Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED Welcome You to “Harbor City” (Album Review)
This is the sophomore album from hardcore hip hop super-duo H.A.R.D. a.k.a. the Housing Authority Rap District. Consisting of Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED, both these guys had notorious label issues at the start of their careers only to see success as members of the supergroup Slaughterhouse along with Royce da 5’9” & Joe Budden from the late 2000s up until the mid-2010s. The quartet had quietly disbanded in 2016 after Joe’s retirement from making music even though it wasn’t confirmed until 2 years later, but the other 3 members have been keeping themselves busy ever since. H.A.R.D. introduced themselves a couple months after the pandemic hit with an incredible eponymous debut EP followed by their full-length debut The Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse earlier this spring. But as the 3rd quarter of the year draws to a close in a couple weeks, Crook & Joell are taking the world through Harbor City.
After the “Rookie’s 1st Dead Body” intro, the first song “Heat Wave” kicks off the album with a gospel-tinged instrumental to get into their hardcore bag whereas “Welcome to Harbor City” takes a more airier route thanks to DJ Silk talking about the titular California location. “Energy” works in a deadpan beat to describe how they walked out of the projects, but then “Drip Club” fuses a piano & a hi-hat for a party anthem.
Meanwhile on “Holy Water”, we have H.A.R.D. officer a flute-heavy trap instrumental talking about having permission to take a higher road leading into AZ tagging along for “Vibrate Higher” over some crooning boom bap production provided by The Heatmakerz dodging all the bullshit. “Brooklyn” is a rock-flavored Joell solo cut paying tribute to one of the biggest cities in NY & after the “BK LB Blend” interlude, “Community Center” blends some strings & congo drums reflecting on the days where you used to find them.
“Long Beach Blvd.” is of course a rugged KXNG CROOKED solo joint talking about his neck of the woods while “Pawnshop Jewelry” shoots for a jazzier aesthetic bragging that they have a waterfall full of diamonds. After the “Officer Pirelli Schools the Rookie” interlude, “911” has a more chaotic vibe airing out the biggest gang in America while “1-800-Get-Hard” & “Stop Playin’ with Kim” are 2 skits going up back-to-back with each other.
Continuing from there with “Don’t Forget About Her”, H.A.R.D. jumps on top of a high-pitched sample vividly describing a woman who’s unforgettable while “Dead Body” following the “Nahdeadassyo” interlude ghoulishly paints the image of a corpse floating besides themselves. After the “Pirelli Doesn’t Like Us!” interlude, “Underground” is a soulful Yaowa solo cut talking about getting what you gotta get & staying clear while the track “Ocean Terminal” with Lin-Manuel Miranda dives into calmer yet melodic territory providing inspirational lyricism. And prior to the “Who Shot Ya?” outro, “Game Over” is a gully finisher calling for everyone to quit snitching on themselves.
Now if you loved H.A.R.D.’s self-titled EP & their full-length debut like I did as someone who was a big fan of Slaughterhouse back in my teen years, then you’re gonna wanna check Harbor City out because it’s their 3rd consecutive banger together. I think the production on here is a bit better than Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse, but I do admire that they took it back to the basics of self-titled as far as lyricism goes & I like how they bring in more features than they did on their earlier work.