this case, while Jack Harlow is lyrically efficient, he is not filling every pocket of the beat with words and while being lyrically adept, he is also still creating a vibe by pausing and taking breaks.
Another comparable artists who frequent this very function is Drake. You can listen to many Drake songs and notice that he will pause to create a dramatic effect or let the word sink in.
#3 “The Sing-Song Melody Technique”
And last but not least the final technique that Jack Harlow uses in his music is the sing song. Melody technique.
Guys, do not be afraid to attempt to make a melody out of a phrase or a bar.
If you listen closely, Jack Harlow achieves this on quite a few of his songs on this album, including cream and same guy. Let’s give a listen.
Does it add up when you do the bad stuff? (Mm-mm)
Time keeps movin’ past us
If they gon’ shoot, then I pray they end up shootin’ past us
Temptations that I knew to pass up, but I didn’tJack Harlow, “Same Guy”
In the song, “Same Guy”, Jack Harlow consistently utilizes this very basic melody, but just think when you’re listening to a beat and you want to add an additional layer of melody, it is completely safe and organic to hum your melody to the song.
Then after that, you can then start placing phrases, word, catch phrases, common phrases in a sing song, melodic format to match the beat.
It is a very easy technique to implement in your rapping. Quite frankly, some of your favorite hit songs use this very approach.
Drake himself is quite the master of implementing a melody into his bars, and of course, most notably his choruses.
Now that you have these tips and tricks in hand, you can right away implement them into your rap music.