Last summer, I wrote a piece about rappers who moonlight as amateur basketball players based on their Instagram posts showcasing their workouts. When I interview Louisville, Kentucky upstart Jack Harlow about his upcoming B/R Open Run showdown with fellow rap ballers 2 Chainz, Lil Baby, and Quavo, I blame Jack’s absence from that list on the dearth of hoops-related content on his Instagram page.
Save for a post promoting the song celebrating his fellow cultural outsider, “Tyler Herro,” Jack doesn’t like to advertise his roundball prowess, despite hailing from one of the sport’s legendary basketball loci. In fact, one of the few posts depicting Harlow actually playing basketball is the oldest one on his page, a grainy photo from spring 2014 of Jack defending a brawny player in what looks to be a local gym. Despite his opponent’s choice of athletic apparel — it looks very much like he’s playing basketball in jeans — Jack is the one who looks out of place, with his curly hair, baggy gym clothes, glasses, and yes, because of that glaringly obvious difference between the two men. It’s one Jack isn’t shy about pointing out, either in his music or his interviews — again, see “Tyler Herro.”
He tells me the story behind the photo as we discuss his next upcoming hoops project. The Bleacher Report event will take place on Saturday at 8 pm ET on the B/R app and Twitter account, with highlights airing recap during TNT’s NBA All-Star pregame coverage airing Sunday, March 7 at 5 pm ET. Harlow and fellow rap-hooper Quavo will play a game of 2-on-2 against 2 Chainz and Lil Baby — first to 21 wins. The winners will choose an HBCU to receive a donation, while the broadcast will be hosted by Taylor Rooks and DJed by LVRN DJ Kitty Cash.
During our interview, Harlow accuses me of being biased for the other team, but like everyone watching Sunday, I’m just rooting for a good game. I also find out he’s never seen White Men Can’t Jump, what he brings to the court, and whether he and Quavo have a strategy for beating the 6’7 2 Chainz.
Four artists. One court. Watch it go down Saturday of All-Star Weekend in B/R app & on B/R TW at 8pm ET.
Don’t miss the start. Like this tweet to get a reminder Saturday night.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 1, 2021
How did this partnership come about? Why did you want to participate in this two-on-two with Quavo, 2 Chainz, Lil Baby, and Bleacher Report?
You know I’m a basketball guy, so anything involving basketball I at least keep an ear open to, and I heard there was some money involved and I like money. So there’s a few incentives.
As far as how the teams are broken up, what made you want Quavo as opposed to one of the other guys?
Well, I didn’t choose my teammate, but I got to say, I’m very happy with who I got [Ed. note: Quavo has been NBA Celebrity Game MVP]. Out of the three other players, that would be my number one choice because he brings something to the game, based on everything I’ve seen on YouTube, that I don’t bring to the game. He’s a shooter, he seemed like a ball handler. I like his confidence on the court and I think I’m going to be complimenting him perfectly with my game and some of my grit. And I’m going to let him cut.
What would you say you bring to the team?
Grit, determination, anger, passion.
I feel like these are all euphemisms for you’re going to play hard and try to D-Up. Is that what’s happening?
They’re euphemisms for we’re going to win.
I don’t know if you’re an Uproxx reader, but last summer I did a listicle about rappers who play ball, but I based them off entirely on Instagram.
I noticed I was left out of that.
When I was researching, I kicked myself because I was like, “Oh Jack Harlow’s not on here.” Then I realized you don’t have anything on your Instagram about hoops, except for one thing. I scrolled all the way back to the very beginning, the very first picture is you and some guy, he’s playing in jeans. I need to know this story. I feel like the world needs to know this story.
That’s a classic image. Yeah, I think that might be my first picture on my IG. I used to go up to this community center where I’m from called Douglas Community Center. It’s in the highlands of Louisville, Kentucky. And it was kind of a place where everyone would meet after school, people from all over the city. It was just a good place to play because it was a gym that was open every day. You can’t get that everywhere. And this dude that was in the picture with me, started showing up and I think he had six, seven, eight years on all of us; we were all in high school, sophomores, juniors. And he would just come and destroy high schoolers, myself included. But he made me better because of it. I can’t even remember his name, but he was dominant.
He played in jeans, he had to be. You are not necessarily the typical person that you would look and be like, “Oh, he plays ball and he raps,” which is obviously something you reference on “Tyler Herro.” How often do you get called Billy Hoyle?
Literally not one time in my life.
I’d never heard that name.
I am so upset. I get called every light-skinned basketball player in the world, and you don’t get Billy Hoyle. Have you seen White Men Can’t Jump?
No. That’s one of the movies that the entire culture grills me for not having seen. And I’m doing my best man, I’ve seen Boyz N The Hood, I’ve watched all these movies, man. I can’t see them all.
You can, we’re in a pandemic. You have nothing better to do.
I need to see White Men Can’t Jump, just for the title alone.
Is that the name of the white guy in the movie?
His name is Billy Hoyle. It was Woody Harrelson. He’s actually a killer. He’s a sharpshooter from beyond the line. I think he might actually be part of where that “white boys are shooters” stereotype comes from. Have you ever played with any of these guys before?
The four we’re playing with? No, I’ve just studied their game.
Do you have a strategy?
I’ve watched the film. You strike me as a 2 Chainz fan, man.
I strike you as a 2 Chainz fan?
Yeah. You don’t have to tell me, brother. I just tried to figure out why you’re going for 2 Chainz and Lil Baby.
I’m not going for 2 Chainz and Lil Baby. I’m asking you if you have a strategy. I got to do my journalistic due diligence. What would you say is the most surprising thing about the leap that you’ve made over that period of time from Confetti to That’s What They All Say?
I haven’t been surprised yet.
Okay, I like that. That’s confidence right there.
I wish I could give you an answer, bro. I wish I could give you an answer.
What’s next for you, man? You’ve got your all-star thing. You’re doing basketball. What’s next on the music front?
I’m about to take over this whole sh*t, man. I got a lot of good music in the can, but I’m going to let my album cook for awhile. We got some videos to drop. We just going to keep doing this. The next time we talk, there’s going to be great things that have happened.
The next time we talk I’m going to ask you one question. It’s going to be, “Have you seen it yet?” And I better hear a yes.
Next time we talk, what you need to do is ask me how that million felt.
Watch B/R Open Run on Saturday at 8 pm ET on the B/R app and Twitter account.
Jack Harlow is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.