Who Is Jack Harlow?

Bred in Louisville, Kentucky, Jackman Thomas Harlow was born on March 13, 1998. By the time he was 12 years old, he fully realized his rap dreams, launching his career with the help of his friends and a Guitar Hero microphone. Putting together CDs to sell at his middle school, little did he know how far he’d be able to take this pursuit.

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While 17 years old and a member of his high school’s varsity soccer team, he put out his first commercial EP titled The Handsome Harlow. Continuously gaining steam in the music scene of his hometown, he started selling out many of the city’s venues, landing him an opener spot for famed California rapper Vince Staples’ Louisville tour stop.

“I took one of those personality tests and competitiveness was my No. 1 trait,” Harlow told the Louisville Courier-Journal at the time. “Competition is what drives me in everything, and hip-hop is a competitive genre. I feel like I can out-rap everyone in the city, and I know there are other people in the city who feel like they can out-rap everyone.”

Then, weeks after graduating high school, he put out 18, his first commercial mixtape. This led to a consistent stream of full-length releases, as he subsequently dropped Gazebo the next year (2017) and Loose in 2018. This was the year he truly took the next step.

2018 and 2019

On top of Harlow’s Loose coming out, which included still-beloved underground hits like “Cody Banks” and “Sundown,” 2018 saw him earn a spot as an opener for well-established alt-rock band Portugal. The Man. He would later move to Atlanta to further pursue stardom, taking a job at Chick-Fil-A until he inked a deal with Generation Now, the record label that also signed Lil Uzi Vert and is run by DJ Drama and Don Cannon.

In September 2019, months after he returned home from his Loose tour, Harlow would drop Confetti, his most commercially successful mixtape up until that point. Consisting of poised, smoothly rapped bops like “Warsaw,” “Big Chillin,” and “Thru the Night” with Bryson Tiller, the now-21-year-old had fame and fortune in his grasps. However, going forward, while the magnitude of his LP releases grew tremendously with each new project, his eras would go on to be more defined by his singles than his albums.

[RELATED: DJ Drama Reveals Why He Signed Jack Harlow to His Label]

Whats Poppin

To kick off the new decade, Jack Harlow released “Whats Poppin” on January 21, 2020, serving as a promotional single for his March EP Sweet Action. Though the EP featured other exciting tracks like “2Stylish” and “Smells Like Incense,” “Whats Poppin” is what truly elevated him not only on the charts but also in the eyes of hip-hop’s youthful fanbase.

First erupting on TikTok and eventually climbing to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Whats Poppin” would finally get Harlow’s foot in the door of the mainstream, evident in its June 2020 remix with Lil Wayne, DaBaby, and Tory Lanez, which has helped it reach 7x certified platinum by RIAA. Later that summer, he would find himself a spot on the coveted XXL Freshman List, alongside other blossoming newcomers like Polo G, Baby Keem, Fivio Foreign, and more.

In October, Harlow would release “Tyler Herro,” an anthem for the NBA player who was similarly attracting headlines and winning over fans at the time. “Tyler Herro” would peak at No. 34 on the Hot 100, and build anticipation for Harlow’s debut studio album Thats What They All Say, which he delivered in December 2020.

While the album included features like Lil Baby on “Face of My City,” Adam Levine on “Same Guy,” and Chris Brown on “Already Best Friends,” “Whats Poppin”‘s inclusion on the soundtrack made it by far the most compelling portion of the record.

Industry Baby

Taking a break from releasing projects in 2021, Harlow instead found success as a featured artist, most notably on Lil Nas X’s smash hit “Industry Baby,” which included production from Kanye West. “Industry Baby,” whose raunchy music video has surpassed 400 million views, earned Harlow his first No. 1 on the Hot 100, certifying his star status. He would use the hype from this song to introduce his 2022 sophomore album Come Home The Kids Miss You, highlighted by another radio-friendly banger.

First Class

Teasing his lead single “First Class” initially on TikTok in April 2022, Harlow capitalized on hip-hop’s insatiable desire for sampled pop hits from previous generations. Interpolating Fergie’s 2006 smash hit “Glamorous,” Harlow would finally put out “First Class” a week later, satisfying listeners hungry for a nice treat. It would go on to be his second No. 1 song.

Weeks later, Come Home the Kids Miss You would hit the streets, receiving mixed reviews for its over-produced, uncharacteristic blandness. Debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, a disappointing result even though it’s his highest placement to this day, Come Home the Kids Miss You marked a need for change in Harlow’s eyes.

He would quickly turn around to release Jackman in April 2023, an antithesis of what earned him acclaim in the first place. With no fancy rollout, no promotional singles, no features, and a concerted effort at crafting thoughtful, skillful lyrics, Harlow’s third studio album felt like a gift to his original fanbase, who fell in love with his ability to rhyme masterfully rather than his ability to earn magazine covers.

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

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