The sounds of drill music have spread across the world, far from its origins in the Southside of Chicago. However, it’s the artists from those stomping grounds that kicked down the doors and helped lead a new generation of rappers to stardom. Chief Keef might be the most iconic, while Lil Durk remains the most commercially successful at this point, but it’s G Herbo who has continuously emphasized lyricism in the midst of drill’s proliferation.
On his latest project 25, G Herbo silenced many of his critics following the release of projects like Swervo and Still Swervin with Southside. His sharp storytelling skills, emotional potency, and maturity took center stage on 25 as he reflected on the lessons he’s learned throughout his life up until this point. It’s no different than his approach to other projects, but Herbo admitted that the fire in his belly is only growing stronger with each project.
“I was just caught up in a lifestyle, at that point,” he told HNHH about working on Swervo and Still Swervin. “I didn't really give a fuck about music for real, to be honest. I don’t say I didn't care about music, but I wasn't in a mode where I was just hungry. Like right now, I feel like I kind of gained that hunger back just because I know where I want to go and I have so far to go.”
Herbo joined us for the latest edition of HNHH’s 12 Days Of Christmas series where he recapped some of his year-end highlights, including joining Miley Cyrus on stage at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, the release of 25, and receiving words of wisdom from Jadakiss after Dipset & The LOX’s Verzuz battle.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Photo credit: Von Jovey
HNHH: How's the tour been?
G Herbo: Oh, the tour’s been good, man. It’s actually a lot better than I expected. By that, I mean, I haven't really been able to get in front of my fans in quite some time because of the pandemic. It's been almost two years since I toured. So I didn't really – I don't know. I just didn't know how it would be, but it's been good.
How is it adjusting back to the tour life after practically being at home during the pandemic?
It just felt different. It felt like, I wouldn't say it feel like anything new because I've been on tour quite a few times. But just to be able to get back in front of my fans and them being excited to see me and stuff like that, it felt really good. To be able to pack a lot of these rooms out in the cities that I hadn't been to in quite some time. It was just like, I don't know, it felt like I was kind of starting over. Starting fresh again. It's been real fun, man. It's definitely been fun, a lot of energy, a lot of good energy in the crowds and stuff like that. So, I'm just excited, blessed to be able to still, you know, be able to do it.
How's it been – not just reception-wise – to play in front of a crowd with 25, as well as PTSD? I’m sure a lot of your day-one fans are also pulling up so how do you adjust your tour list to reflect your current records with classics?
The good thing about it is you have social media, you know? Having a lot of fans and supporters, you got fan pages that post a lot of content and stuff that I'm doing. And that stuff that gets consumed pretty well, I'm not gonna lie. Like, the fan pages help me out a lot when it comes to what I'm doing and promoting my music and features, certain records I'm on. I just try to feed off of what the people want and just test it on stage and see how they react to it.
As far as like PTSD goes, I couldn't finish my tour because COVID first hit. I was only like 10, maybe 15 cities on the PTSD tour, and it was a much longer tour than the one I'm on now. I try to just focus on actually having the catalog, what songs I think people will react to well. Trying to really take them on a journey. Not even just the big songs that I know people are excited to hear and see me perform, but songs that I feel like they would appreciate when it comes to like telling them my story on stage and just trying to take them for a ride, you know what I'm saying? Because I'm on stage for quite some time, like an hour, a set an hour and ten-minute set, so that's a lot of songs. Just trying to keep them interested and keep their attention, not just only give them the music that they could, you know, jump up and down to, you know what I'm saying? I try to take them on like a roller coaster ride if you say. Like I said, I got those records where I slow ‘em down, try to talk to them and a lot of my fans like those kinds of records. So, it just depends on what kind of fan coming to see the show. I try to get everybody a little bit of something.
Because this is a year-end recap with artists we really appreciate at HNHH, I wanted to ask what's been on steady rotation on your playlists?
Polo G. I listen to a lot of Durk. I listen to 42 Dugg, a lot of Rod Wave. I listen to a lot of Meek Mill. A lot of like, old hip hop stuff, too. Like, a lot of Wayne, Jadakiss, and you know, Hov’ when I get into those kinds of modes. I just try to consume as much music as possible that it kinda inspires me in any way. You know, I get inspiration and motivation from a lot of my peers when it comes to music. As I said, I just named a few guys that are like my age and in the same lane as I am. I listen to a lot of that kind of music. So, if I had to go to like albums maybe… I like the Meek Mill Championships album. I like that Rod Wave album he just put out. His last album, Soulfly, and the album before that. I like all Polo albums, Durk albums.
