Jack Harlow – 2020 XXL Freshman
- GOV'T NAME: Jackman Harlow
- AGE: 22
- REPPIN': Louisville, Ky.
- TWITTER: @jackharlow
- INSTAGRAM: @jackharlow
- NOTABLE RELEASES: Singles: “What’s Poppin,” “What’s Poppin (Remix)” featuring DaBaby, Lil Wayne and Tory Lanez, “Thru the Night” featuring Bryson Tiller, “Sundown”; Mixtapes: Gazebo, Loose, Confetti; EP: Sweet Action; Guest Appearances: G-Eazy’s “Moana”
- LABEL: Generation Now/Atlantic
- WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “Anybody that deserves it. I don’t wanna name names.”
- INFLUENCED BY: “My dad liked classic country and my mom, she liked rap. So, I grew up hearing rap from her and classic country from him. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, and then [from] my mom, Kanye West, Eminem, A Tribe Called Quest. Stuff like that. OutKast was a big one.”
- AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “I grew up liking sports, but I was rapping. So, I came into [high school] and within that year everybody felt a different way about me, but everybody knew me. I was well-liked in high school. I was cool with everybody, and I know everybody says that but that was the reality.”
TRUTH ON BEING AN XXL FRESHMAN: “[Being a Freshman is] such a bucket list moment for me. And all year, I was really worried that COVID-19 was gonna prevent it from happening. Thank God it didn’t. ’Cause it shut down my tour. It shut down everything for everybody. But somehow, this was the main thing. I was like, I hope this doesn’t [get canceled.] ’Cause this is forever, you know what I mean? You’re kinda immortalized in the genre in a way. So [this is] a huge deal to me. I was just so worried that I was gonna get put out of commission. I wasn’t gonna be able to come here. But we made it.There were so many amazing [XXL Freshman] classes, especially early 2010s. Some of those classes are just so historic. This is just a dream come true for somebody who was just looking at the magazine back in the day, wanting to be on it. I really liked the  one with Mac Miller and Kendrick Lamar, and then J. Cole and Nipsey Hussle being in the same one with Big Sean in there. That was crazy. 2016 was a great one, too. That’s the modern legendary one.I feel an innate responsibility, and [being a Freshman] adds to it. More than anything this feels like the type of validation that confirms something inside for me that I am who I thought I was. I’m headed in the right direction. So, if anything, it just lets me know that I’m doing the right thing. It’s just gonna be a nice boost.”—Tyler Sharp
JACK HARLOW'S 2020 XXL FRESHMAN FREESTYLE
The rising rapper, whose "What's Poppin (Remix)" featuring DaBaby, Lil Wayne and Tory Lanez has hit the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, begins with a proclamation centered on keeping his record clean. "Welcome to the season finale/Gotta move without mistakes ’cause they keepin' a tally/We had plans for makin' millions then leavin' for Cali/Now the city's on fire, even in Cali, postponed," he raps.
The Louisville, Ky. native also delivers heartfelt bars dedicated to David McAtee, a 53-year-old Black man from Jack's hometown who was killed at YaYa's BBQ, the barbecue stand McAtee owned.
"Last night, the people learned how to throw stones/So they shooting gas at ’em to make sure they go home/In the past, it ain't last, but it's all changed/The word is unturned, how we leaving no stone," the 22-year-old lyricist spits. "Killed him outside and they left him stone-cold/Left him on the street and left his family with a broke home/Barbecue man with a business, homegrown/Even gave away plates to the fellas on patrol," rhymes Jack, who joined a Breonna Taylor protest in support of Black Lives Matter in June.
Several reports indicate McAtee was cooking food for the many people hanging out around Dino’s gas station and food mart across the street when national guard troops and Louisville metro police department officers arrived to break up the crowd.
Authorities claim the men and women were outside past the curfew imposed by the citywide protests taking place in honor of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Officers began shooting pepper balls at the people near YaYa's BBQ, which caused everyone to flee in panic. When McAtee, who was in the kitchen, stepped back outside, his right hand was allegedly on his hip where he appeared to be wearing a gun. He reportedly raised his arm in the air and was then shot.
This freestyle is just the latest display of the young rapper's metamorphosis from the boastful bars that populated his Gazebo mixtape in 2017, to delivering a cleverly articulated political statement about the state of the world. With skillfully crafted one-liners settled onto production, Jack has fortified an undeniable place in hip-hop. He's already released eight projects since 2011, amassed a cosign from Lil Wayne, and his "What's Poppin (Remix)" is now one of the most popular songs of the summer and a slow burner that is sure to survive the winter.
Now that the soft-spoken Generation Now/Atlantic Records artist, born Jackman Thomas Harlow, is a 2020 XXL Freshman, he's got solid footing in the culture. "You’re kinda immortalized in the genre in a way," he shares. "So [this is] a huge deal to me."
