Part of the Smokers Club Tour Coming to the Agora, Rapper G Herbo Calls Attention to Chicago’s East Side

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Part of the Smokers Club Tour Coming to the Agora, Rapper G Herbo Calls Attention to Chicago’s East Side
Up-and-coming Chicago-based rapper Herbert Wright (G Herbo) grew up on Chicago’s notorious East Side, so the husky-voiced rapper has seen his share of shootings and drug deals. Herbo, who performs on Friday at the Agora as part of the Smokers Club Tour with rappers Cam’ron, the Underachievers, Smoke Dza, Yk Caution, Mobsquard Nard, G-Jet and Liam Tracy, says he had to “learn to adapt to his environment.”

“It was rough, but when you come from it, it’s normal,” he says in a recent phone interview. “It was just life, and the way we grew up. And then you had to learn it was a rough neighborhood as you grew older. You realized what’s good and bad when you go and see different places. You come back to where you’re from, and you get to compare and contrast life situations in that way.”

Wright began writing rhymes when he was 10 and started seriously rapping when he was 14.

“Being around music and around my uncle, I spent a lot of summers and time around him,” he says. “I got a feel for music and started liking it. Local hip hop artists were a big influence too. Watching those guys made me want to rap.”

Just as NWA brought attention to South Central Los Angeles, Wright has cast a light on Chicago’s East Side with his latest album, last year’s Ballin’ Like I’m Kobe. Though he says he only recently discovered NWA, he says he can identify with the themes found in the Los Angeles group’s music.

“I really learned about NWA recently from watching [the film Straight Outta Compton],” he says. “I relate to their story and what they went through because I’m an artist and I know the type of situations you can get yourself into in the industry. But, I wouldn’t really use NWA as a comparison. But I feel like a lot of stuff going on in Chicago is in the dark. Us telling our stories makes people really tune in to see what’s going on and understand the reasons why Chicago is the way it is.”

Most commonly associated with a genre of rap called “Drill,” Wright talks about his life experiences in songs such as “L’s,” a tune featuring layers of vocals and staccato beats. In a raspy voice, he references “the shit I’ve been through.” He says the narrative approach of his songwriting sets him apart from other artists. 

“Drill became popular in 2012 or something like that, and I didn’t really come up under the drill era,” he says. “I was rapping at the time, but I wasn’t a drill artist. I was rapping about my life; it wasn’t some drill shit, I feel like it was much bigger than that. I don’t knock the drill music, but I don’t like using that term when I talk about my music because I’m hip-hop. I talk about my life and what I’m going through or what I want to do with my life. I feel like drill music really has no topic. I tell stories, so how could that be considered drill music?”
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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