“The hardest white boy since the one who rapped about vomit and sweaters.” Jack Harlow boldly spat this line out on “They Don’t Love It”, a track from his newly released album, Jackman. It seems white men can’t jump but they certainly can make outlandish claims. 

It might not be that outlandish, commercially speaking: Harlow has two top five US Billboard albums to his name, with Jackman likely to become a third; he’s been nominated for Grammys every year since 2021. The man and his music are inescapable these days.

But Harlow’s remarkably bold statement got Tone Deaf thinking: which other white rappers can reasonably claim to being the “hardest” performer since Slim Shady?

You can check out our four picks below, and presumably voice your disagreement on our socials afterwards. And before you ask: Machine Gun Kelly just missed the cut.

Mac Miller

The most obvious choice. Miller was the name most cited on Twitter when Harlow’s “hardest white boy” line went hugely viral this week. The late rapper is a beloved icon, a performer that may have started out as a frat boy favourite but eventually became an experimental, thoughtful, emotive artist that wanted to improve his music. This September will be five years since his untimely passing; his songs will remain as 21st century hip hop touchstones for a long time to come.

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Yung Lean

“Wait til he hears about a certain 29 year old neurodivergent rapper from Stockholm, Sweden,” one Twitter user wrote upon learning of Harlow’s claim, referencing Yung Lean (although he’s actually 26), and they aren’t wrong.

An early progenitor of cloud rap, Jonatan Håstad has gone from viral joke to bona fide star. And his first viral success is a legitimate monster: try to listen to “Ginseng Strip 2002” without becoming intensely wrapped up in its achingly cool energy.

And what other rapper can say they’ve received a Medal of Cultural Achievement from Ireland’s Trinity College (at the age of 23 no less).

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Lil Peep

Like Miller, a generational talent gone far too soon – just remember the outpouring of emotion that overwhelmed the hip hop world when Lil Peep died in 2021.

He was just 21 at the time; we were deprived of years of work from a rapper destined for superstardom. Peep was the Kurt Cobain of 2010s rap, a melancholic, relatable artist who garnered devout followers because his vulnerability felt so real. In a period where it felt like some of his contemporaries were aestheticising pain and trouble, Peep’s sincere emotion was a lyrical antidote.

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A Scottish rapper? Who let Scots rap! When grime took off in the country in the last 15 years, Shogun, a rapper from a wee town just outside Glasgow, was right at the forefront of the scene.

Politically aware and lyrically fierce, Joseph Heron’s flow sounded even better in his thick Scottish accent, his “gallusness” and proud sense of identity emanating from his songs. If it wasn’t for a pesky arrest warrant for failing to turn up to court, Shogun would have supported the legendary Nas at his Glasgow show in 2017, and there really was only one local rapper deserving of that honour at the time. “I know that I’m just young, dumb and passionate,” he declared on his excellent 2022 song “holding grudges in the dark,” and the latter has never been in doubt.

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