Man, I don’t know. I just listen to a lot of music and really, with me being an artist and making so much music, and having to listen my own, I like to keep people around who got an ear for the streets and what's coming out. What's new and hot so I just listen to whatever you know, people in the car with me playing. Then, if I like it, I be like ‘alright, what's this?’ and add it to my playlist. You know, have it on rotation when I'm in the car by myself. That's how I really get most of my music from, like my homies, you know what I'm saying? The guys that's just around here, what they listen to when they get in the car. I will just let them plug up their aux and just consume most of my music like that because I'm moving around so much I can't really see like what's dropping and what's new. You know, people dropping music every single day. I can't even keep up with this much. So, I got like my favorite artists I listen to and then artists that a lot of my homies listen to. I’ve been listening to a lot of EST Gee. I have been listening to a lot of his music. He's super hard. You know, Future, of course. A lot of Thug. I love Thug's music. 21, I listen to a lot of Savage's music. Really that's kinda it, a little bit. But I wouldn't say that's all because I just be trying to listen to everybody shit, for real.
Would you ever dabble further into like more of a melodic joint like a little bit of an R&B-influenced type project? Especially with how much you’re listening to Rod Wave these days.
Polo G. I listen to a lot of Durk. I listen to 42 Dugg, a lot of Rod Wave. I listen to a lot of Meek Mill. A lot of like, old hip hop stuff, too. Like, a lot of Wayne, Jadakiss, and you know, Hov’ when I get into those kinds of modes. I just try to consume as much music as possible that it kinda inspires me in any way. You know, I get inspiration and motivation from a lot of my peers when it comes to music. As I said, I just named a few guys that are like my age and in the same lane as I am. I listen to a lot of that kind of music.
I mean I'd try it, I don't really...I don't really know how to use autotune and stuff. I'd done it before. Of course, I got like songs out where I use autotune, but I never really got comfortable with it. I just got to just be in the studio really just trying shit, man. I'm not opposed to it but I never really got into a mode recording where I feel all the way comfortable doing that. I don't know why. Sometimes, I don't think my voice match up with it. But I'm not opposed to trying. I always said I'mma just lock in the studio and just try to master that shit but I don't really want it to take away from the artist that I am and start doing that kind of music, especially if I like it. I don't know, it's just trying to, I guess stay balanced. I'm not opposed to it, though.
25 is a milestone in a lot of people's eyes, right? I feel like with this project, you were telling your story up until this point. We've all watched you grow into the artist you are from Lil Herb to G Herbo. Turning 25 and commemorating that milestone, what was the biggest takeaway for you? What's the biggest lesson you've learned so far?
My music has always been my story, regardless. It's always me telling my story, I just evolve and grow as an artist, as a person. So, I mean, a takeaway from that is just: I'm evolving. You know, my music gonna always be like a reflection of the mind state I'm in. Me turning 25 years old, not just the actual age, but the coming of me thinking and looking at life differently, because of things that I experienced growing up, you know? Me telling my story from me starting to rap when I was 16, 15 years old, to me actually being a 26-year-old man now, today. So, I think my music gonna always be a reflection of what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis. So it’s still me telling my story. I'm just not in the inner city in Chicago no more or in the hood but I still am a product of my environment. I still have to go back to Chicago, and I feel that energy. I live in LA now and I'm feeling that energy of being in LA and I'm a father now. I'm doing so much different stuff. So, my music always gonna be just a reflection of that. It's who I am and what I'm doing at the moment. And, you know, things I experienced and things I plan on doing in the future. It's all that wrapped in one, so I think that's what you could take from my last project and the next projects to come, but I still want to be creative. I don't want it to just be like, some cliche where it's like, ‘alright.’ I want to not only please my fans that have been like, growing with me on this journey, but like, gain new fans at the same time, and just trying to figure out the best way to do that.
I feel like you've changed the narrative around your name this year. People who appreciate bars love your music but it felt like a lot of internet trolls got carried away with a certain narrative. The second you dropped “Statement” in 2020, it felt like you shut them up. Of course, PTSD, too but 25, in my opinion, enforced it. Did you feel that narrative change around your name and music this year?
