Track Meet: Jack Harlow Channels Champion On "Thats What They All Say"
Updated: Apr 28
In the "Track Meet" series, we break down albums or projects track by track to show where sports and hip-hop meet.
Jack Harlow has been bubbling for a little bit now, but 2020 was truly his breakout year. "Whats Poppin" took the nation by storm and is now certified 4x platinum. The remix, featuring DaBaby, Lil Wayne and Tory Lanez, was so poppin that it reached the No.2 position on the Hot 100 chart.
But that's not the only song that caught attention. Harlow made a tribute to Miami Heat star rookie Tyler Herro when the Heat made a surprising run all the way to the NBA Finals. The song, simply titled "Tyler Herro," helped the rising Louisville star cross even further into pop culture consciousness.
To top off the stellar year, Harlow dropped his debut album, "Thats What They All Say" in December. Yes, it appears that he's following Drake's footsteps with "If Youre Reading This Its Too Late" and rejecting all grammar formalities. The 15-track effort has elite production, all-star features from Lil Baby, Big Sean and Chris Brown and plenty more sports references.
"Face of my City"
"4th quarter, 9th inning, ain't no way we ain't winning"
"Cheaper to keep her Willy Caballero/White boy with a little habanero"
Jack Harlow is #winning as he finishes the year strong with his fourth-quarter touchdown, his walk-off grand slam. On "Face of my City," a fiery track with Lil Baby, Harlow throws in a lil reference to Argentinian goalie Willy Caballero to say how his worth is not declining, but he's the spicy white boy who will age nicely.
"Keep It Light"
"I play the game, you watch the game, like Adam Schefter"
Jack Harlow showcases his grown side on the sultry "Keep It Light." He utilizes a bluesy beat from Harry Fraud to reflect on his personal journey. He claims we should thank him for his humility and that he hasn't fully flexed on us because when he does, it's game over. One of the lines to show his prowess is claiming that he's a real player in the game while his rival is sitting on the sidelines a la award-winning ESPN reporter Adam Schefter. The NFL analyst was honored by the shoutout, claiming it gave him street cred with his kids.
"Know my name, ring a bell like Raja/From the city like Rondo, Rajon/But I'm from the white side like Hassan"
In the second half of "Thats What They All Say," Harlow continues the bravado with the edgy track "Route 66" featuring fellow Kentucky artist EST Gee. Yes, they're in the Bluegrass State, but don't think for a second they're the next iteration of the Dixie Chicks (now simply The Chicks). Harlow has an especially clever set of bars where he weaves three basketball players into his wordplay. First, he shouts out defensive force Raja Bell and then salutes Rajon Rondo, a fellow Louisville native, before noting that he grew up on a very different side of the tracks than the NBA Champion and he finishes with a shoutout to Hassan Whiteside, who just joined the Miami Heat after building his resume with the Portland Trail Blazers. #Bars
Besides "Whats Poppin," Jack Harlow's biggest song of 2020 was probably "Tyler Herro" with flute-infused production from an All-Star squad that includes Boi1da and Scott Storch. Harlow dropped the track in October, perfect timing to align with the Miami Heat's success in the NBA Playoffs. Herro made a splash by scoring double digits in every game leading up to the Finals. He also made history by becoming the rookie with the most three-point shots in NBA Playoff history. The 20-year-old started Game 2 of the Finals, making him the youngest player to ever do so.
Besides the song being a tribute to Herro, Harlow also references baller/rapper Iman Shumpert to declare that he's on and name drops the Harlem Globetrotters because their name represents how he's going to do his world tour once the coronavirus gets a vaccine.
A song true of the times.
"I could pass that bitch like Stockton"
"SportsCenter Top 10"
"I could put the ball in the end zone"
"Back then, wasn't worried 'bout me though/In the gym tryna work on my free throw"
"I'm at the club with the basketball team/Me and the Cardinals are sharing a section"
On the original version of "Whats Poppin," Jack Harlow has an abundance of sports references, notably comparing himself to Hall of Famer and assist legend John Stockton, who led the NBA in the category nine straight seasons. He also averaged 10+ points, giving him an average of a double-double. In explaining the song to Genius, he also relates to Stockton as a white boy with swag.
But he also references SportsCenter's iconic "Top 10" countdown of best plays, which he's sure he's featured on, his confidence in his ability to score touchdowns and how much work he's put into the basics of the game before reaching stardom. Just like Kobe Bryant practicing free throws. Now that he's "made it," you can find Harlow chillin in the club with the Louisville Cardinals basketball team. Although that's probably an NCAA violation.
"I used to play soccer, but I never had the touch/Basketball too, but I ain't love it that much"
Amid all the bouncy hype on "Thats What They all Say," there are powerful moments of self-reflection and "Baxter Avenue" is one of the strongest. Jack Harlow reveals his parents were hardworking people and that his mom always wanted a girl. He reflects on how he was never that good at sports, neither soccer nor basketball. But thankfully, he found rapping as his way to baller status.
"Whats Poppin (Remix)" ft. DaBaby, Tory Lanez and Lil Wayne
"These boys all my sons like Phoenix"
"When this shit's done, I'm gonna fill up arenas/Like Gilbert Arenas, shoot my shot, I'm still with the demons"
If you thought Jack Harlow went HAM on the original "Whats Poppin," it's clear that adding elite wordsmiths to the remix helped the youngin elevate his game. He comes out the gate SPITTING. There's a few new sports references on the remix, including some wordplay on the Phoenix Suns (which we know is a thing) and a shoutout to three-time NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas about how he's going to do arena shows once he can perform again after the pandemic.
"I go back and forth like I play tennis"
"My whip is orange and brown like I'm in Cleveland"
DaBaby brings his high energy to the song, where he depicts his life as a chart-topping rapper, flying around the world, going back and forth like a tennis ball over the net. And part of being a successful rapper is, of course, purchasing fancy cars. He's chosen to ride around in an orange and brown whip like he's repping the Cleveland Browns. Perhaps a Lamborghini Aventador.
"I could pass that bitch like Magic, yeah"
"Lil' five in that bitch like Paxson, yeah"
Lil Wayne is a master at sports references and of course he slides a few in on his "Whats Poppin" verse. He utilizes Harlow's hook to say that he could do work on a girl like Magic Johnson and he reps his red affiliations like John Paxson, who wore a red No.5 jersey when he played for the Chicago Bulls. Champions.