He also believes the Freshman cover is one step in the right direction. "I feel an innate responsibility, and [being a Freshman] adds to it," Jack expresses. "More than anything, this feels like the type of validation that confirms something inside for me that I am who I thought I was. I'm headed in the right direction. So, if anything, it just lets me know that I'm doing the right thing. It's just gonna be a nice boost."
Jack Harlow's love for hip-hop began at age 12, with influences like OutKast, Eminem and A Tribe Called Quest pushing him to bedroom recording sessions and SoundCloud uploads. From there, an unstoppable following developed and it only continues to grow.
Years later, Jack has more than doubled his discography with 18, Confetti, Sweet Action and more since releasing his Extra Credit mixtape in 2011. He's even found himself on the receiving end of a platinum plaque for the original version of "What's Poppin" and graced multiple facets of the Billboard charts.
While the numbers of it all are just one small part of what makes an up-and-coming rapper a budding star, Jack Harlow's freestyle is another indication that the skills match the hype. As Jack prepares to ascend past Freshman, he's taking charge of his platform and using his voice to speak on important matters that affect those around him.
Watch Jack Harlow's 2020 XXL Freshman freestyle, powered by Rap Caviar, below.—Zoe Johnson
JACK HARLOW'S ABCs
Depending on your grade school memories, singing the alphabet or criss-cross applesauce was either the best or worst part of your day. Now that we brought on the nostalgia, there's one thing we can all agree on: watching newly minted XXL Freshman Jack Harlow play a game of association with the ABCs is sure to cause some laughs.
In less than three minutes, the Louisville, Ky. native breezes through the alphabet's 26 letters, and it's hilarious. He kicks things off with a word that would make anyone laugh for no reason. "A, anus," he says with a smile. Early on, Jack takes a walk down memory lane and offers his favorite dinosaur. "D, dinosaur," the Down South rhymer adds. "My favorite dinosaur is a pterodactyl."
As the young MC continues through the alphabet, when H hits, he mentions his own last name and heritage. "Harlow, my last name has a very Caucasian history," Jack jokes. "It's filled with Caucasity. Pretty sure it's like English and Irish, couldn't be Whiter."
For W, the 2020 XXL Freshman opts for the word wise, but looks outward to show some respect to another intelligent artist. "Wisest person I know is Lil Keed," Jack says.
Rounding out the end of the segment, the "What's Poppin" rapper reveals the way in which he greets his friends. "Z, zaddy," he begins. "When I like run into one of my homeboys, I'm like, 'What's up, zaddy?'... One of my homeboys though. None of that, just like he's a zaddy."
Watch 2020 XXL Freshman Jack Harlow reveals his favorite dinosaur, the name he'd give to a pet rhino and more in his version of the ABCs.—Z.J.
JACK HARLOW, POLO G AND LIL KEED'S 2020 XXL FRESHMAN CYPHER
Combining artists for a hip-hop cypher can always be a tricky business, but, provided each rapper stays true to themselves, it can work out really well. So, it should be no surprise that 2020 XXL Freshmen Polo G, Jack Harlow and Lil Keed did just that to deliver memorable performances for their 2020 XXL Freshman cypher.
Spitting over an energetic, uptempo beat produced by Grammy Award-nominated, South Carolina producer Jetsonmade, who's the music curator for this year's class, each artist brings their own sauce to the mix.
Lousiville, Ky. rhymer Jack Harlow kicks things off with a bouncy flow, tight rhyme schemes and a sense of humor. "My shit classic, Tom & Jerry/Lotta commentary, shit seem cool but it's gotten scary/Fuck the game up, I'm poppin' cherries/At the mall they stop and staring/I got birds, but they not canaries," Harlow spits on the track.
Next up is Atlanta's Lil Keed, who offers some flexes about designer drip, carrying weight and stick-toting over the course of about 30 seconds. "Pounds in the bookbag/Not goin' to school/Got sticks in the jeans, got straps on the shoes," he raps. "Oou, get wavy/Oou, biscotti blunt/Oou, I face it/I'm comin' with cadence."
Finishing things off is Polo G, who takes the XXXTentacion route by going full a cappella mode after having Jetsonmade cut the beat. The Chicago native serves paragraphs' worth of quotable bars that includes him speaking on new generation gangstas and deactivating souls during his minute-long verse.
"Kick in his door and put that sawed in his mouth/I'll have my killers come and paint the walls in his house/Deactivate his soul, hollows logging him out/Lost his mind, seen that blood from his dog spilling out/I was on the front line, standing tall in the drought/I been going hard like I gotta ball for the scouts," Polo raps in a ferocious verse.
Check out Polo G, Jack Harlow and Lil Keed's 2020 XXL Freshman cypher below.—Peter A. Berry
See the 2020 XXL Freshman Class