Photo credit: Von Jovey
Kinda, yeah. Like as far as the internet goes, I never really pay much attention to it. Because music changed so much, like every other year, always different kinds of music. I'm young, but I've been doing music for a long time so a lot of people probably thought I was older than I am. And, you know, the generation of the people who consume music changed so much. I just felt like, maybe people really didn't appreciate what I was doing with music or what I was on. I think I was trying to really learn and grow with what music was a few years ago, like a lot of auto-tune and like, mumble rap. A lot of artists that just came out and blew up just doing anything, just doing shit. And I think I kind of didn't really stay true to myself and what I was as an artist. I was just doing shit like Swervo. I feel like a lot of people, a lot of my fans feel like that was one of their favorite projects. Or a lot of the songs on there, some songs were like some of their favorite songs. And then it's like people like, ‘Aw, naw. I like Herb more than this kind of artist.’
I was kind of confused with that myself, to be honest. You know, I was just having fun. I started doing music so long ago and Swervo was a period of my life where I was just having a lot of fun and making a lot of money and spending money and shit like that. I really wasn't even, like, hungry for music. I was just caught up in a lifestyle, kind of, I would say. And my music, at the time, was a reflection of that. And I think I was trying to make music that audiences will like fuck with, or appreciate. I had to like, step back from that and just make music for me that I would like. The music that I grew up making and music that people would just have to appreciate on their own because those same people, a lot of those same fans, and my core fan base, they jumping on the wave now, but I've been doing the same shit. Like, when I go back and listen to my first project, I've been rapping this way, I'm just only getting better with the music. And now I'm actually in a mode where I'm able to make that kind of music that I was trying to make with projects like Swervo. I'm still able to rap it and still, you know, having bars. My lyrics are still on a high level. And I'm able to like blend the two because it's me being true to the music that I want to make. I think back then, I was trying to make music for like the industry. And not really for like, myself. I started doing music because it was like, what I wanted to do. Like a form of therapy or some shit for me where I'm like, ‘I'm just trying to speak about my truth.’ And that's what I'm doing right now. Like, I am speaking about my lifestyle, I'm speaking about my truth. I'm speaking about the shit that I think about on a day-to-day basis. My music like starting to reflect that more than what I was trying to do.
When you talk about the Swervo projects, it just sounds like they were celebratory projects in your career acknowledging how far you’ve gotten in life. Past all the street shit that you went through, past the early years of grinding to make rap work to finally being in a zone where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
I started doing music so long ago and Swervo was a period of my life where I was just having a lot of fun and making a lot of money and spending money and shit like that. I really wasn't even, like, hungry for music. I was just caught up in a lifestyle, kind of, I would say. And my music, at the time, was a reflection of that. And I think I was trying to make music that audiences will like fuck with, or appreciate.
As I said, back then, I was just having fun, but when I was making shit like Swervo, I was just hanging out with Southside. You know, that's my big brother who I'm still with pretty much every other day. By him being one of my favorite producers and somebody I always looked up to and I'm able to spend money and I was buying cars and shit, starting to travel and living in these big ass cribs in LA and going to Miami and being in mansions and all this shit. As opposed to being in my neighborhood every day and being hood rich and hood famous and shit like that, to actually being really rich. I was just caught up in a lifestyle, at that point. I didn't really give a fuck about music for real, to be honest. I was like, I don’t say I didn't care about music, but I wasn't in a mode where I was just hungry. Like right now, I feel like I kind of gained that hunger back just because I know where I want to go and I have so far to go. And I'm having fun within my lifestyle of just working. Like me, being an artist and it actually becoming my real lifestyle. I think I was getting used to it or trying to get accustomed to it but now that I know this is my real lifestyle, I'm traveling, I'm gonna do shows, I'm gonna make money and I'm going to be experiencing this shit and being around other stars and feeding off their energy and shit like that. And I'm not in a position where I'm just gonna be in my hood and that's not my reality no more. I know it's not, and I'm never going back to that. I have fun and my hunger is within itself. Like, alright, I know when I'm in the studio, I'm in mode. I can rap about whatever I want to rap about. You know, me being a human and still facing depression and anxiety and shit like that because I still face a lot of those challenges every day. And I could just talk about having fun. You know, I wake up and I live in LA and I'm living in houses that – shit, that I never really dreamed of myself being in. I'm having cars and jewelry and all this shit that I always wanted to have but it's my reality. So, I'm just living in that is how I'm able to like be in a studio and create the shit that I'm creating because it's like it's just is what it is at this point.
