“They don’t even know what they’re playing in here,” Polo G says excitedly, pointing out that G Herbo’s “Write Your Name” is streaming through the speakers of Harold’s Chicken. He pulls out his phone and raps a few bars for his Instagram Story, then says, “On gang, they playin’ real hits, you hear that?” It’s easily the most animated I’ve seen him all day.

We’re sitting in the back booth of the Los Angeles location of Harold’s, a well-known fried chicken chain from Polo G’s hometown of Chicago. The 22-year-old rapper, who recently relocated to LA and has already become a regular at this spot, sizes up which eight-piece wing tray has the most mild sauce, then explains what a profound impact G Herbo had on him growing up. 

“Even though he’s from the city and probably isn’t even that much older than me, I used to listen to his shit all through my childhood,” he says. “I put a lot of my homies on to him, too, so even making music with him was a dope thing to me. I’m like, ‘Damn.’ In the city he’s a legend, and a lot of other places he’s considered a legend, because of all the shit he done did and all the messages he done brought. I was one of those people who was always tapping in when he was dropping shit, because he was really speaking to the type of shit I was going through.”

Now, it’s Polo G’s turn. The 22-year-old, born Taurus Tremani Bartlett in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood of northern Chicago, has come to the realization that his music can speak to the next generation, and it can help people push past their own struggles. His reach already exceeds that of Herbo, with his first album Die A Legend cracking the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart and his follow-up The GOAT debuting at No. 2. Most recently, he earned his first No. 1 hit with “Rapstar,” which racked up over 50 million US streams in its first week. That’s the highest weekly sum for any male artist in 2021, and Polo is the only male solo artist to hold the No. 1 spot for two consecutive weeks this year.