Jack Harlow on Being a White Man in a Black Genre: ‘I’m Not a Novelty Act’

In a new interview with Billboard, rapper Jack Harlow spoke about trusting Lil Nas X with “Industry Baby” and his place as a white man in a Black genre.

Harlow has broached the topic before, and in this latest interview he made it clear he’s aware of the responsibility that comes with being white in hip-hop. “I’m not a novelty act,” said Harlow. “There is a certain reality that I am white, and I think there will always be something attached to that. No matter how embraced I am, there will never be a day that I’m Black. With that being said, there’s a certain responsibility that comes with being a white man in a Black genre, and there’s certain things that have me regarded differently. But there is something exciting about skipping over any barriers that might be there and creating unity.”

Later on in the interview, he spoke about his collaboration with Lil Nas X for “Industry Baby,” which he described as his “first pop moment,” and he stressed that he wanted to remain true to hip-hop when he worked on the track. “People think of white rappers using hip-hop as a vehicle,” he said. “It’s important that people know I love hip-hop and want to stay in hip-hop and want to be part of hip-hop and I’m using it as a vehicle to fuel my dreams.”

Earlier this year, Harlow touched upon his position as a white rapper in a conversation with GQ. “I think what has worked for me is that my music has never been about the fact that I am white,” he said. “I don’t try to lean into the, ‘Hey, I’m the white boy.’ I try not to make it a novelty. I rap from the heart, rather than trying to do a white version of the art form.”

On the topic of the video for “Industry Baby,” which is unabashed in its depiction of sexuality, Harlow told Billboard that he put his trust in the “Old Town Road” rapper. “I had total faith he was going to make a tasteful decision for me,” explained Harlow, who appears alongside the only woman featured in the video. “I felt good about it. For anyone to think that Nas isn’t aware or clever enough to create a treatment that wouldn’t fit me isn’t looking very deeply into it because that was the least of my worries. He knows what it is. He’s very aware and knows we’re not the same person.” 

He also briefly spoke about what fans can expect from his next album. “I think it will be a boost of energy for people,” he said. “You’ll be able to hear in my voice that I’m realizing what I am and what I could be and what I need to work hard to be. My star is rising, and I’m kind of documenting that process and showing you where I want to take it next. I’m stepping into being a star comfortably. I want to entertain.”

Read the full interview with Jack Harlow here.

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