Wonderland.

JACK HARLOW

Covering our Summer 22 issue, the artist talks dream dates, Louisville love and new album Come Home The Kids Miss You.

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue

All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

Pre-order the Summer 22 issue now.

Oozing with charm and charisma, Jack Harlow has become the hottest rapper in the world right now. Sitting down with Dayna Southall, the 24-year-old talks dream dates, Louisville love, new album Come Home The Kids Miss You and how he’s only going to become bigger – and better.

On a typical Monday evening, I would be winding down from the first day of the working week. My flagged folder still threatening to erupt, dinner yet to be decided on – albeit made. But this isn’t a typical Monday. Today, I have a date with Jack Harlow.

Okay, so it isn’t exactly a real date – although Harlow’s flirtatious nature might later suggest otherwise. But as I prepare to sit down with one of the biggest rappers in the world, my nerves have somehow convinced me it is. I feel like I am, in fact, awaiting an anxious Tinder meet rather than eagerly anticipating an interview with Wonderland’s latest cover star. But perhaps it’s because Harlow makes his celebrity so attainable and down-to-earth that this ‘date’ seems feasible. Either way, I have to admit, both scenarios require thorough, CSI-style research.

Speaking of which, Harlow’s story is as such: Born Jackman Thomas Harlow in Louisville, Kentucky, Harlow wanted to be a rapper from the age of 12. By 19-years-old, he had released “Dark Knight”, the song that propelled him into the arms of his first deal with Atlantic. Fast forward two years and Harlow hits global fame with “What’s Poppin’’ – which peaked at the number two spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. A Lil Nas X collab with “Industry Baby” and a debut album later, the world has been consumed by the tangible, accessible charm that emanates from Jack Harlow.

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue

All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER
Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue

Tapping into our early evening Zoom call from his home in Atlanta, 24-year-old Harlow cooly introduces himself – James Bond style – as a fog-laced sunset kisses the camera. Introductions out the way and nerves finally settling, I remember that I only have 30 minutes with the internet’s viral crush as his never-ending schedule holds him in a tight chokehold. From various shows at American colleges to performing at this year’s Grammys with Lil Nas X, the rapper hasn’t had time to breathe since his breakout success. His braggadocious flow and cheeky, quick-witted lyricism have quickly propelled Harlow to the top of the rap game, and as a respected figure amongst his peers. He’s only one album deep, but the rapper has already enlisted the likes of Drake, Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake for his highly-anticipated sophomore album Come Home The Kids Miss You.

At the time of our conversation, Harlow’s album release is a month away and he’s just dropped his viral single “First Class” built around Fergie’s iconic noughties release “Glamorous”. As I begin to pry about the details of his album and what we can expect, Harlow reveals that while the release date is impending, production still isn’t finished. “If I’m honest, the album isn’t done yet. May 6th is just the day I’ve set myself as a deadline. I’m not gonna work myself into oblivion creating new music to get it done, but I just keep making better songs and I want to be able to keep fine-tuning them. I’ve put 15 songs up for pre-order, so it’s just about picking what songs make the cut.” “First Class” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 after picking up 54.6 million on-demand streams in its first week. It seems Harlow’s fine-tuning definitely paid off.

Having taken a more laid-back approach to his sound with his 2020 major label debut That’s What They All Say, Harlow’s latest album sees him building upon his lyrical prowess, as he strays away from basketball jokes and materialism to lean into a more nuanced, romantic era. Drawing us in with his southern drawl and charming aura on the piano-led “Talk of The Town”, Harlow takes us by the hand and leads us into his world. Like a church confessional, Harlow peels back the layers on his occasional self-deprecation while reminiscing on the days when black-tinted car windows and star-studded recognition were just late-night dreams.

As he effortlessly eases into “Young Harleezy” where he welcomes rap icon, Snoop Dogg, as one of the first of many illustrious features, Harlow focuses on his insecurities, as he concentrates on acceptance and being enough. But the energy changes as he slips into certified lover boy mode on “I’d Do Anything To Make You Smile.” With our backs against the wall, Harlow devilishly has our full attention. “I mean, I always got the cutest girls in the class,” Harlow laughs when I ask him about his sex symbol status. “I’ve really grown into myself in the past year or two, so the energy around me has definitely heightened.”

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue

All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

The topic of girls, dating and love now circulates Harlow’s career, so it only makes sense to query the rapper on what he looks for in a woman. “Hmm, I like girls with dark hair…” the rapper admits, as he references his iconic Chicken Shop Date with Amelia Dimoldenberg. “I can’t help my preference, I think most people have a pattern for what they like and what they gravitate to, and you can’t control that. But yeah, there’s just something about girls with brown-black hair. In terms of personality, I like sweethearts. I just want someone to love on me and never criticise me. I think the toxic jerky type is really popular right now. But I’m just a sweetheart, so I want my girl to match that.” Whoever that girl may be, Harlow doesn’t shy away from making his intentions known as he flows into the trap-influenced “Dua Lipa”. Taking a leap of faith and shooting his shot at the Future Nostalgia singer, Harlow boldly makes his stance on the singer known, as he proudly asks the singer out through the twinkling melodies and ear-worming chorus.