I want to just double back. Obviously, you’re a big fan of Dipset, as we heard on “Statement.” You mentioned Jadakiss as an artist that inspires you. As a fan of both The LOX and the Diplomats, who did you think was going to win Verzuz?
You know what's so crazy? I had a conversation with Southside. We was doing Lollapalooza, it was the day before the Verzuz. Literally, the day before or two days before the Verzuz. They was feeling like – because we young and I'm a big Dipset fan and everybody like, ‘oh yeah, Dipset got the hits and they gon’ go crazy’ and shit like that. I agreed with them, but my exact words to Southside – he could vouch, anybody else in the room could quote me on this – I'm like, ‘man Jadakiss gon’ outrap them.’ I said Kiss gon’ outrap them by himself. And I knew it and that's exactly what happened, you know what I'm saying? Big shout out to Dipset and they probably contest to it themselves. I'm a bigger Dipset fan than The LOX, hands down. I'm not gonna lie to you, but I'm a big Jadakiss fan. I'm a diehard Kiss fan. And I'm like, ‘Man, ‘Kiss gon' outrap everybody’ and that's exactly what happened.
Yeah, the second that “Who Shot Ya” freestyle came out, things changed on that stage.
Yeah, I already knew what was gonna happen, I promise. I told everybody in the room. They like, ‘Aw, you trippin,’ you know what I'm saying? But, I knew it already. 'Kiss actually called me that same night after. What happened was I commented on a picture or some shit like that or something. And he called my phone, just chopping it up. Just gave me a different outlook on just how I carry myself lyrically, gave me a lot of motivation, and just inspirational words. Coming from him, especially in that moment of triumph. For him to call me and give me that [talk], definitely meant a lot to me.
Because you have such an extensive catalog, would you step in the Verzuz ring?
Kiss actually called me that same night after. What happened was I commented on a picture or some shit like that or something. And he called my phone, just chopping it up. Just gave me a different outlook on just how I carry myself lyrically, gave me a lot of motivation, and just inspirational words. Coming from him, especially in that moment of triumph. For him to call me and give me that [talk], definitely meant a lot to me.
Yeah, it's all fun. It's rap, bro. Rap, hip-hop, from the start, it’s always supposed to be competitive, you know what I'm saying? It really is no winner so to be able to like – I mean, it's always a winner but in my opinion, I'm saying like to be able to just step in a Verzuz with somebody that could have like an extensive catalog the same as you, and your fans being able to appreciate it, you know what I'm saying? It's all about confidence. I feel like if you step in with confidence, it's hard to really determine a winner, and especially, if you have a catalog that you could broadcast and put out there, it’s really hard to lose. So I'm saying that to say, yeah, I definitely would. I don't know who I could get into Verzuz with or who the fans would think would be better in a Verzuz, you know what I'm saying? It’s just having confidence and respect for your peers and shit. You know, me and Durk did some shit like that when the Verzuz shit like first came out but it wasn't even… it was like some internet shit we did for like a radio station in Chicago. We agreed at first. We was like, we was gonna play each other's shit because it's really not no competition like for real. If you carry it that way, when you in a lane like ours, you really turn nothing into something and you're able to do this shit for so long, like we've been rapping for like 10 years, it's like shit, we ain't really want against nobody but ourselves at that point. Our only competition could be ourselves. So to answer that question, yeah, I would do it but I don't know who I would do it with or how, whoever, but I'm not opposed to doing no shit like that. It's gonna be all fun to me, honestly.
I feel like artists take it too personally. Like, I feel like they think like it's they...claim back to fame or stardom or shit like that, you know? But it's just a way to be appreciated by the fans, in my opinion.
So, did you see the Bizzy Bone-Juicy J squabble?
I seen the shit on social media after [laughs]. It was funny. Both of those groups were literally like two of my favorite groups growing up, you know what I'm saying? I'm definitely a bigger Three 6 Mafia fan. For groups to go up against Three 6 Mafia, that's real hard. That's tough, but Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is definitely one of the top groups in like hip hop history, you know what I'm saying? So, both of those groups did a lot for hip hop. When you look at it that way, it's like it's not no ‘who realer is,’ it's just you appreciating it.
