G Herbo Says Props From Jay-Z Made Him Want To Make Better Music
A native of the Chicago's South Shore neighborhood, G Herbo entered the game during the peak of the city's "drill rap" movement, making his first splash under the moniker Lil Herb with "Kill Shit," his 2012 collaboration with Lil Bibby. The former XXL Freshman quickly set himself apart with a style that was more lyrical and soulful than that of his counterparts. Now, more than five years removed from that debut and with mixtapes like Pistol P Project, Ballin Like I'm Kobe, and his Welcome to Fazoland and Strictly 4 My Fans series, G Herbo's maturation has continued, as has his evolution as an artist.
G Herbo's arrival on the grand stage found the rapper releasing his long-awaited debut album, Humble Beast, an body of work that earned the praise of critics and resonated with the rapper's core fans, particularly those in his hometown of Chicago. Painting a bleak picture of his hometown throughout, G Herbo encapsulates the pain and lack of hope that has crippled the Windy City for far too long.
G Herbo built on that brilliant project by releasing a deluxe edition of Humble Beast, which includes 12 brand new songs. Featuring appearances from Blac Youngsta, Lil Durk, and Chance The Rapper—who appears alongside Herbo and Lil Uzi Vert on the remix to the latter two's collaboration "Everything"—the project is another example of the NLMB rep rising to the occasion and taking the next step in his career.
Unfortunately, G Herbo ran into trouble after being arrested with two men in Chicago on weapons charges after their limousine driver informed police that some of his passengers had weapons, putting a damper on his current winning streak. Prior to his arrest, G Herbo spoke to XXL about Humble Beast, how fatherhood has impacted him and his upcoming sophomore album, Swervo.
XXL: You took a big step in your career last year with the release of your debut album, Humble Beast. What was it like to finally deliver that album to your fans and have it received in the way that it was?
G Herbo: That shit was good, man. It just felt like a big accomplishment. I feel like it told the story that I always wanted to be told—the story of Chicago and what I've been through and where I wanna be. That was my main goal. It was never about me trying to do numbers or shit like that. That's cool, that's a bonus, but I just wanted my story to be told to the world. I still feel I was rapping for people who didn't know who I was, who Herb was, who G Herbo is or what I stand for, what I'm about. That was my main focus, just putting my album out and being able to tell that story. I gave Chicago that album that they always been waiting for.
"Malcolm" quickly became a fan favorite. That song shows you flexing your storytelling skills. What was the inspiration behind that track and how would you describe the zone you were in while writing and recording that song?
I always was kind of a storytelling artist when I first started rapping. I ain't even used to make hooks; I used to rap about me and what I had going on. Me and Mick were in the studio late-night and he just told me to record a record, third-person. Artists like me, street dudes, we gonna make a story about the average guy from our neighborhood. Juelz Santana did "Lil Boy Fresh," Meek did "Tony Story," so I wouldn't say it's the average storytelling, but I feel like artists who are able to touch on those standpoints, that's the basis of what you're gonna rap about. I can't say if I was in, like, just a super rap zone. I honestly myself didn't even think I could make that kind of record. I was challenging myself. I knew I could, I feel like I can do anything, but it was a challenge myself, I didn't even think the record was gonna come out the way it did and be such a big powerful record until I was done with it honestly, I ain't even gonna lie to you [laughs].
What are some of the storytelling songs that you've heard throughout your life that really left an impact on you and how you approach your own?
From Hov to the smallest records. Like "Song Cry"—shit like that. 50 Cent, even "Many Men," I feel those are records that could be put into small movies where they're telling stories. I feel like I learned from watching the older people before my time, the greats and shit, people like Fif', Juelz, Wayne, Hov. Those the people I grew up listening to anyway. Jadakiss. Rap to me, that's honestly how I let my soul bleed a bit bro, it's like therapy. I don't even look at it like music no more. At this point I'm just putting my life on wax. Of course I talk about my life, the street shit—I still deal with that. On a day-to-day basis, I'm still dealing with street shit. So at this point, it's just literally me laying my life down on wax. I got records where I'm having fun, of course, but this rap shit is my life right now. I eat, sleep, breath this shit.
