Jack Harlow has never seen House Party. Over the phone, I explain to him the setup for the sprawling dance film and its sequels that helped define hip-hop culture in the 1990s: Rappers Kid 'n Play spend the first half of each movie planning huge parties for almost too long. Then, when the title celebrations finally start — awesome glimpses at life defined by spontaneity, happiness, and being young enough to fully take it all in — it's always worth the wait. "I wasn't a '90s kid really, so I haven't seen a lot of that stuff," he admits. "But I'm going to definitely have to check them out."
I bring it up because Harlow is the human essence of a House Party soirée. The 21-year-old Louisville rapper makes music that's likely best described as "vibes." Perky, juice-filled beats much more easy-going than the angry rave sounds of rap's outskirts provide Harlow with the terrain to travel. His voice is a sports bike. On songs like his viral 2018 hit "Sundown" and this year's "Cody Banks," he strings together what feels like random words, moving into weightless verses stocked with addictive punchlines. His latest release, the aptly named Confetti mixtape, dropped on September 20, titled after the "party-in the-studio" experience of recording it.
"The mixtape took about a year to make, and the main thing that I was focused on was getting back to writing, along with being personal, introspective, and honest," he says about Confetti. It's a bit different than his 2018 project Loose, which leaned more insular. "Something I've come into is having fun with it," he says. "This means a lot of up-tempo beats and I'm dancing in the studio, feeling my shit." The brisk beats never dip into anything that could even slightly be considered mellow, and it's by design. "Confetti celebrates youth, life, success, and experiencing these things and growing," he says. "One of my biggest thrills is bringing people together, and a lot of these songs were made with a lot of people in the studio. You can feel the party in them."
One of the project's standouts is "Dentyne," an icy, frenetic, and melody-infused jam perched on the shoulders of a rogue synth. The recording process for it was Harlow's funniest experience while creating Confetti. "There were 10 or 12 girls in the studio when we made it," he says. "I felt a little pressured to be an entertainer. We were there drinking and I freestyled the entire thing and when I got out of the booth, the girls knew all the words."
You can hear it: Confetti places Harlow firmly as a carpe diem-commanding emcee. To reflect on how he made it to this point, MTV News spoke with Harlow about four of his biggest tracks so far and what inspired them.
"Dark Knight" (2017)
Harlow says: "I wrote this song in the parking lot outside of KY Engineering's Studio in Atlanta. Cyhi the Prynce pulled up to the studio at the same time that I was recording it and we had a conversation halfway through. I actually did a take that I wasn't really in love with, so when I got back to Louisville I recorded another version and it came out much better."
Harlow says: "I just really wanted to make some hard shit. I had actually moved to Atlanta, and we were just listening to the Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury album. When I heard 'We Got It For Cheap (Intro),' I told my producer, 2forwOyNE, that I wanted a beat like that. He took the inspiration pretty literal and made damn near a replica of the song. We ended up having to get it cleared but the shit was hard.
"For the video, I was back home in the city and told a bunch of people that I know to pull up. It's my favorite type of video. Some people think that they're too creative to do something like that, but I just know what I enjoy. I love videos with a lot of energy, charisma, and fun. That was what was important for me to do with 'Sundown' — have a good time and make it a party. I have a lot of parties in my videos."
"Thru The Night" (2019)
Harlow says: "At first, I didn't recognize the 'U Don't Have to Call' sample. It wasn't until I got out of the booth and people told me; I just thought the beat was hard. I did my verse in 15 minutes and freestyled it. I sent it to Bryson Tiller and I saw him at the Kentucky Derby. I was like, 'Yo, I need you to knock that out for me.' He said, 'I got you,' and a couple of weeks later he sent me the verse. The rest is history.
"For the video, I just wanted to be fly and have the roller rink where everyone in the video used to skate at growing up. It's a little nostalgic."
"Heavy Hitter" (2019)
Harlow says: "For my birthday, I had all of my best friends come down to Atlanta from Louisville to celebrate. We went to the studio the next day and started drinking and having some fun. The record came together from that. The energy of the party was just infectious there.
"Sometimes for the videos of my songs, I want to have the same idea every time, but my homies have to put me in check to come up with more creative ideas. I have good friends and a great team that help me to flesh out new ideas."