H.A.R.D. is a hip hop super-duo consisting of Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED. Both of whom have had notorious label issues at the start of their careers, but would go on 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 & with the 2 year anniversary of that approaching in the spring, they’re coming back in the form of a debut album.
After the “Birth” intro, the first song “Vacancy” is a gospel-laced opener produced by The Heatmakerz talking about putting the business in the back & get back in business whereas “Ain’t Nobody Mad” follows it up with an organ provided by DJ Silk addressing those who be asking them why they still be talking about that bullshit. “Backstage” takes a more soulful route wishing real life was like being in a green room just before “Flood Waters” mixes some sputtering drums with pianos talking about how paradise ain’t what it used to be.
Meanwhile on “Fukglasshouse”, we have H.A.R.D. pretty much shooting down any remaining hope of Glass House seeing the light of day over a catastrophic trap beat from DJ Pain 1 leading into a dope sequel to “Brother’s Keeper” off Yaowa’s 3rd album House Slippers. “Almighty” weaves some horns in to get on their battle rap shit, but then “Smoke” comes through with a more calmer sound talking about not doing all the industry functions.
“Coastin’” has a more tenser sound calling out someone who ain’t down to ride while the song “Still in My Feelings” is a worthy sequel to “In My Feelings” off Joell’s latest solo effort Autograph. The penultimate track “Look Mama” serves as a touching dedication to both of their mothers & lastly, “Sorry” closes out the album with a chipmunk soul sample apologizing to everyone for the way Slaughterhouse ended.
I think the self-titled EP has better production, but Joell & Crook come harder on here lyrically. Coming from someone who was once a big fan of Slaughterhouse, it’s a little fucked up that they didn’t tell Royce or Joe about it until it was announced but I can’t deny how interesting it is to hear these guys looking back on their time in the group.