G Herbo Talks Chicago Youth & Global Superstardom (Exclusive)

G Herbo Is Looking Out For The Youth Of Chicago — With Or Without A Spotlight (Exclusive)


G Herbo Is Looking Out For The Youth Of Chicago — With Or Without — A Spotlight (Exclusive)

For an artist that released their debut album almost a decade ago, G Herbo has only scratched the surface of his stardom and is looking toward what’s to come. At 27, the rapper has released a plethora of projects, each showcasing his ability to defy the odds of his Chicago stomping grounds. While candidly reflecting on the trauma that’s plagued his psyche.

On his 2020 album, PTSD, the rapper reflects, “I can’t sleep cause it’s a war-zone in my head… How the f**k I’m ‘posed to have fun, all my n****s dead.” In 2021’s 25, he celebrates the “milestone” of reaching his mid-twenties. While remarking that “a lot” of his “closest friends and family” didn’t reach that point in their lives. In 2022, the rapper details his experience on Survivor’s Remorse. “Street life left me scarred; this s**t broke my heart. I ain’t get nothin’ back in return; feel like I gave my all,” he raps.

According to USA Today, a recent study reports that the “average age to witness a shooting” in Chicago is 14. Additionally, the “average age for being shot” is 17. G Herbo — or Swervo as he sometimes refers to himself — has made it a long way from the streets plagued by gang and gun violence. However, the rapper remains focused on building a better reality for the youth of Chicago.

The musician and father of three sat down for an exclusive interview with The Shade Room’s Senior Editor, Jadriena Solomon, where he detailed the goals of his non-profit organization, Swervin Through Stress, how he’s investing in Chicago youth, as well as his plans for attaining global superstardom. Furthermore, he also shared advice for up-and-coming artists.


G Herbo Talks New Music & Feeling Like The "Best Rapper Alive"

Jadriena Solomon: You sent TSR’s comment section into a frenzy when you shared last month that you felt like the “best rapper alive,” and I feel like some of what stands behind that sentiment of yours is, of course, confidence but also being able to withstand and have longevity in this music industry as you have. But I don’t want to speak for you, why is G Herbo the best rapper alive?

G Herbo: It’s a confidence thing. When I started doing music, I always strived to be the best. Go back and pull old interviews from when I was 16/17 years old — I always said I wanted to be known as the best rapper of my generation. And when I put that on my Instagram, it was really just me feeling myself. At the end of the day, I would never want to put that title on myself in actuality because I pay homage to so many greats that come before me.

And I do actually feel like I’m the best rapper of my generation. So just as much as people might say I am or I’m not, people really consider me to be their favorite rapper. I’ve heard people say countless and countless times that I’m the greatest rapper they ever heard. But I always allow myself to stay humble and let the fans say that. So really, when I tweet things like that, it’s really just me joking around — I don’t even intentionally try to start a frenzy or get the conversation going. It’s just really me randomly riding around in my car and being like, ‘Damn, this s**t hard. Like, f**k it. I feel like I’m the hardest.’


Jadriena Solomon: You just released ‘Strictly 4 My Fans II,’ which is the second installment of the mixtape series. The first installment was released in 2016 when you were just 21 years old, and it marked your ascension from “street artist” to stardom. When you reflect on the six years between then and now, what leaves you most in awe?

G Herbo: I think what leaves me the most awe is kind of like chiming back to what you said earlier — just the longevity and how long I’ve been making music. I’m a really tough critic of myself, and I look at the things that I’m doing wrong because I’m always looking to improve and be the best version of myself.

At the end of the day, I do want to be considered one of the best, and I do want to be considered a legend. So what awes me the most is that I’ve accomplished so much at 27. When I sit back, I have a beautiful family. I have things to show for my hard work — a nice house, nice cars — I’m building like generational wealth for my children. And I look at all the people I take care of in my family. When I look at that, it makes me feel like I’m doing everything right and makes me not be so hard on myself with mistakes.

I still feel like sometimes I’m a new artist —  like it’s the beginning for me in a sense, and with that mindset, I feel like I can keep getting better. That’s what really makes me feel the best about myself as an artist.

Jadriena Solomon: In a recent Instagram video you shared in promotion of the project, you explained that ‘Strictly 4 My Fans II’ is marking your ascension to “global superstardom,” and for me, it was surprising to hear you say that because I think the public views you as someone that has really put Chicago — the inner-city of Chicago — on the map to the world. You have fans all over the world that are familiar with where you come from because of your music and being a fan of you. Not a lot of people can say they brought global visibility to their community and you have. What does “global superstardom” look like to you?

G Herbo: Global Superstardom for me, first and foremost, is being able to touch my fans across the world. I’ve never been able to experience that. I’ve only done a show in Canada my whole career — that’s the only time I’ve ever performed out in the country and I was maybe 19 when I did that. So I haven’t really been able to experience the world from an artist standpoint and see how many people actually love me out there.

Another thing is, I’m so blessed as an artist — I’m yet to catch a big record — I’ve yet to catch my breakout Billboard record that will cross me over into global superstardom. And that’s a blessing for me because I’ve already built a foundation for myself as an artist and knowing that I have fans across the world that I’ve yet to even connect with — I’m striving for that and I feel like I’m right there. I’m one foot in the door when it comes to creating that status for myself and it’s exciting to know that I’m right there.

Jadriena Solomon: It’s super exciting as a fan to hear you say that and to predict what that record is going to sound like for you — who might be featured on that record with you — I think that’s really exciting for the fans to look forward to.

G Herbo: Thank you. The beauty of it is that there’s no system like what music is now. There’s no formula for seeing that hit record. So I don’t have to give it much thought. I can still have fun, be myself and allow myself to grow and elevate as an artist because I’ve already built a core fan base for myself. I feel like the hard part is already done. So when I actually catch that break, I can just ride that wave out.


The Rapper Talks Launching A Non-Profit Organization & Creating Resources For Chicago's Youth

Jadriena Solomon: In addition to being transparent with your fans, you’re also bringing visibility to your community. You have your organization, Swervin Through Stress, which has become an “official 501c3 non-profit organization.” For those who are unfamiliar, can you explain what the organization is and why it was important for you to create this outlet for Chicago youth?

G Herbo: It was important for me to create it because I wanted to figure out ways where I could give back and touch the people while I’m still building as an artist. It’s not something as simple as a back-to-school drive or donating some money where I make my presence felt in my neighborhood for a day. It’s a team of people getting up every day and actively being heard.

My presence is felt in my community when I’m not there. That’s why I’m grateful for everybody that’s a part of Swervin Through Stress because it was something important [I needed] when I was young in the streets and growing up — not having anywhere to go but wanting somewhere to go, [and] wanting those resources in the neighborhood that we just didn’t have. So as somebody that comes from that, being able to pour those resources back into my community, and it’s appreciated and it’s not going unnoticed. It’s something that I care about just as much as the music.

It’s not only about showing people, ‘Oh man, I have money, and I could do this, and I could provide for my community,’ but it’s really changing lives. I’m saving a lot of these kids’ lives. It’s not just about materialistic things and putting money into the community. It’s about people changing their mindset and being able to heal. Swervin Through Stress is for Black men and women in the community to heal and come together so the generations that follow us can continue to be successful.

Jadriena Solomon: One resource that was an important outlet for you as a teen was the youth center in South Shore, Chicago. This is where you met fellow rapper Lil Bibby, and you guys began recording music. Today, there’s a multimedia facility being built on the southside of Chicago that will serve as a “safe haven” and a place for the youth to have access to a plethora of resources. Can you tell us more about that and why this is so important?

G Herbo: Yeah, we’ve been working on this project for close to five years now — maybe even a little longer. But it’s a place, like you said, a safe haven for these kids to find themselves.

In this multimedia facility, we’re teaching these kids trades, engineering, computer coding, videography, music, sports — anything that we could think of that these kids are interested in — and giving them the opportunity to practice and learn something that they love for free. We’re providing this space where they can have not only somewhere safe to stay out of trouble and out of harm’s way, but they can really build skills and build a career for themselves to take care of their family.

I don’t really speak too much about the things that I have going on, but I feel like I should because if I don’t openly speak about it a lot of people won’t know. These kids look up to me. So my advocating for this will make them want to start earlier than I did. I didn’t really get super focused on my career, my life, or my future until I reached my early twenties. So if they start when they’re 15/16 with even more resources than I had when I started rapping, these kids can do better than I am today. That’s why it’s important. 

Jadriena Solomon: One thing that I admire is that you’ve been really vocal about in your recent career advocating for mental health and sharing your personal experiences with PTSD and survivor’s remorse. I think the world has been positively impacted by your transparency, but how has it impacted or inspired your family and friends?

G Herbo: It’s definitely transferred over to my family and friends — I mean more so in a positive way, but sometimes even in a negative way. I consider myself a realist, that’s why I am so vulnerable in my interviews. Outside of music, talking is like a form of therapy for me. I don’t even realize that I’m helping so many people by just opening up and being honest because I’m a human. I need somebody to vent to sometimes too.

I’m always one of those people that tells it raw. So me being vulnerable and showing people when I’m at my lowest —just as much as I’m at my highest — especially to the people closest to me [is important]. I’m not afraid to cry and explain what I’m going through. I feel like you waste time complaining about what you’re going through, especially if you know the solution.

I just take the necessary steps to better my situation and when the closest people to me see that I’m able to wear all this pressure — and I’m probably the person that’s really going through the most pressure out of everyone — they feel like it’s easier for them to endure their trauma and face those things head on because it’s all a part of where they need to go.


G Herbo Shares Advice For Up & Coming Artists & Reflects On Son Yosohn And Fatherhood

Jadriena Solomon: We mentioned that early stamp of approval from Drake which came after your 2014 single, “Chiraq,” with Nicki Minaj. You even performed the song with her at Summer Jam and you’ve been transparent since then about how that entire moment was so surreal, and challenging, for you to take in. 

G Herbo: Very challenging.

Jadriena Solomon: What advice would you give to new artists that have that overnight viral success so they don’t miss out on those early moments and really bask in what’s happening around them?

G Herbo: 
Definitely lean towards your fears for sure. I was always just afraid of people’s perception of me. That’s why I’m just so thankful for the position that I’m in now and that’s why I always think with a positive mindset asset because I actually held myself back for years because I was always so humble.

I still battle with myself because of that. I should have been more selfish and worried about myself early on in my career because I didn’t really realize I was that big. I viewed myself on the same level as everybody else around me and even though that’s a good way to think, it wasn’t my reality. I wasn’t on the same level as everybody that was around me. I was on a higher level. I was on my own level.

So I should have leaned towards that, embraced who I am as an artist, stayed focused, and knew that it was meant for me to be here. I used to question myself — self-doubt is real. But I’m here, God doesn’t make mistakes. He put me in those rooms at 15/16  because I was supposed to be there and had I leaned toward it, I would be ahead of where I am now. But all it did was make me learn from my mistakes and I’m still here. I’m blessed to still be in the fight and in the game 10/11 years later. But my advice to new artists would be to embrace who you are and live in your truth.

Jadriena Solomon: That makes sense. Just the fact that Drake is calling you his favorite rapper at that age, how do you even take that in?

G Herbo: Yeah, how do you take full advantage of that? I didn’t even know, so I didn’t hear from Drake for three years [after that] and that was only my fault. That was nobody else’s fault. I battle with myself a lot about that time early on in my career because I just wasn’t hands-on. I didn’t have the courage to do that.

Jadriena Solomon: Before I let you go, I have to ask — your son Yosohn has to come to mirror your spotlight in that he’s a personality, all in himself, at the young age of 5. He genuinely brings joy and laughter to so many people when they see him on their screens. How does that feel for you?

G Herbo: Absolutely. It feels so good because it’s really him. He’s naturally being himself and that’s what feels great about it. So with him being young and having just as much a spotlight on him as I have on me, no matter where he goes, people notice him and want to talk to him and he’s still able to be a kid.

That’s what I love about seeing so much of my personality in all of my children. It makes me feel good as a father and to know that me and my son have a great relationship, it makes me feel like I’m doing right by him as his dad. So my main job and my main focus is to just make sure that he’s happy and stays pure and innocent. That’s my job as a father — if him being a superstar can fit into that, perfect.


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