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Prodigal prodigy: Hard_R is P.O.S’s son. But that’s not all he is.

Jerard Fagerberg

Jerard Fagerberg

Hard_R raps like he’s trying to provoke you to attack him. He delivers his arrogant verses with a fuck-the-haters vindictiveness. He’s everything a 19-year-old rapper should be.

And he’s nothing like his father.

The real-life Jacob Crabtree is easily recognizable as the son of Doomtree/Rhymesayers rapper P.O.S. You can hear the similarity in his gruff voice and careful articulation. You can see it in his wide-set eyes and rascal sneer and the way he twists a dreadlock in his hand as he speaks.

In the past, Hard_R has taken caustic measures to set himself apart. Instead of Slug and Dessa, he’s running around with young hellions like RP Hooks and Gaines FM. On the snot-nosed “Hard_R Is Ruining My Life,” he rhymes, “Feeling shady, get the groupies/Put my Doomtree in her coochie.”

But Hard_R has arrived at a point of maturity. On Thursday, he’ll release his new EP, Hate_R. Though the musical scion may have burned his birth certificate on his 2016 debut, Lost in Myself, Hate_R seeks to repair what was lost in the fire.

“One of my biggest fears since I started doing this was living in my dad’s shadow,” Hard_R says. “I was like, ‘I’ll never be like my dad!’ But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that’s not so bad.”

Music came to Hard_R through his father. He fondly remembers P.O.S handing him a guitar and teaching him how to play “Iron Man” on one string, and the punk rock that the two would listen to on car rides has indelibly shaped his style. Like his dad, Hard_R tried his hand at spoken-word poetry in high school, but it wasn’t long before his peers encouraged him to go full-bore into hip-hop.

“I don’t think we raised him to be a musician, and almost no one should be a rapper,” P.O.S says. “He showed me some stuff he was working on when he was like 13 or 14, [and] that was better than it had any business being. So I encouraged it. But I was never grooming him to take over the family business or anything.”

Hard_R’s earliest work is raw and experimental. Listening to Lost in Myself and the few SoundCloud castoffs that precede it, you can hear the progress of a new rapper clawing together his own identity. On “Sauced Up” he’s trying on Lil Pump’s aesthetic; on “Broken Wings,” he’s wearing Travi$ Scott’s skin. But Hate_R represents a higher standard. It’s still rough and in-your-face, but Hard_R sounds more determined. It’s the first time he’s rapped with a directive—specifically, redemption.

“I’m pretty proud of it, honestly, it’s my baby,” Hard_R says of Hate_R. “I’m trying to make music that will make my family proud of me. Real life.”

Hard_R spent his adolescence doing the opposite. He started by sneaking into clubs and getting involved with dealers. He’s been to treatment for chemical dependency nine times. Currently, he’s on adult diversion—an education-heavy program for keeping young offenders out of jail—for a drug charge, but he’s committed to bettering himself, and that process begins with devoting himself more fully to his music.

His plea for retribution comes on “Eighth Step.” Inspired by the Alcoholics Anonymous program, the song “Eighth Step” confronts the fact that his habits are what’s holding him back from greatness. Taking on a howl similar to his father’s, Hate_R casts away all those who tempt him away from his hard-won sobriety. “I caught a break on my case,” he raps, “I got too much to live up to/Mom, I’m sorry I’m this way.”

“I put my parents through a lot of shit growing up, running around, getting in trouble, making them look bad,” Hard_R says. “I didn’t want to continue to hurt people, my family included, or maybe die.”

For Hard_R, success means transcending his influences, whether it be Lil Pump or P.O.S. Hate_R is all about Hard_R pushing himself to find his own way and digging down into his own essence to unearth something unique. On Hate_R opening track “Judge Jury Executioner,” he takes on three distinct personas to analyze his position in life. At the end, he walks away with the realization that no one is going to achieve his greatness for him.

Most rappers define themselves in opposition to the people who don’t like them. You know, the haters. But for Hard_R, the biggest obstacle in his career has been himself—his vices, his pugnacious attitude, his inability to deal with the legacy he was born into. So he turns that rage inward, taking responsibility for holding himself back and copping to the bullshit behavior that’s made him who he is.

“I’m a fuckin’ hater, everyone’s a fuckin’ hater,” Hard_R says. “People want to project that they’re not a hater and they only got haters, and they’re still over here hatin’. Rappers especially. I struggle with that shit.”

For all its progress, Hate_R is still embryonic. Hard_R may well look back on the record and disown it for not being as sophisticated as whatever incarnation he’s onto by then. Hate_R will, however, persist as a time capsule of a young rapper trying to overcome a series of unique challenges, documenting the come-up of one of Minneapolis’ first second-generation rappers.

But you can expect Hard_R to hold on to his acerbic mindset. He might be more clear-headed and motivated than ever, but it’s that negativity that keeps him going. Without it, he’d just be another rapper.

“I’m my biggest critic,” he says. “I’m the ultimate hater.”

Hard_R
With: Nazeem & Spencer Joles, Chansa, Evan Slack, Traphouse
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, August 16
Where: 7th St. Entry
Tickets: $10; more info here