G Herbo named two of his three solo mixtapes, Welcome to Fazoland and the new Ballin Like I'm Kobe, in fond memory of his friends Fazon Robinson and Jacobi Herring, respectively. At age 19, Robinson was shot in the back by rival gang members in April 2010. At age 21, Herring was shot multiple times while shooting dice at 4 a.m. in August 2013. Herbo rushed to the scene of the latter shooting and witnessed his dear friend, Jacobi, dead.
Three years apart, both Fazon Robinson and Jacobi Herring were gunned down on 79th Street in Chicago.
Like many drill artists, G Herbo is accustomed to rapping about East Side life in Terror Town as he knows it. Inevitably, his music is all about loss, desperation, and rage; and what sets him apart from his nearest contemporaries, Lil Bibby and Lil Durk, is the walloping athleticism of his rapping. A fan of Jadakiss, Nas, and Meek Mill, G Herbo raps with the multiplied passion of Kevin Gates and T.D. Jakes.
When Herb visited Complex earlier this week, we talked about drill vs. soul music, lyricism, Spike Lee's new movie, Chiraq, Herb's late uncle, Kay-Tone, and the late Jacobi D. Herring.
Today, we're also honored to premiere G Herbo's newest song, "Get 2 Bussin," featuring Lil Bibby, produced by Metro Boomin, and released in partnership with Red Bull Sound Select. "Get 2 Bussin" is the second half of Herbo's two-track Lord Knows project, with Herb, Metro, and Joey Bada$$ having partnered up for the title track just a couple weeks ago.
Interview by Justin Charity (@brothernumpsa)
You rap over a lot of soul beats. Why do you gravitate to that kind of music?
I’m a real lyricist. I came up on Jadakiss, Nas, Wayne, Juelz, people who were really spitting. I don’t base my music in just drill music.
I don’t consider what I do drill music because I’m going over soulful shit—those aren’t drill beats, for one—and I’m really talking about my life and what I got going on. Everyday shit. My past, my future, and where I’m at mentally. That’s not drill music. I can make it, but it’s not really the type of artist that I am.
If we’re talking about beats, for sure, drill is the booms and the hi-hats. But what’s the difference between lyricism and drill?
What I do, it's like Nas. That’s hip-hop. You’re rapping over a sample while telling a story. [With] drill music, you’re not really telling a story. It’s rap, but it’s a new genre. It’s like house music, turn-up music, party music. It ain’t gotta be about violence.
We influence other artists to be like that. When people from other states who never even been through what we been through, but they’re rapping the same as us, those are the people you should really point the finger at. You can’t blame us for being where we are. That’s what we go through. That’s what we see. That’s what’s going on. I don’t sugarcoat it. I talk about the ugly. It’s gutter, but it ain’t no ignorant shit.
What do you think about Spike Lee filming Chiraq? I know it's a big deal in the media, but what do you and people around your way think about it?
I haven’t even seen the trailer, but I've been hearing a lot of feedback. I don’t really know if Chiraq, the movie, is about making a difference, or just about telling a story of what’s going on there and then just going on about they business. I don’t know.
When they tell true stories in biographies and autobiographies, at least you’ve got people who are still alive and know what exactly what is going on. The subject is stating facts. With a movie, if you're not really a part of it, and if you’re just using these stories to sell movie tickets, then you ain’t trying to make a difference. And I don’t really respect that.
Was your part of town always like this? What are the things that you like and cherish about having grown up in Chicago?
I love my city! It’s a lot of stuff that I cherish. But it’s different now.
I feel like we were the last generation of some shit that’s not going on right now. Kids don’t have shit to look up to now. They don’t go play AU basketball when they’re ten. It’s rare. It’s a handful of kids who still like that and go to centers. That’s the shit I came from. Hooping. Going out to skating rinks. Shit like that. Parties, shows with your friends. That shit is over.
Kids not having parties, they’re getting shot up. Ten-year-old kids are playing with guns and smoking weed. That’s the future for them. These kids are thinking about outfits and tomorrow.
What’s the big thing that changed?
There’s no guidance. The centers in my neighborhood that we used to go to aren’t open no more. Churches where we used to play basketball not open no more. I don’t know if we fucked it up with all the violence, but it’s not a lot of shit for kids to do no more. There’s not a lot of jobs, money, opportunity. That’s the whole problem.
People fight over territory, and they’re not even making no money. It’s just petty shit. It’s everlasting. Once blood sheds, it don’t matter how little the dispute was; once people die, it’s everlasting.
When you were a kid, weren't you hooping? When did you first start hanging out in the neighborhood?
I was always hooping. You get that freedom at a certain age.
I’m from 79th Street, and my peoples stay on 75th Street. 79th was crazy. 75th was bad, too, but 79th was on a whole 'nother level of violence. Momma wouldn’t let me go nowhere near there.
When I was 12, 13, that’s where Bibby stayed at. I used to go to his crib, and we’d hoop and get into all types of shit. Not in the streets all the way, but you know how you start out—as bad-ass kids, breaking shit. That’s what we were doing. That, and playing basketball.
Talk to me about your uncle. I know he was a producer.
Kay-Tone, man, he passed away. Growing up, that’s how I got into music, just watching him when he used to fuck with Twista and Do or Die. Me and my cousins, we used to all be together. Rapping and playing the keyboard. Just watching both of my uncles play the motif. This is when I was like nine, ten years old.
Where would all this be going down?
At my grandma’s old crib on 87th Street. And they had studios all over the city. I remember one of them was on 47th Street. And at they cribs, in the ‘burbs, at the studios they had set up inside. That’s how I knew how to write music. But I wasn’t into that shit. I was into sports.
Bibby was 15, and I was like 14, when we was rapping 60-second videos on the phone. Just fucking around. Voice memos, not even videos. We was fucking around on the phones, recording and rapping. I went on an old Cassidy beat and sent it to all my homies, and they was fucking with it.
Which Cassidy song?
“Aim for the Head.” And then I did the “Y’all Don’t Hear Me” beat from Meek Mill. I wasn’t even making hooks, I was just rapping for two minutes. I ain’t even know how to make hooks. But we had bars.
Back then, this wasn’t even drill music. Drill music wasn’t even the wave. We were just talking about what we were going through. Shootouts and the gutter. At 15, that’s what we were living.
When did you realize that you could use music to escape the gutter?
I was 17, when I was making Welcome to Fazoland. I had the work ethic, but I didn’t really know the time and focus required. You gotta have it mapped out. You gotta have a plan. You gotta play it like chess.
I only just got into that mindset less than a year ago. Now I’m super focused. Now I compare myself to the greats. Hov and Nas. Kiss and Meek. Ross and Drake. They’re businessmen but also artists.
You named this mixtape after your friend Jacobi Herring, who passed away a couple years ago. What was Jacobi like? What would you like people to know about him?
Kobe, he’s so near and dear to me because he was one of the people who always saw it. No bullshit. He didn’t even really understand music. He was just in the streets like everybody else. But he saw it in me, and he taught me how to move and how to watch people. He always had me aware.
I used to brush it off like, man, you crazy, but he was speaking the truth. That was my homie. We go back 10 years, way before we got on some gangbanging shit. We were shorties when I was still playing basketball.
Was that how you and Jacobi met?
Naw, he ain’t even play basketball. He was just one of the cool-ass, lowkey niggas getting high with the bitches. He’s smoking weed when we was young as hell. And I was just hooping and being who I was, funny as hell, just fucking with people. We just connected. When I started getting high, we was getting high together.
That’s my man. Before shit was even crazy, he taught me to watch people and be smart. Just be smart.