What’s Poppin’ with Jack Harlow? It’s Time to Get to Know the Kentucky Rapper A Weekly Column by The Sounds of Colorado College

By Jane Harris

If you listen to rap and haven’t heard the name Jack Harlow yet, get ready. With the success of the rapper’s most recent single, “WHATS POPPIN,” we’re bound to be hearing more from him than just his name. 

The year 2020 is the perfect time to get acquainted with the Louisville, Ky. native, as he’s not yet done riding the high of his most recent album, “Confetti,” the project that’s best showcased his range, flow, confidence, and charm. 

In March, he will embark on The Roaring 20’s Tour with Guapdad 400, touring throughout the United States until May. After streaming Harlow’s new single — and watching the accompanying energetic music video directed by Lyrical Lemonade’s Cole Bennet — the best way to get to know the “Hometown Hero” is to jump right in. Whether you start with his recent work or his older tracks, you’re guaranteed a good time.

Harlow rapped throughout adolescence, selling CDs featuring him and his friends at his middle school. Later, in his early high school years, he posted his work on YouTube and Soundcloud. In 2015 he released “The Handsome Harlow EP,” followed by a 2016 album entitled “18.” It became the album of the summer for countless Louisville teenagers, especially my sister and I, who hailed from the same neighborhood as Harlow. 

That summer, the air was humid and the music was hot. The bubbly track “Ice Cream” was constantly blasted in my house, in my car, and with my friends. Harlow’s music felt, to me, like a simultaneous celebration of living in and experiencing Louisville while optimistically working towards and looking forward to getting out. 

Harlow’s work, old and new alike, perfectly captures the angst, energy, and ambition of living in a world somewhere between suburbia and the city. Though the sentiment I gather from his music — specifically the songs “Eastern Parkway” and “RIVER ROAD” — is one tied both physically and emotionally to my experiences in my hometown, his work is generally appealing and fresh. There’s something there for everyone.

Harlow’s music ranges from bouncy bops perfect for pre-games to slower, poignant reflections on struggles and successes. In his work, you’re bound to find something to fit every mood. Harlow has a pretty impressive catalogue — every year since “The Handsome Harlow” EP and “18,” he has released new music, singles, and full projects alike. In 2016, Harlow co-created an independent record label and music collective called Private Garden. He constantly surrounds himself with other creatives — notably his longtime friends. These include photographer Urban Wyatt, whose work on film is featured in nearly every Harlow project. He’s also influenced and mentored by well-known Louisville rapper Bryson Tiller, who joined Harlow for some bars on the 2019 single “THRU THE NIGHT.” The appreciation for culture, music, and art within Harlow’s collective is clear. It’s evident in his music and energizing in his performances. 

Most recently, Harlow and his friends can be seen in the music video for his latest single, “WHATS POPPIN,” hanging around at a diner and, for lack of a better word, vibing. The energy in the video is as hot as Harlow’s lyrics. 

Most of the comments littered under the video on YouTube are positive. One person wrote, “Won’t lie, I came to judge, I left impressed,” another, “How tf did I never hear this guy? Fire,” while an older fan noted, “My boy Jack Harlow on the map now.” 

The new single is currently featured on Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlist and is steadily climbing the streaming platform’s charts, recently cracking the U.S. Top 50 at No. 49. From here Harlow only intends to go up. It’s safe to say one can expect some fresh Harlow on the horizon in 2020 with his expressed plans for another full-length album and some more new collaborations. Since he won’t be stopping any time soon, now is the best time to get to know the handsome, New-Balance-clad Harlow before everyone else does.  

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