G Herbo talks ‘PTSD’ album, mental illness, losing his little brother Juice WRLD, fatherhood and more
REVOLT caught up with G Herbo to discuss his new album, growing up in Chicago, and much more. Check out the conversation here.
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G Herbo is back with his most personal album to date. The Chicago spitter has proved himself over and over with back-to-back critically acclaimed projects including the breakout Welcome to Fazoland released back in 2014. Fast forward to 2020, he unleashes PTSD, a tribute to the trials and tribulations he overcame while still battling memories of his troubled past.
Hailing from the south side of Chicago, real name Herbert Randall Wright III innately became a product of his environment. Violence, gang-banging, drugs, poverty, and everything in between encapsulated the neighborhood he grew up in. For the majority of his adult years, he carried a gun around out of pure paranoia. But, music would be his ticket out.
In 2018, Herbo went viral with his freestyle over Three Six Mafia’s “Who Run It,” showcasing his ability to spitfire rap, tell stories, and keep it all the way real with each and every line that escapes his mouth. As he struggled with facing demons from his past, he went to see a therapist who diagnosed him with post traumatic stress disorder.
Now, the rapper turns that negative mental health stigma into a positive by dedicating 14 tracks to raise awareness to this mental health illness. The Mayo Clinic defines post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
While nothing will replace the pain of losing friends to murder, Herbo is able to use music as a coping mechanism for the grief. The PTSD album cover art depicts him holding an American flag with the 50 stars turned into the heads of 50 of his friends who passed. One is Juice WRLD, who’s feature on “PTSD” alongside Chance The Rapper and Lil Uzi Vert speaks volumes to the masses who are also struggling with trauma.
REVOLT caught up with G Herbo at the Kandypens house in Los Angeles to discuss his new album, growing up in Chicago, and much more. Check out the conversation below.
PTSD is out. How are you feeling?
I’m so excited. I’m super excited. I think this is going to be my best work to date. My fans, they’re tough critics, man. They’re so passionate about a lot of my old music. I’m going to let them decide. You could see the growth.
What’s their favorite project?
Their favorite project is Ballin Like I’m Kobe. That and Welcome to Fazoland, my very first project.
What about Swervo?
Swervo? My fans have been on this journey with me, so they appreciate all different kinds of vibes I gave them. People who were always genuinely fans of me from day one. they know I came out a street rapper. I already came out a hard street rapper. I didn’t start doing tracks like “Swervo” until I actually made Swervo. I had to get with Southside, try these different vibes, but I came out a gritty street rapper who embraced having PTSD without even knowing that I had it. We embraced the culture of being in these neighborhoods and the stuff that we had to overcome. But, I wasn’t able to communicate it in the way I am now through my music.
You say there’s untold stories. How difficult was it pulling from such vulnerable parts of your life?
It was very difficult to be honest. But, I’m the artist that [can] lean towards pressure, you know? I’ve always been a believer that nothing happens by coincidence. You have to take the bad with the good. When you go through a lot of these times, where it’s some of the toughest times of your life, that’s just getting you ready for your moment of triumph. What’s to manifest after these times. For me to really embrace it and talk about it, it was hard for me to do. But, I felt it was the necessary thing for me to do.
What does it mean to have Juice WRLD on the album?
It meant everything. You don’t know how hard I fought for the record. It was always a special record. Even before my little brother’s demise, I always knew it was going to be THE record. I always knew it was a special record. It’s a blessing and a curse because I hate that it has to be this… final ride in a such [way]. I can’t really make music or even enjoy life with my little brother no more. But, it’s a blessing to be able to celebrate his life on my album. That means so much to me. I try to make the best of all these situations.
JuiceWRLD was also from Chicago. How did his passing impact the city?
If you want me to be completely honest, Chicago will probably never see an artist do what Juice did in such a quick time. His impact that he had on the world, in the short time that he was here, his stories and how he met his demise so early is similar to Tupac and Biggie. He was our Biggie. Our Tupac. It’s sad that it had to come to an end, but that legacy he left upon us is something that will never be seen or done again.
When did you first come up with the concept to have a flag as the album cover art?
Really, I wanted to bring people into my world. These aren’t news articles or clippings of what’s going on in my city. These are people that I know, that I grew up with, that I spent times and moments with. I have to really cherish the moments that we’ve had in life. Me being only 24 and having 50 deceased faces on that cover is insane. That cover is PTSD alone, let alone the obstacles and everything that I had to overcome. The shit that I go through still to this day, just being a product of my environment.
I wanted to bring people into that and let them know that this is real. I do really have PTSD. I was clinically diagnosed with PTSD. Even before, it’s people who are on my same level even in a worse mind-state than me. I want to bring awareness that this is real. That’s why I wanted to make that my cover and still honor the people who’ve lost their lives, who aren’t here to tell their story. It was special. It was real important for me to do that.
What do the bullet holes and blood symbolize?
If you go to the army and one of your brothers that are on the line with you, one of the soldiers, they died. Mentally, you’re dealing with that because you’re not knowing if it’s going to be you next. They clinically diagnose you with that off of one person, so I wanted the bullets to symbolize just being a product of our environment. I was shot at 16. A lot of my friends were shot. We got shot early.
Fourteen, 15, 16 years old, being victims of gun violence. I wanted it to represent that. I have two, three homies that have one leg, who’s walking around with one leg from being shot. Real army vets. I wanted it to symbolize PTSD on so many different levels. I want people who went to war to relate. I want people who are in the streets to relate because we went to war with not only other people, but with ourselves at the end of the day. People who look exactly like us, going to war with ourselves eternally. Not knowing what you have to do to maneuver through these situations to get home. It’s a never-ending, nonstop war. I wanted to be completely honest and embrace it.