If you got confidence like – I feel like it's too much of a competition and you got to have like confidence in yourself and just say we havin’ fun. It should never get that personal where like y'all up there fighting and shit. It should never even get there. If Gucci Mane & Jeezy could get on stage with each other and not fight, shouldn't nobody be fighting at that shit, man. For real, that shit crazy. If both of them could get up there and both of ‘em get home without a scratch, nobody should have a fight in the history of Verzuz.
Another highlight of 2021 for you was your performance at Lollapalooza with Miley Cyrus. How did that even happen?
If Gucci Mane & Jeezy could get on stage with each other and not fight, shouldn't nobody be fighting at that shit, man. For real, that shit crazy. If both of them could get up there and both of ‘em get home without a scratch, nobody should have a fight in the history of Verzuz.
That was crazy. You know, I actually met Miley before. Like, a while ago. We got a lot of mutual friends. I think somebody from her camp just hit somebody from my camp was like, ‘Miley doing Lolla. She wants to bring him out,’ because we just worked on a record that week. And you know, my PR group hit me up and I was all game. I was excited, man. That was probably one of the only times I have ever been nervous in my career. I could probably name or count on like one hand anytime I have ever been nervous like going on stage or doing something. Even with me being like, that being my hometown, I think it was just me getting on stage with Miley Cyrus. One of the highlights of my career. I never really been nervous besides like when I got on stage with Nicki Minaj. That moment, maybe like one other time ever in my career I've actually been nervous. So for me to be able to do that, it’s definitely like a milestone in my career that I never forget, you know, that I’ll always be grateful for. Shout out to Miley. That's big sis. I don't know. It's still hard for me to explain it, still to this day. I really can't even tell you, all the way from the beginning, how the pieces were put together but it just happened like super natural.
You said you and Miley have a record together?
Yeah, we performed it. She brought me out on the record. I didn’t perform my own solo record. We got a song that she featured me on “Love Money Party” and it actually was unreleased and it still hasn’t even came out yet, so they was just excited to hear some unreleased shit.
So who's the bigger smoker between you two in the studio?
I don't think nobody I ever really met in the studio smokes more than me. And I haven't even been smoking, though. It’s crazy. I haven't smoked in a year but when I was like going crazy, going hard smoking. I ain’t never really been around nobody that smoked more than me, honestly.
Before I let you go, I also wanted to discuss the kind words you had for Nicki Minaj earlier this year. Can you bring me back to when you first got that call?
When I first got the call – oh, I don't even remember. I think I was like 17 years old or something. I was at a studio late as fuck. Hot, like super hot, like 4 or 5 in the morning. Someone from her team reached out to somebody from our camp. So, it was like four in the morning. Probably was like 2 in the morning in LA so it really wasn't that late. They were probably in the studio and they reached out and got through. But we didn't even like – I don't know, we didn't even process the call to like the next day. And then we spoke again. She flew me out to LA, we did the song. It's just been history ever since. We've been locked in. And that kind of like, it gave me confidence as an artist. I feel like it definitely took me from a point A to B with myself. Just being able to have that, to be able to speak on me having a record with her so early on, but I still didn't really process it the right way because I was still like in the streets and shit. Like, I was just on some young shit, just in my neighborhood every day like I didn't even... I felt like I couldn't really took that opportunity and ran all the way with it and started to knock down a lot of industry doors but I didn't. That was just a genuine relationship, it was nothing forced. She actually reached out and she fucked with me, for me, and I will always appreciate her for that but I never really took it serious enough to be like, ‘Damn I could really like, do this shit for real. Alright, I got a record with Nicki. Let me go try to get a record with Drake, let me try to get a record with Wayne, let me go do this and be in these rooms.’ I never really took it like that. I was still just in the hood like, alright, if somebody called me, I'll go fuck with them, but I never really used that to go and network in the industry when I probably should have, especially with me being so young.
One last question. You can make this super brief. What's the word on the joint project with Lil Bibby?
No Limitations? Oh man. It's a thing, though. I want it to happen. It's definitely possible. I think it's gonna happen in due time. Only time can really tell. We just got get really lock in and focus on only that. We can't really have other shit going on. We always got some other shit going on so. Just leave it at that.