The first time I heard of Jack Harlow was through a press release. He had signed with Don Cannon and DJ Drama’s record label Generation Now, and was now receiving a big commercial push. Along with promoting Harlow’s “fresh style, unconventional sound, and rebellious spirit,” the release also highlighted his early co-signs from big names in the music industry, including Diddy. Though his alliance with Generation Now—the label that backed Lil Uzi Vert—was intriguing, I’ll admit I judged a book by its cover.
Here was this white, 20-something guy with curly brown hair and an innocent look in his eyes. He was coming out of Louisville, Kentucky, and his résumé wasn’t stacked at the time. He had released a series of singles and mixtapes, featuring guest appearances from Bryson Tiller, K Camp, and CyHi the Prynce, but nothing seemed to stick (in a major way, anyway). I know every artist has to start somewhere, and their first singles are not always indicative of their future success, but I wasn’t convinced. Nothing about the music stood out to me, and I assumed he would chase corny trends or gimmicks. Over the course of just two years, though, Jack Harlow has worked overtime to prove everyone wrong—including me.
Harlow’s 2020 single “Whats Poppin” was his breakout moment. It was released as the lead single from his Sweet Action project, and quickly became a fan-favorite on TikTok. The song was certainly catchy, but with playful lyrics about eating fettuccine and satin bed sheets, it leaned into a cutesy aesthetic that seemed geared toward a young audience, and still didn’t have me convinced. The numbers were impressive, though. The Cole Bennett-produced video racked up millions of views on YouTube, and in April 2020, he released the remix, featuring DaBaby, Tory Lanez, and Lil Wayne, propelling it to No. 2 on the Hot 100. The remix still had the same silliness as the original, but the song’s continued popularity and three solid features sparked my interest. Still, he needed more than a viral track to fully change naysayers’ opinions, like mine.