How did it feel to see respected figures in the rap community like 9th Wonder publicly showing their support for that song and the album as a whole?
It always feel good. I'm always humbled by it, but I look at that as fuel to go out and do it. Like you got the attention, now what you gonna after that? I'm trying to do bigger and better things. When Hov heard the "Street" record, that shit blew my mind just to know that Hov heard my record and he understand where I'm coming from and can relate to my raps. That was the most in awe I ever been behind anybody ever listening to my music or complimenting my shit, but it just make me wanna go harder. It make me wanna make better music. So I'm just trying to get better and create good music.
On a more triumphant note, you hook up with Chicago legend Bump J on the song "Crown." How did that collaboration come to life and how would you describe his impact and influence on the city of Chicago and you personally?
That was his first record since he came home, his first feature an' shit. Bump had one of the biggest influences on Chicago ever. Before I started rapping or picked up a pen, microphone or anything, we just looked up to Bump cause he's one of those guys that's street. All we ever wanted to be was hood legends. Before this rap shit, we just wanted to be street legends, so Bump was one of those to us. When Bump got the deal, he had a whole movement in Chicago. So we looked up to Bump on some Frank Lucas shit. It ain't have nothing to do with no music shit. So for him to be able to come home from under his situation and to be able to collab with him, it was crazy. I never expected it. I never ever thought I would be on a song with Bump J.
It's like two different generations. Bump definitely carried the torch during the early 2000s and I'm trying to carry it right now for the city, so it definitely made a statement. The city was definitely looking at it like "Herb and Bump fucking around," it was definitely a statement record.
On "Trials," you allude to your generation's rebellion against the leadership and tutelage of the older gang members and hustlers from your hood. How would you describe that period and how it's impacted the streets of Chicago today?
It's about leadership. Being in the street regardless, you gotta be a leader. It don't matter if you under a person you gotta have your own brand. That's all it was. It's basically us—we risking our lives everyday, doing all this shit in the hood so we shouldn't have to answer to anybody, especially someone that ain't gonna fend for us. You not gonna make sure our lives are not in danger, you not gonna make sure we got food in our mouth, money in our pocket, we safe and we doing the shit that we need to do so we can survive out here. So we gonna make sure we doing that and nobody gonna be able to dictate anything. And the other way around we not gonna dictate to the shorties younger than us doing their thing. All we gonna do is tell 'em to do it the smart way and learn from it. And we ain't ever had that growing up, so we was always resentful against people older than us trying to tell us what to do—it's not beneficial. You trying to telling us what to do to benefit you; it's not to benefit us. We learned that early on.
And the main reason why I'm speaking on it is cause I know other kids is going through it. I know other kids can relate to those subjects and I just wanted to tell my listeners—especially the youth—to be solid, stand on your ground and be a leader before anything. Like, this street shit is cool, gang-banging, I understand you are what you are and the situations you been through make you what you are, but it's bigger than that. You don't have to go and risk your life because somebody else told you to, if you know you want better for yourself. It's your life– nobody gonna die with you. Nobody gonna sit in a cell with you. Nobody gonna make a million dollars with you, none of that, you gotta go on your own and do it yourself. You gotta think and apply it.
The deluxe version of Humble Beast has 12 new tracks. What went into your decision to add those songs to Humble Beast as opposed to releasing them as a separate project?
I got an album on the way already. Everything with me is strategic, that's why my fans always used to get on my ass about music for years cause its a timing thing with me. So for the deluxe, those are literally 12 records that could've been on Humble Beast. I got another album bout to drop, me and Southside, called Swervo and it's about 18 tracks. It's a whole 'nother wave, bro.
