Jack Harlow on How Reading Harry Potter Made Him the Competitive Rapper He Is Today

While accepting his award for Variety’s Hitmaker of Tomorrow, Jack Harlow gifted the audience with a story from his childhood, revealing how a reading program stoked his competitive side, and how he’s been a voracious reader since he was a little kid. That combination, along with a little Harry Potter, made him the artist he is today.

Harlow took the stage at the Variety Hitmakers award presentation in Los Angeles, noting that he hasn’t met everyone in the crowd, but wanted everyone to get a chance to know him, launching into this sweet story from his past. “When I was in the second grade, I went to an elementary school that had a competitive program,” Harlow said. “You could read a book and then take a quiz on that book, and if you passed the quiz, indicating you had really read the book, you would get awarded a certain amount of points. The bigger more challenging the book, the more points you earned. I read every book I could find. I read all the Harry Potter books. Boy, those Harry Potter books are worth some points.

“So we get to the end of the school year and there’s a big assembly. The entire school is there, in my memory at least it feels like a stadium full of people. The climax of this assembly is the staff announcing the top three students who had read the most, or at least, had been credited the most points for reading.

“In third place they announce some fifth grader, he goes up and they give him his trophy. Second place, another fifth grader — he goes up, they give him a trophy. And in first place, a second grader, they called my name. And I had beat the entire school. I won by a landslide, I probably had quadruple whatever second place had.

“So I want you to imagine this little second grader, buzzcut, eyeglasses, crooked teeth walking down the bleachers onstage to accept this trophy. Before today, that’s the only time in my life I’ve ever gotten up in front of a crowd and won an award.

“I just want to be clear, as a kid I was a little more of an introvert. Or at least I allowed myself to be an introvert. I wasn’t silent, I had friends, but I was much more comfortable just observing and enjoying my own thoughts. I think if you took a picture of me on this stage and showed that kid, he’d be pretty blown away. But to be honest, all the ingredients were there. It was a competition and it brought out the competitor in me, which is a big part of the genre I’m in. All that reading is what made me the writer I am now, and I’m pretty sure it’s what’s going to make me the Hitmaker of Tomorrow. So thank you so much, I really appreciate y’all.”

Check out everyone who was honored at the Hitmakers event with photos from the pink carpet.