By all accounts, Jack Harlow is rising in the hip-hop world, despite being white in a genre dominated by Black artists. But Harlow’s sensation has many scratching their heads.
His rhymes, most will admit, are not earth-shattering. In fact, he spits mostly laid-back, consumer-friendly lyrics. But having just started in 2105, he has already seen mega success.
His breakthrough came in 2020 with the single “Whats Poppin’,’’ which became a TikTok favorite and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It even got him a Grammy Award nomination. Then came his debut studio album, “Thats What They All Say,” that same year. It was certified platinum by 2021. His second album, “Come Home the Kids Miss You,” dropped in 2022, and its single, “First Class,” became his second number-one on the Hot 100 and first to debut atop the chart, according to All Music.
In February 2022, Harlow released the single “Nail Tech,” the lead single from his second studio album, “Come Home the Kids Miss You,” which was released in May.
He’s even managed to hook up with some of the industry’s heavyweights, such as Kanye West, DaBaby, Tory Lanez, Lil Wayne, Big Sean, Lil Nas X, Eminem, and Chris Brown.
Harlow’s success has come hard and fast. And many in Black America are wondering if he is an industry plant.
“Such musicians are often labeled ‘industry plants,” a term that entered popular usage through hip-hop message board culture in the 2010s in reference to the likes of Lizzo, Chance the Rapper, and Travis Scott,” wrote Sam Kemp in Far Out Magazine.
In short, industry plants refer to artists who are given an unfair advantage in the music industry by the controllers of the industry. These are artists whose music is constantly “jammed down the consumers’ throat and artists who have a familial connection in the industry,” reported Santa Clara University’s The Santa Clara newspaper.
“It’s so obvious that Jack Harlow is an industry plant,” tweeted Maady The Gatekeeper.
Maady The Gatekeeper added, “They keep trying to associate this pilgrim with Black people & it’s beyond sad at this point.”
“Pilgrim” is described in the Urban Dictionary as a “person who ‘settles’for less and/or the easier route in life.”
Very Special tweeted, “Jack Harlow tried to give niggas a sob story for why he not a industry plant like we not seeing it in real time.”
Others doubt his talent.
“Jack Harlow is easily the most overrated industry plant of all time, His new album was the definition of garbage,” tweeted Inv.
Tropical Benji agreed, tweeting, “Jack harlow is overrated and his sex appeal is industry manufactured hahaha like wtf average bitch.”
Some on Twitter point out that his music has been packaged to appeal to Black female listeners. In fact, in the video for the song “Nail Tech” he’s shown accompanying a young Black woman to a nail salon to get her nails done. And in a recent interview with Teen Vogue he stressed his love for the Black woman.
“Black women are such a massive part of my career,” the Harlow said. “I love Black women. I’ve loved Black women my whole life.”
“So we all agree that Jack Harlow’s image has been manufactured to appeal to Black women for streams and ticket sales? Or are y’all still in denial over your fav White rappers?” asked @JoCool_IsDead on Twitter.
Having an industry plant basically comes down to money. Anyone the industry can make sell faster and easier.
“Every so often, the music industry spits out a young, fresh-faced white rapper who manages to land a top spot on the Billboard 100 — by virtue of their lyricism, musicality, charisma, or perhaps more commonly today, internet fame. They could be a flash-in-the-pan Soundcloud or TikTok artist, who either evolves into an industry mainstay or falls off the charts. Harlow, whether you like his music or not, seems to be the latest iteration of that figure, judging by his growing shelf of accolades,” Terry Nguyen wrote in Vox.
Photo: Sean “Diddy” Comb, left, and Jack Harlow perform “First Class” at the Billboard Music Awards on May 15, 2022, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)/Photos: Jack Harlow, left, and Lil Wayne perform at the BET Awards on June 26, 2022, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)