On "Sins," you make a few references to Instagram stunting and how you and your team prefer to keep your whereabouts lowkey. How would you describe your feelings on social media and how its affected how we live and communicate with one another?
I try to just not even pay attention to that shit as much as possible, but you gotta understand, a lot of people different. My mind is stronger than any weapon so as far as the internet, when it first came out I never took it serious cause I was all the way in the streets. It's just something about it, me and my homies, we never really looked at that shit like that. It was the internet we ain't give a fuck. We thought it was the police anyway. I don't know, people really escape their problems so I can't really knock it. Some people, the internet might stop them from committing suicide and shit, they can go on the internet and hide behind all their problems and be who they wanna be. You can turn into this person that you always wanted to be through the internet. It's ruined lives and its changed lives. It's helped people. So I don't know, this shit just crazy, man. I know for sure nothing is a coincidence, they made this shit because they knew what it was gonna do to our people. They knew our people was gonna go head-first for this shit and got us to just lose our minds and betray ourselves with these other people and ruin other people's lives and people was gonna die behind this shit. They knew what was gonna happen when they created all this internet shit, so I just try not to fall under the wave bro, honestly [laughs]. That's all I'm on, I'm trying to work. I know my life consists of so much shit, so the internet is my least priority. The only reason I still got that Instagram shit is because I'm an artist and I do music and it's beneficial. If I wasn't a rapper, I would've been deleted that shit. I ain't even gonna lie.
In addition to yourself, one of the breakout stars from Chicago in 2017 was Lena Waithe, who's new TV series The Chi takes place in and is inspired by the streets of Chicago. How does it feel to see artists from the Chi and the community as a whole getting the spotlight on that level?
It's good to see the city doing positive things and us being able to tell the story of what's going on out here. The Chi, the shit is like... it's not actually what's what's going on, but you get a picture, you get a feel of what's going on in Chicago. It's not gonna get more gritty, more grimy, more true to what's going on in Chicago—kinda like The Wire. They might call me for a couple episodes, you never know. You got all the artists doing their thing, from me to Bibby, Famous Dex, Chance the Rapper, Queen Tee, everybody on they own platform doing music and trying to do positive things. A lot of shit in Chicago just been changing people lives and keeping people out of trouble. I feel like the more people see that and try to better themselves, they not gonna have time to go to jail and go out and try to kill people. That's one thing I learned—the more I was able to take care of my family, the less I wanted to be in the streets, the less I wanted to go on high-speeds and the less I wanted to be outside with guns on my waist. The more I was able to provide for people that I love, I didn't wanna risk it no more for some shit that was for the moment. Somebody told me don't let 60 seconds get you 60 years, so I just try to go by that little motto.
On a more personal note, you recently broke the news that you and your longtime girlfriend are expecting the birth of your first child this year. Can you recall your reaction and where you were when you got the news?
I was happy. When she told me, of course I was nervous a little bit, but I was happy. It's something where you gotta step up and I'm about to have a son that's mine, somebody calling me dad, I could never imagine that shit before so I'm excited at this point. She's eight-months [pregnant] so I'm just ready to meet him [laughs].
How would you say knowing that you're gonna be responsible for a child of your own soon has altered how you approach life, professionally and personally?
I'm a machine now. All I wanna do work, I ain't even gonna lie. The little time I got before he get her, I just be trying to be in the studio recording music, do the shows and shit that I can do to just benefit us. I always been work-oriented, I always been a hard worker, a grinder. That's always been me. But right now, I don't know, I just been on a whole 'nother level. I got extra push I think. Sometimes my girl don't be understanding that shit, but just me being a father, I gotta be able to have the flexibility to say, "Aight, I'ma do this, I ain't gon' do this, boom, my son got a basketball game, I can take off." So I feel like that's the shit I gotta do now. I gotta put the legwork in now and it's gonna help me to be flexible and be a better father. That's just how I think right now.
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