G Herbo sat down with Okayplayer to talk about his collabo album with Southside, Swervo, and why he decided to pay homage to Eric B and Rakim’s Follow the Leader
Through the release of his debut album Humble Beast last year, listeners were given a first-person perspective of what it was really like growing up in one of the toughest, poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the United States: the East Side of Chicago — 79th St. to be exact. G Herbo’s raps aren’t just tough talk; he tells heart wrenching stories about what it is like to be stuck in the trenches. Herbo uses rap as his therapy — with the full understanding that this is far greater than just him.
His most recent body of work is Swervo, a collaborative effort with Southside, one of rap’s most well-respected producers. Collabo tapes featuring one rapper and one producer have become in vogue. Over the last year we’ve heard outstanding projects from Future and Zaytoven; DJ Quik & Problem; and Payroll Giovanni and Cardo Got Wings. Swervo deserves to be mentioned amongst those albums. Herbo showcases maturity, growth, and diversity, while Southside, the man behind classics like Future’s “Trap Niggas,” provides some of the most versatile production of his career.
Okayplayer recently paid a visit to King Louie’s studio in downtown Los Angeles. G Herbo was there, decked out in a black Fendi hoodie, Timbs, and two chains — one said Herbo, the other said 808 Mafia — around his neck. We talked about Servo, blowing his first advance, and why he decided to pay homage to Rakim and Eric B.
Check out the interview below.
Okayplayer: How has your sound evolved?
G Herbo: I used to be an artist that used to rap off 30 bars or 40 bars and no hook. Now, I started recording songs with melodic tunes and hooks where the fans are really dancing for real, jumping up and down for the chorus. I never really did that before, so you can tell the evolution and how I’ve grown as an artist. It might sound crazy but the less thought I put into my music, it comes out better.
How did you and Southside come up with the concept for Swervo?
Swervo is my alter ego. It’s everything that G Herbo isn’t. I’m humble and chill. With Swervo, I’m able to have fun, enjoy, talk about the fruits of my labor. Southside is the guy that always wants to push me to my best abilities. To word it in a better phrase, he wants me turnt. He wants me to go buy chains, buy jewelry, buy nice cars, and talk about it.
Southside doesn’t pull any punches. He pushed me literally to be better. He challenged me to record on this, do this, save this. Sometimes, I might not even want to do it, but I trusted him and we just had that chemistry. I know he wanted to see me be a better artist. He’s around all these other artists: Platinum-selling artists like Drake, Future, etc. He knows how to create a complete artist. He knows how to do a song. He pushed me to be better and I want to be better.
The cover art actually pays homage to Eric B. and Rakim’s Follow The Leader. Can you talk about that?
Eric B. and Rakim, their album Follow The Leader and just everything they’ve done for hip-hop has been unmatched. I feel like second to none. Southside, by him being one of the top producers and me striving to be one of the best rappers, it’s like, “Alright, why don’t I do this this way?”
I feel like me and Southside can be sort of like the modern day Eric B. and Rakim, to certain people. You may look at us like that or you may say “this is my favorite producer, this is my favorite rapper.” We might influence them to rap the same way Eric B. and Rakim influenced millions of people to do music. We just trying to keep culture alive.
Where do you see yourself fitting in this age of hip-hop?
I see myself fit as a long-term artist. I feel like I have longevity in this business for some time. I’ve been rapping for almost seven years now. I just see myself getting better. There’s not just one thing that I’m trying to get better at specifically. I’m just trying to reach my full potential: be the best performer, musician, and songwriter I can be. I just see myself in the next five or 10 years as overly successful. At the least 20 million.
I want my legacy to be as going down as one of the best rappers to ever do it. To come out of Chicago and to be from where I come from and have all the odds pinned against you, and I still won.
Can we talk about your features? 21 Savage, Young Thug, Chief Keef, Juice WRLD, you got everyone on this album. Juice WRLD, in particular, surprised me.
Every feature was natural. Juice WRLD, that’s my little brother. We record every time we get up with each other. Any time we see each other, we record a song.
How did you guys link up?
My DJ, Victorious, he knew Juice WRLD from past relationships. We got in the studio together and we did the record. It was something like a lightbulb in my head, like “somebody needs to sign him.” Then he went and signed with [Lil] Bibby, and 30 days later, [snaps] he was with Interscope. Everything happened naturally though.
“100 Sticks” is one of the best songs on the album.
Definitely, that’s one of our favorites. And then the joint with Sosa [Chief Keef] was crazy just because that did so much for Chicago. They always wanted to hear me and Keef on a song since we started rapping, so that was real big.
I saw that video of Vic Mensa riding around on a motorcycle with the police. What is your interaction with the Chicago police?
My interactions with the police are never really too positive. I only see police really in my old neighborhood. They try to label us what they want to label us, blackball us, harass us — and that’s every day in Chicago. The stuff that everybody is looking at like, “this is crazy, I can’t believe this is going on,” we’re used to it. We probably barely even complain about it because it’s been years and years and years of this going on and it hasn’t changed. A lot of people just give up hope that’s just the way it is for us.
I know artists tend to have their own favorites that aren’t singles, so what are your favorites off the project?
My favorites are between “Letter,” the song for my son, and “Bonjour.” I was talking about a lot of street shit on there.
Can you talk about balancing fatherhood and a career as a rapper?
There’s no perfect way to balance it, you just got to stay on your toes and be as active and productive as you can. I try to just grasp on all opportunities because I have to be a provider at the end of the day. I have to work hard and try to be there because he’s still a kid. My son only four months. I’m trying to go out and grind and just do everything that I can because I know when he really needs me, I got to be there. It’s a give-and-take, a two-way relationship. Fatherhood is definitely fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’ll sharpen you up. It’s pressure too.
What is your take on the music industry? How do you feel about being with Epic?
Me and Epic are in a relationship — label services and strategic alignment — but I’m still an independent artist. Juice WRLD signing to Interscope and me having Epic with label services, I feel like hip-hop is in a good space, but you just have to be in full control of your situation. Because your situation is your life, your destiny. I’m not trying to ever get into a situation where I’m like, “Alright, where’s my money going? Where is this going, where is that going?” You got to have everything in order yourself. You got to really have full control and a grasp on your career. Once you get to that point, you can make decisions like, “Alright, I want to do this. I want to be here, I want to be there.” But other than that, I feel like you have to really put in the legwork. That’s one thing you have to do. You got to really stay consistent, stay grinding and do the small things: interviews and stuff like this. Artists really don’t think that shit like this matters, but this can be the difference in crossing over that hump.
What did you do with your first advance?
I bought a lot of clothes and a lot of lean, cars, guns and shit. I was young, too. I was broke in like four months. I’m not going to lie, I spent like $100,000. And I never really got like a label advance, I was still independent. The little money I was getting, I was blowing through that shit.
How important is social media for your career?
It’s really important. You have to understand what it is and what it’s for. If it wasn’t for music and me taking care of my family and what I really need it for, I probably wouldn’t have a social media account. Because people take it so seriously, it’s ruined so many people’s lives. I’m just that kind of person, once stuff is so beneath me or way out of my range, I’m like, “Alright, I’m done with it.” Social media is very important for my career and just for musicians period. For you to be able to network and see and do things to get yourself out there, but it’s just social media at the end of the day. People really take it like it’s something much more than that.