G-Herbo on Chicago, Las Vegas and Trump: ‘He Literally Doesn’t Know We Exist’
G-Herbo carries the longstanding tradition of street rap commentary, merging tales of his former life on the streets of Chicago over beats he says saved his life. After four years on the scene – a move he made with the help of fellow Chicago rapper and family friend Lil Bibby – Herbo finally has an album, Humble Beast, and its delivery is on point.
Herbo chopped it up with The Boombox to talk about his musical journey, politics and philanthropy.
Of all the things you could have pursued in the world, why music?
I didn’t want to work for anyone. That wasn’t what I saw for myself - for my career or future. Once I realized I wasn’t going to college [to play sports], and I was in the streets, rap just saved me. My uncle was in music and I always knew how to rap, somewhat. I didn’t take it seriously, or even try to rap or write anything down; I just knew how to rhyme and play around. The older I got, I really started rapping. So I’m here now, and it’s a blessing.
Rap just saved me. I didn’t take it seriously. I just knew how to rhyme and play around. [But] the older I got, I really started rapping. So I’m here now and it’s a blessing.
You were previously known as Lil Herb. Why the name change?
It symbolizes leadership. It’s a matter of how you carry yourself.
Is there a difference in persona or personality between Lil Herb and G-Herbo? Will you turn that into an album down the line?
Nah. I don’t think so. I’m dropping and project called Swervo--before the end of the year. It’s basically like my alter-ego: just a bunch of tracks, true street tracks, but club bangers. It’s not so humble, [it’s me] having fun, wild Herbo--Lil Herb. It’s Swervo.
Over the past few years, you’ve had a lot of mixtapes and collaborated with a lot of artists, especially in Chicago. Why did you decide this was the time to release an actual album?
It was just a matter of me working. I felt like the projects I made so far – Still Ballin Like I’m Kobe and other mixtapes – [were] considered albums because…it was time for me to an LP out. I felt like I had to drop an album. I felt like I owed that to my fans. There was no room for a mixtape. There was nothing else to do but drop an album.
You talk a lot about the life you had before becoming a rapper and gangbanging. How are you able to separate yourself from that life and push yourself in a different direction?
It’s really just a matter of being a man and understanding what comes with the streets. You can’t really do music on a global standpoint the way I’m doing it and be in the streets. It’s a sacrifice. Being in the streets is about making sacrifices. You can sacrifice your family and freedom being in the street. Doing music, it’s the same – and you gotta sacrifice being in the streets. It was just a matter of me growing up and taking it upon myself to say “Yeah, I’m gonna focus on my music 100%.” I had to say it, I had to feel it. Nobody else could talk me into it. There were years when I could have focused on music but I wasn’t.
The Las Vegas shooting happened while you were making your media rounds Monday morning. Coming from Chicago, you’re dealing with gun violence everyday. Do you have concerns about the gun violence that’s going on?
Of course, I have concerns about it. 50 people dead, that’s unheard of…but some things like that are just inevitable. You gotta understand, you have to accept the bad with the good, and pray for better days or pray for people. Anybody could have been in that situation – me, you – so you can’t really speak on it too much. You just pray for the families.
You're really into giving back and supporting those around you. Why is it so important for you to be involved in your community?
Being a street dude, and coming from everything I come from it’s really about being hands on and showing the youth that you care more than anything. You gotta create opportunity for the youth to help mothers and fathers. When I grew up, we had youth centers and sh-t like that – afterschool programs where mothers could volunteer or get paid and help out and be hands on parents. That’s something we don’t have anymore. Kids that I grew up with, we were doing that kind of stuff and going out to amusement parks and being kids but people don’t have that no more.
How do you find the kids that you get involved with?
I’ve been to different schools, but it’s really about giving back as much as you can to your neighborhood – to any kid you see, to any kid you touch, to any kid that’s a fan of your music. Anything I do, I wanna be hands on. I want basketball teams for the youth [and] figure out how to give back in those kinds of ways. That’s where it starts.
Being that you’re both from the same city and have a passion to be involved your community, have you and Chance the Rapper partnered on any philanthropic efforts?
Not yet, but we definitely should. I love what Chance is doing for the city right now. I’m definitely gonna have my own thing to give to the city. I gotta pave my way first before even approaching Chance because he’s done so much. We’ll see what the future brings. I fuck with Chance.
You've stated that you don’t understand why everyone is up in arms about Colin Kaepernick and NFL protests. How do you think people should get involved in the protest who don’t watch football? Is there something else you think they can do?
I don’t really try to get in the middle of [politics], but everyone should be aware. People are gonna always be racist. You should know how to deal with it, but it’s inevitable. You can’t stop what Trump is doing. He literally doesn’t know we exist. Just do right by your self, by your family and by God. If you do right, right will always follow you. You get out of this world what you put in. I don’t give a fuck about Trump.
Watch G Herbo's Video for "I Like":