Author: Jordan Chan
The Neptune was full of energy Tuesday, when everyone showed out to see G Herbo on his SWERVO tour. A native of Chicago, he brought his neighborhood on the road—donning “E. 79th ST. x S. ESSEX AVE” street signs on both ends of the stage. The Humble Beast rapper showed that he was more than just another street rapper from Chicago, mixing his story telling rap with bravado, drilling flows, and heavy hitting beats. Tuesday night was a bit of a hectic night for me, so I couldn’t make it for the openers, Lil James and Q Money. I made it right on time for G Herbo, though, and when I got there, his crew was just setting everything up for his set.
As the E. 79th ST. and S. ESSEX AVE signs were getting put up, there was an aura of anticipation for the Chicago native’s inaugural tour. The past year has been a wild ride for the 150 Dream Team head. He’s dropped two studio albums—the first titled Humble Beast, and the second Swervo. The two albums are contradictory to each other, with Humble Beast telling a story about the environment G Herbo’s was chiseled out of. Swervo is a braggadocious compilation of the life that he’s made for himself.
In Humble Beast, he moves between the omniscient and first person, removing his voice from himself and acting as is own critic. In “Lil Gangbangin A**”, he speaks to his high school self, making fun of himself for the reckless years before success. The drilling flow utilized for his story telling spurs on a sense of urgency developed by the fight or flight environment growing up in the Eastside of Chicago. Moving on in the album, he delivers the contemplative “Malcolm”, and guides us through the story of a stereotypical “Malcolm” living in Chicago. On this track, Herb raps on a background of chipmunk soul, a type of production style trademarked by fellow Chicago native Kanye West. The story is about the fictional Malcolm, who is painted as a representation of young black men and the unfortunate cycle they are chained to. Growing up in the streets of Chicago, there wasn’t and isn’t much choice but to find a way to succeed. “Malcolm” depicts the need for gangbanging to survive and provide, and the dangers that come with it. Humble Beast highlights the struggles he had to overcome and mistakes that he’d made before figuring things out.
Swervo, on the other hand, is the epitome of success, an example of positivity bringing on success. G Herbo said in a Billboard interview that Swervo is G Herbo’s alter-ego, where he’s having fun and making party records. Southside orchestrates an upbeat, triumphant, record, while complementing G Herbo’s nonstop flows and boisterous voice. The album opens with “Some Nights”, which echoes themes on Humble Beast, coming from a G Herbo thankful for being able to go home every night. The reflective opener is fitting, following his path from being in the streets to pursuing music and achieving success. 21 Savage makes an appearance on the album, delivering a verse to follow Herbo’s in “That’s How I Grew Up”. In an interview with G Herbo, he mentions his rules for features. “Whoever I’ve had a feature with is someone I really f*ck with. I don’t get with an artist because they’re hot,” he says. The track with 21 exemplifies exactly that. The two artists grew up in similar situations, and it shows on the track. Both rappers deliver bars about friends dying or going to jail, their work ethic for making money to get out of the streets. “Bonjour” is the realization of his dreams and the peak of this album. A ballad of his success, he dismisses the street life, but for good reason. He’s usurped it with a life of wealth. His hard work and humility has brought him overseas, riding in foreign cars and living an unbothered lifestyle. “Bonjour” focuses on the possibilities that a positive outlet can achieve for youth. Living lavishly is a life foreign to most kids listening to G Herbo, but the rapper embodies the fantasy, bringing it a step closer to his fans as a motivation for success.
Back to the Neptune, the show personified his first two albums. At times, he was the hood librarian during story time, static at center stage, painting pictures and reprimand through his raps. This humble G Herbo was teaching life lessons with his gritty voice. His swagger barely showed through his humble jewelry ensemble, consisting of one diamond chain, diamond earrings, and a flooded watch. Other times, he was the cocky Lil Herb before the deal, bouncing around and conducting the crowd. His 150 Dream Team cohort were in full attendance, both on stage and in the crowd. 150 Dream Team is his imprint he formed as part of the deal he signed with Cinematic Music Group. Both fans and his team were repping 150 Dream Team, rapping along and moshing in GA. The show concluded with Swervo the theme song of his latest album. With his stark “swervo”’s and Southside’s ominous production, it concluded the show on the coattails of G Herbo’s audacious raps.
It was awesome seeing how far G Herbo had come from his days in the street pushing songs on YouTube. Overall, it was a great show. The only thing I wished was different was me being a bigger Lil Herb fan. Because it was his first tour, he still played a lot of music he made before he got signed. For the rest of the fans in attendance, it was an epiphanic experience seeing G Herbo on a nationwide tour. G Herbo isn’t for everyone, but I wanted to give music fans a chance to hear some of the tracks I’ve mentioned throughout this article:
G Herbo’s got a lot planned for the rest of 2018, with another album reportedly coming out. Keep up with G Herbo on his Instragram @NOLIMITHERBO and on Twitter @gherbo.
JORDAN CHAN | *G Herbo whistle* | KXSU Arts Reporter