Jack Harlow is the cover star for the July 2021 issue of Footwear News and used the platform to open up about his experiences as a white artist in hip-hop music. The rising rapper from Kentucky also shared more on his collection with New Balance, upcoming tour, and living through the coronavirus pandemic.
The “Face Of My City” artist revealed his opinion that he has certain responsibilities as a white artist operating and finding success in a Black space.
“The things I was doing last summer, any fans who didn’t feel like criticizing the police or were on the other side of things, I was going to weed them out. That could have been a moment for them to no longer be fans,” said Harlow. “But what is important is that I lead by example for all the white kids looking at me. This is what you do. You don’t just enjoy Black culture. You stand up next to Black people in a time of need.”
He continued, “I feel blessed to have a voice in this period because, one, I’m not a street artist, and two, I’m not Black. The only thing keeping me here right now is that level of authenticity, of being myself.”
Although he is from Kentucky, the 23-year-old moved to Atlanta to further his music career. He shared with Footwear News how the relocation has impacted his style.
“When I first moved to Atlanta, I would go out with some of my OGs to the mall and I would see them buy all this designer stuff. I remember thinking in my head, ‘Oh, when you sign your deal, this is what you do with your money, you go to a designer store and this is how you become a good dresser,’” Harlow recalled. “I spent probably about six months to a year buying designer stuff and throwing it on aimlessly, I wasn’t doing it right. But coming down here gave me a taste for high-end expensive fabrics.”
For Harlow himself, he has issued his own collection with New Balance, a favorite sneaker brand of his before he rose up the rap ranks.
“New Balance put in a lot of work, they got the right people involved to make the right decisions and keep it fresh and revitalize the brand. But I feel like I’ve been right there with them helping,” said Harlow.
“I’ve been fucking with them since 2014/15, I’ve been going to the factory to see them since 2017/18, so it’s dope to see them come this far because there was a time when people thought it was an ironic thing to wear New Balance and now people are like, ‘Can you get me a pair of those?’ They have tons of kicks out that everyone wants to wear.”
Since his breakout hit “What’s Poppin” gained popularity in 2020, it earned a remix featuring Da Baby, Lil Wayne, and Tory Lanez. The remix peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and his debut project That’s What They All Say, released December 2020 debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. The original song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance in 2021, losing to “Savage Remix“ by Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé.
Along with the cover story, Harlow also sat down with Footwear News for an episode of The Shoe Game. Watch the clip below: