G Herbo – PTSD (Album Review)
Context is not always necessary for art to have an impact but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t help. I have no idea what Rene Magritte was going through when he sat down at his easel and honestly, I don’t even really know what art periods he was around for. But every time I see one of his paintings, I have to pick my jaw up off the floor. Did that change at all when I found out his mother committed suicide when he was 13? Yes. Of course it did. I am human and humans love an origin story. A rhyme, a reason, a cause, and an effect.
G Herbo’s journey up to this point has been well-documented. He became a leading voice in Chicago’s drill scene as a 19-year-old with the release of Welcome to Fazoland, an exhausting but necessary trudge through Chicago’s southside. With that, he found a place for himself as one of the more lyrically dense artists in the scene. Hype, like energy, cannot be created or destroyed- only transferred from one rapper to another. So as hype found its way from Herbo and his drill contemporaries to other cities like Atlanta, Oakland, New York, Detroit, and back to Chicago, Herbo was still standing strong, making music for a dedicated fanbase, and continuing to be a very important voice for his city.
In 2018, Herbo’s freestyle over Three 6 Mafia’s “Who Run It” went viral and inspired thousands of rappers to go over the same beat, a la “A Milli” and “6 Foot 7 Foot” from the Wayne era, proving he still had an impact on the greater rap machine. And now, even two years after that, we have PTSD, an album that feels more relevant than anything he’s ever done.
Violence in Chicago’s southside has been well-documented by drill artists and exploitative news outlets, to the point where people are afraid to visit the city. In this project, Herbo focuses on the psychological effects of living and dying in such a destitute environment, all the while, dealing with his own trauma and the effects of it as controversies bubble up behind the scenes.
The project is covered in references to dead friends, products of either gun violence or the less direct effects of it. “Gangstas Cry” is a rejection of the everpresent “be a man” mentality found in places like the southside where strength and stoicism are one in the same and emotional reactions have to be productive and pointed. The verses and the BJ The Chicago Kid assisted hook insist that being emotional does not make you weak. To some, it’ll seem obvious, but to others, this is exactly what they need to hear. Impressionable kids are listening to G Herbo, and this song proves to me that he’s cognizant of that.
The title track features Juice Wrld (RIP), Chance the Rapper, and Lil Uzi Vert. In one of his best showings on the project, Herbo tells a brief story in his verse about being in over his head as a teenager riding around with the wrong people. It’s “The Art of Peer Pressure” for the windy city. Chance’s verse is similar, giving us anecdotes of traumatic events and finishing with a warning not to run up on him, even if you’re a fan. The Juice Wrld feature is the most important feature in a rap song in recent memory.
The hook is not only very well sung, but the fact that he’s no longer with us makes it that much more heartbreaking in its delivery. “I made it on my own, they said I’d be in jail or dead” sucks the air out of the room. The song ends with a disjointed Lil Uzi refrain which sonically, I appreciate just because the amount of serotonin in my brain is directly related to the amount of Lil Uzi I’ve been listening to, but it just doesn’t fit here. It feels like he’s just tagged onto the end. And every other artist on the song, even the producer, DA, is from Chicago, but not Uzi.
While none of them hold the same metaphysical weight as the Juice Wrld hook, the features on this album are generally very strong. The Jacquees feature is definitely a step in a different direction but the album is long enough to grant room for these kinds of things, and honestly, it sounds pretty good. The two best hooks on the album, though, come from A Boogie and Polo G. They float on this thing.
While G Herbo has certainly moved away from gang violence and the neighborhoods that house it, I’d be remiss not to mention the battery case against the mother of his child, Ari Fletcher, that he pled guilty to in January. In many ways, Herbo has made a commitment to setting a good example and being a role model for kids that are in situations like the one he came from. But unfortunately, PTSD makes it impossible to recover from some things. Trauma from the past can take new forms in the present and be the reason for an outburst, a reaction, or a compulsion. Still, it does not hold up as an excuse.
In “Feelings,” he sounds frustrated about his relationship with his child’s mother, and it’s hard to tell if he’s upset with her or with himself, and the truth is, it’s probably both. I believe him when he says, “Talked to my kid mom today, that was kinda hard, sick of all the drama in my life, we ain’t gotta start,” but when he says, “They know my name for real, Herbo made a change for real,” context makes it hard to be so sure.
Standout Tracks: Intro, Glass in the Face, In This Bitch, PTSD, Lawyer Fees.
Read Caleb’s review of Long Live the Kings by Calboy here!
Biography: G Herbo, formerly known as Lil Herb, first shook the music scene in 2012 with the Lil Bibby assisted viral smash, “Kill S**t.” With praises from Drake, followed by a series of coveted collaborations ranging from Nicki Minaj to Common, G Herbo was instantly acknowledged as a pioneer of Hip Hop’s “Drill Music” movement. G Herbo’s lyrics of life or death circumstances, extreme loss and adversity, have given a voice to underprivileged youth everywhere. Amassing more than 2 billion streams worldwide, G Herbo’s is the most potent lyrical documentarian of street culture for his generation.