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    Jack Harlow is a 17-year-old student at Atherton High School with a lot more on his mind than college applications. “Instead of worrying about school or going to college, I’m worrying about my music,” he says.

    This is a tough pill to swallow for his administrators, who stare at him expressionless when he tells them he wants to be a rapper. “I told an administrator last week that I wanted to be a rapper and she looked at me disgusted when I mentioned it, but there’s nothing she can tell me that will not make me follow my passion."

    Besides the fact that he’s getting 21,000+ listens on Soundcloud in one week and releasing an EP on iTunes, Jack Harlow is your average teen. “I like to keep my life like any adolescent would. I get up, go to school, and hang out with friends and girls. I live a normal teenage life.”

    “My fans think I live in some separate realm, but I don’t. I just got detention last week for being tardy. I can’t help to be late some times and for every three tardies, they call your parents. So now my mom is on me.”

    When asked if he thinks his generation looks up to him for ensuing his passion, he says, “Kids are inspired by [me following my dream], but it also seems outlandish because they’re told they have to go to college to be successful. College has a lot of value, but it’s not for me."

    Harlow will graduate next spring and has intentions of continuing his success as a rapper. Louisville.com had the chance to sit down and talk to him about all things music, life as a high school student, beef, and the local Louisville hip-hop scene.
     

    Louisville.com: When did you start doing music?

    Jack Harlow: “When I was in 6th grade, the coolest thing ever — and still is — was rap. I wanted to be cool, but understood that who I was wasn’t traditional to hip-hop. White people love hip-hop. I never wanted to appropriate the culture, but it was something I wanted to be apart of early on. It’s a black culture, but you can’t act like white people aren’t constantly influenced by it.”

    “From the start, my music was always who I was. In 6th grade, it started off on Windows Recorder, and then it went to a Guitar Hero microphone. Then I got a real microphone and made it to the studio, and it’s just progressed from there.”

    "I wanted to be a good rapper. So I’ve been doing it since middle school. It’s exponential. I’ve learned more in the last year that I have in five years when I started doing this at 12 years old. The more you put yourself out of your comfort zone, the better you’ll do. There have been milestones, things I’ve grown from, but it is what it is.”


    Louisville.com: Do you see going to college in your future?

    Jack Harlow: “There is a chance I’ll go to college. Sometimes I think a lot of people are going to college because they don’t know what to do or they are going to find out what they want to do, and that’s fine. I just already know what I want to do. My parents want me to go to college and some of my friends say, 'That’s so dope, you’re following your passion versus what the norm is or what’s decidedly normal.' I’m prepared for one of two reactions when I tell people I want to be a rapper. It’s either, a shocked ‘Oh’ or a ‘Wow, that’s dope’.  Some people aren’t familiar with what I do or what hip-hop is. Once I graduate high school, it will only open up the possibilities for me in my career.”
     

    Louisville.com: Would consider going to college to study music?

    Jack Harlow: ”I think if I went I would get a marketing degree.”


    Photo courtesy of @handpixed

    Louisville.com: Are your parents supportive of your music?

    Jack Harlow: “My parents are really supportive. We don’t always see everything eye to eye, but they support me. I think they saw it as a hobby for me in middle school, but realize now it’s way more than that. My mom [Maggie Harlow] brought me up on rap. She was a Public Enemy and NWA fan, so she exposed me to it. My dad is a country fan. I like the classic country songs. The melodies are infectious. But my dad was a little slower to catch on the wave.”  

    Louisville.com: Who are your favorite artists?

    Jack Harlow: “Bryson Tiller. Drake (I think he is amazing. I don’t know why he gets so much hate). Earl Sweatshirt. Robb Bank$. I’ve listened to so much rap in my life that I find myself listening to more melodic shit now. It’s given me the opportunity to become a better artist. I don’t really idolize artists as much as I used to.”
     

    Louisville.com: What are you thoughts on old school hip-hop?

    Jack Harlow: “Old-school hip-hop is important, but is often hard for me to enjoy. The culture wasn’t as advanced, rappers that are lyrical now are way more skilled than they used to be, at least in my opinion. I don’t understand why there is this stigma that we have to love the golden age. It’s really closeminded to me. I just like what I like.”
     

    Louisville.com: How do you feel like you compare to the older generation?

    Jack Harlow: "I’ve got the high school circuit locked down locally, which tells me I’m doing something right. I have a lot of fans my age. But, I’m still expanding my fan base in the adult circuit."

    “The city is very proud of the Louisville hip-hop division. I think its dope; Louisville has a dope hip-hop scene, but I don’t always want to be a part of it. I feel like my ceiling is higher than a lot of the adults doing what I do. I feel like I understand it better. I don’t want to boxed into the same league as you if you think this is a hobby. I want to take it farther. I want to be more meticulous. I want to the best. And most of the time I think I am. Being 17 I feel like no one in the local scene is bringing more people to their shows. I think I just have a different mindset.”

     


    Photo courtesy of @shootdxpe

    Louisville.com: Let’s talk beef.

    Jack Harlow: “I love the beef. Everyone is like ‘calm down’ and I’m like ‘keep it up’. I stir the shit up. I want some beef. I want to get into some serious beef. I’m very competitive and I think controversy is fun. Matter of fact, I took one of those ‘strength finders’ exercises and my number one trait was competitiveness. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about beef, but I don’t mind it.”
     

    Louisville.com: What has been your favorite project thus far?

    Jack Harlow: “My first commercial release dropped on November 14, 2015; 'The Handsome Harlow EP.' I still like the music on it, which is a step up, because I usually get tired of my music in a week.”

    “I don’t like making projects, because the attention span of people is so much shorter now. The only reason I do projects anymore is because it gets people excited. It’s like it’s own hashtag. Releasing singles here and there is so effective. There is still something to said about crafting a perfect album, but it’s not as vital. People don’t really buy albums anymore.”
     

    Louisville.com: Which of your singles has been your favorite?

    Jack Harlow: “My favorite single is definitely 'Every Night,' produced by my best friend Ace Pro. He’s my right hand man— he records, mixes, and is my hype man on stage. He recorded the beat in May. As soon as he played the beat, I was imagining the video. It was so atmospheric that I knew what I wanted the video to look like before the lyrics. It’s like my baby that I crafted. Its unique; it has it’s own sound.”
     

    Louisville.com: Tell me more about your relationship with Ace Pro.

    Jack Harlow: “He hit me up after my mix tape last year. I immediately realized how smart he is. He knows a lot of the technical stuff in music people don’t know about. I go to him for everything. He understands my vision. He’s dope. He does it all. He’s been so helpful to me and I appreciate him.”


    Louisville.com: Do you feel like you get compared to any other artists?

    Jack Harlow: “No one compares me to anyone. Idiots will say, ‘He’s the next Eminem, he’s the next Mac Miller,’ but it’s not like that. People think I have a marketable image. I set my self apart.”
     

    Louisville.com: What are your favorite concerts you’ve been to?

    Jack Harlow: "Outkast at Forecastle – best concert I’ve been to.”
     


    Photo courtesy of @shootdxpe
     

    Louisville.com: If you could describe your concerts in one word?

    Jack Harlow: “F—ing lit.”


    Louisville.com: That’s two words, but I like it.


    Jack Harlow: “Okay, just lit. But they are crazy. I’ve had people come up to me after and tell me it’s the best concert they’ve ever been to. No one wants to watch someone just stand up there and recite their songs. When I do a show, it’s going to be live no matter what. When we do it right – it’s jumpin’ the whole time. I’m usually dying, sweating... my shirt is off at that point.”

    Louisville.com: If you could be an opening performer for anyone, who would it be?

    Jack Harlow: “Bryson Tiller. I knew of him before he blew up and kind of watched him blow up, but he blew up outside of Louisville before he blew up in Louisville. I sent him my last video ‘Every Night’ and he told me “To keep making Louisville look good” and I was hyped. Bryson is going to be the biggest thing to come out of Louisville. He was aware of me and I thought that was so dope.”


    Louisville.com: When it comes to performing, do you find it a problem that you’re under 21?

    Jack Harlow: “Yes. That’s the biggest problem; my age often means they may not take me seriously. Also, I can’t get into shows that a lot of my older friends throw, unless they sneak me in; shoutout to Uncle Bonez.”
     

    Louisville.com: Describe your perfect show.

    Jack Harlow: ”My perfect show occurred at my last show. The release show was a 10/10. The perfect show is the energy is up, it’s lit, and every one knows lyrics to each song. It was crazy… I dropped the 'Finally Handsome' EP the day before the show and people knew the lyrics the next day! I couldn’t believe it.”
     

    Louisville.com: If you could be an artist anywhere on the globe, where would it be?

    Jack Harlow: “Louisville.”


    Louisville.com: Really? Why?


    Jack Harlow: “I love Louisville. I love how different it is. I grew up here. My family is here. I realize a lot of people believe the best move is to move to Los Angeles or New York, but I can do it from here. Don’t get me wrong, I may move, and I will be traveling without a doubt. But I hate how so many artists use this city as an excuse for why they can’t go big. Bryson was uploading songs to Soundcloud from Louisville and he made it. This is my favorite city.”

    Louisville.com: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

    Jack Harlow: “It’s going to be dangerous.”

    To get more from Jack Harlow, visit his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Youtube.

    Cover photo courtesy of @shootdxpe.

    Alexis Messmer's picture

    About Alexis Messmer

    2015 University of Louisville graduate. All things social media, marketing, writing, sneakers, photography, music, and a whole lot of coffee.

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