Who actually shot the cover art?
Lil Coach shot it, Coach K’s son. My homie TJ Spencer did the artwork.
“In This Bitch” goes dumb hard. What was that studio session like?
I love that record. The studio session was inspired by Miami. I was in Miami hanging with Southside. Me, Southside, a bunch of our homies were in the studio just vibing out. Catching a vibe. Southside always brings those crazy records out of me.
Victorious produced it, but when Southside’s in the studio, he pretty much produces everything. He’s always overseeing stuff — adding sounds. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t have no ego. He’ll literally sit in the studio with a producer and help him develop this beat, don’t want his tag. Don’t want credit. He just wants the best out of everybody. I love creating with Southside. To be honest, that record came naturally. It was a fun record, I’m like, “This gotta go.” Even though I did it in Miami, it’s a Chicago record through and through.
How was working with Jacquees on “Shooter”? That song is way more R&B than the rest of your records.
Ja my brother. A lot of times, you really don’t expect that record from me. But, it’s a record where I was still able to be true to myself. Those are the records that are easy to me. Ja’s my brother, so it worked out. The record’s doing phenomenal. It’s a great record.
Are we going to get more R&B records out of you?
We’re going to see, man. I did that because I wanted to appeal to everybody. Even though my album’s PTSD, it’s still a street record because I’m talking about a girl being my ride or die. In the verses, I’m really talking about my girl. I wanted to appeal to different artists because I’ve been absent for so long. I wanted it to appeal to everybody. I want all my fans to appreciate this music I’m going to give them. I’m coming right back with the deluxe. I have a whole other album ready. I’m coming in the summertime. I’m applying pressure man.
On “Sessions,” you mention your deal with Epic, but you’re also killing it independently. What’s this genius lane you created for yourself?
Great partnerships, man. Building strategic partnerships and really betting on myself. Understanding what it is I believe in for myself and for my career, and giving credit to my partner for me building that foundation within myself. There’s no shortcuts in this business at all. You’re either going to get that stardom and have to build a foundation or you’re going to have the foundation to have to build the stardom. I was one of those artists that built the foundation early without going straight for the stardom.
With that situation, I’m able to have the freedom to control my projects, to make mistakes, to learn from my mistakes. A lot of times, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where someone else has the control. I take my craft personally, it’s so true to me. I’m talking about my life, the stuff I believe in. The labels don’t understand that and I don’t blame them because it’s a business. I wouldn’t put Epic in a position where they’d lose money on me, or any label for that matter. They don’t want to put me in a situation where I’d lose money, so you have to understand that going into these situations, man. It’s a great position to be in, where I can control my dropping schedule.
You can drop when you want?
Yeah, it’s never a matter of when I’m holding music. “Oh, I can’t drop.” I’m really planning and trying to perfect my craft — make it meaningful in a way. Being in that situation is very helpful for me. I have that freedom to do what I want to do. It’s about controlling your business and your brand. If I control my business and my brand, and things work out for both parties, then everybody could be happy.
How did you learn all this?
Oh man, I had to make mistakes. I have to give credit to my partner. I’ve been in business with the same people since I was 16 years old. I’m 24. JB — Joseph Bowden — I have to give credit to Mickky Halsted. I had to learn a lot in this business and they always put me in a position to not be a slave. Not have to answer to anybody, but myself. Literally, my only competition is myself. It’s a blessing.
You make 2 million in 30 days?
If I do great business, I could make a lot more than that (laughs).
What’s good business?
Stay on top of shit that I need to stay on top of, and be strategic. Plan. If I plan ahead, be strategic, and work hard, I could make a lot of money because I see what my business does, that’s why. I’m not out here blindly guessing.
What’s your ideal date night with Taina?
We both love to eat, so we share that. We eat at the same restaurants. I love Ruth Chris. When we’re in New York, we like Jue Lan. Los Angeles, we eat Katana. She likes Nobu, that’s one of her favorite restaurants. She likes to go there. So, you know, happy wife, happy life.
To be honest, I make her cook a lot. I eat a lot of home cooked meals. She’s a great cook, so I make her cook all the time. She can cook all types of different dishes. She cooks Spanish dishes. We like movies, so I’ll take her to the movies. Just riding along with me and my crazy life, man. My schedule, she’s always with me every step of the way.
Do you have a good work/life balance?
Yeah, I’m able to balance work with my life at home as much as I can. I’m in the time of my life where time’s my most valuable asset. I do have to put as much time into my craft as possible and still be able to balance that with making sure my girl’s happy and of course, first and foremost, being a father. I do a good job because I create an environment where I can be a father and sometimes bring my kid to work. I bring my son to the studio all the time.
Is he going to be a rapper?
I don’t know, I see a lot of myself in him. So much. I swear my mom will tell anybody when I was younger, I used to act like a rapper. Hold a microphone when I was two years old and my son does the same thing. He has a microphone. He looks at my videos. He listens to other rappers like Roddy Ricch. He knows all the lyrics.
How old is he now?
He’s only one. He’s not even two yet, he’ll be two in April. He knows the lyrics to “The Box” all the way. It’s crazy, I see a lot of myself in him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to do music at all.
Is daddy going to teach him?
Yeah, I’ll teach him whatever he wants to do. That’s my job to make sure that everything I do wrong, I teach my son how not to do. Everything I do right, I teach him how to perfect. That’s my job as a father. Absolutely.
What’s your son’s favorite G Herbo song?
He likes the 21 Savage record on my album. He likes a record called “Gangbangin,” he loves that song. He knows how to nod his head on his beat. It’s fun to listen to him listen to music and nod his head on beat. Like a little grown man.
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