“I’ve touched every inch of this album”, Harlow assertively says. “All the music is made from scratch this time, most of these lyrics were written as the beats were being made in front of me. I wouldn’t even tweak the beats, I’d just record on them as they were arranged by the producer. This project is just so hands on and I helped the guys with the producing aspect as well. The level of care taken to create this album was on another level. […] It was quite an easy process to make the album because it flowed so naturally. The luxury I had with making this album was that I got to sit with it for a few months, and that allows you to see what songs are timeless, and what makes a good song. When I was making the album, I wasn’t taking the demos home with me, I didn’t put it on my phone, I wouldn’t ride around with it. All the music stayed in the studio on a hard drive, so every time I went to the studio it was like a refresh. It was a really honest perspective to have.”

Through the gentle whispers to a lover on “Side Piece” to the Pharrell-tapped “Movie Star”, Harlow’s confidence becomes more assertive and dominant as he brings his character and success to the forefront of the music. Seven tracks deep, the rapper firmly knows himself as he positively states: ‘I’m done fakin’ humble, actin’ like I am conceited, ‘cause, bitch, I am conceited, you know you can’t defeat it.’ Putting a middle finger up to those who question his success and humble demeanour, Harlow rides this wave with the N.E.R.D. alumni until he lands at the Tweet-sampled “Lil Secret” where his fame and success have become too much for his respected lover. Torn between fantasies of sitting courtside to meeting the parents, the artist battles with his thoughts on how to handle fame and reality. Where his prospective lover dreams of materialistic worlds, the rapper assures me his dreams are a lot more grounded. “I think I’m a simple guy, my ideal date would most likely be Target, you know, just shopping around with my arm around you. I feel like the brand is designed to make you happy and I love being in there,” Harlow shares.”IKEA and Bed Bath & Beyond are cool as well. But I think it’s nice to just walk and have a laugh. We haven’t got to do all of that.”

One of the most hyped releases from the album is Harlow’s collaboration with fellow rapper and close friend Drake for “Churchill Downs”. The two artists melodically ride the smooth and expensive production while paying homage to both their respective hometowns who have supported them since their premise. “I take pride in the foundation I’ve built in the city I’m from,” Harlow says as he reflects on his beginnings in Louisville, Kentucky. “If we suddenly didn’t have New York, Miami, or Chicago… I know I have my home city. That’s my stronghold and I have a community of people that are proud of me. It’s always kinda like ‘Whoa’ when I feel love from my city ‘cause that means the most to me.”

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue

All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

Bringing the album to a close with the reflective “State Fair”, the artist takes a moment to breathe on his career and stand on his own foundations in Louisville. Time with his friends and old teachers all gain honourable mentions on the track, as well as lone walks down the street, as he reminiscences on the times he had in solidarity before fame came knocking. But with all this in mind, Harlow doubles down once again on how he still wants more regardless of the negative effects that come with both growing popularity and notoriety. ‘Fuck the fame! From the jump, we ain’t been cut the same.’ He raps, ‘I got so much, but I still think about what’s unobtained.’ “I always knew I was going to be big from when I was young,” Harlow reflects as I question him on the future. “But I know it’s only going to get bigger and better.”

Bigger and better is a slight understatement from the rapper who has just signed on to star in the remake of Ron Shelton’s White Men Can’t Jump. Marking this as his first acting role, Harlow will be starring as Woody Harrelson’s comedic Billy Hoyle who struggles to make it in the world of college basketball because he’s white. Certainly not a parallel to his career in music, Harlow kept his cards close to his chest when I query him about the upcoming role, only teasing that they will begin production on the film soon. “I’m not a tease, but they just reached out to me,” he says. “DJ Drama asked me what I thought about the transition and to be honest, I’ve been thinking about it for a while, so it’s been really encouraging”.

We both take a moment to ponder other aspects of Harlow’s career so far. From being an at-home masseuse if his career didn’t work out to having Succession’s Nicholas Braun play him in a biopic about his life so far, the artist isn’t shying away from any of the possible outcomes on the horizon. “I’m really telling my story right now, but I really want to expand into making songs to help others,” he insists. “I want to push the boundaries and make it less and less about me. I want to touch the world in a way that lasts forever.” Touch the world, I’m sure he will – even if it’s predominantly ladies’ hearts so far.

With that, our 30-minute date comes to a close. And ladies and gentlemen, Harlow never asked to split the bill.

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue

All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER

Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
All clothing TOMMY HILFIGER
Jack Harlow x Wonderland Summer 21 issue
Photography
Shane McCauley
Fashion
Metta Conchetta
Words
Dayna Southall
Grooming
Tess Anntoinette
Editorial Director
Huw Gwyther
Art Director
Jeffrey Thomson
Jeffrey Thomson
Gorge Villalpando
Photo Assistant
Dan Patrick
Fashion Assistant
Brooke Samuels
Production Assistants
Chloe Cussen, Frank Benkovic
Special thanks
Tomas Fraser, Atlantic Records, Shop ZERO
JACK HARLOW