Interviewing Jack Harlow feels like being assigned to a group project with the most popular kid in school. We meet at a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, where I expect to be seated in a dimly lit room, surrounded by thumping music and an entourage. But when Harlow arrives, we make a beeline past tables and up a flight of stairs to what I can only describe as an employee break room. I’m startled by fluorescent lights and clutter, but then I spot a table set for two, candlelight and all. I reach out for a handshake before I sit down, but he gives me a hug. Tonight, I’m the one shaking.
Finding time for this interview in the 24-year-old rapper’s schedule was nearly impossible. “I’ve really pushed myself to the brink, so now I know what that feels like,” Harlow tells Teen Vogue. “It’s all in my hands, what I say yes to. I don’t have anyone to blame except me at the end of the day.”
Commitment-wise, has he reached his limit? “I’m close,” he says in a lilting whisper. I warn him to steer clear of toxic girl boss behavior, to which he declares: “I am a girl boss.”
Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Jack Harlow became enamored with hip-hop as a kid after his mom introduced him to legendary acts like A Tribe Called Quest. In middle school, he recorded and sold $2 mixtapes to classmates. As a teenager, after gaining local attention, he took meetings with Scooter Braun and other industry giants and dreamed of a record deal. Little came of it, but in 2018, DJ Drama brought the self-proclaimed middle-class hero onto his Generation Now label through Atlantic Records.
Four years later, Harlow’s celebrity has skyrocketed in a way that is characteristic of the digital age: While millions follow his every move, millions more still don’t know who he is. That paradox is evident when a restaurant cook walks past our table set up. Not missing a beat, Harlow greets him with an earnest, “Hey, man, s'up?” This person has no idea why two kids are eating a multicourse meal in his break room.