Courtesy of Machine Entertainment Group

January 14, 2020

TEST SPIN | G Herbo — ‘Sessions’

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Just in time for the end of the decade, Chicago rapper G Herbo released a new and unexpected tape, entitled Sessions. The mixtape is his latest full-length release since his joint album with producer Southside dropped early in the year and his first solo project since his debut studio album Humble Beast came out all the way back in 2017. Sessions contains a featureless compilation of recently released singles with a handful of new songs as well, focusing on more conscious subject matter than much of his previous work.

The rapper has been staying relevant through his Southside collaborations, numerous singles and features over the past two years; however, fans have been eager for the Chicago rapper’s next solo album, particularly after Herb teased his upcoming work — supposedly titled PTSD — on PTSD awareness day in June. However, the only nine-track Sessions is certainly not the project Herb was teasing, as the rapper clarified in a Tweet Friday “DONT EXPECT ANYTHING FROM PTSD,” so seemingly his much-anticipated project will still be dropping in the (hopefully near) future.

The first five tracks of the project have been steadily released by Herb over the past few months, with an additional four new tracks debuting on the tape. The songs share a focus on similar themes, as G Herbo hones in on some of the biggest issues facing inner-city Chicago and other impoverished black communities. The opening track “Summer is Cancelled” critiques the rampant violence in Chicago, particularly the disturbing trend of innocent bystanders being killed in the crossfire, urging his listeners to unite and “think about it before you kill about it.” Two other standouts from the project, “No Sleep” and “My Bro a Legend,” tackle equally heavy material, focusing on the trauma of losing loved ones to violence, subsequent drug addiction and mental illness.

The message is very simple, and one might point out the last thing people troubled by these issues need is more morally righteous scolding; everyone knows that violence hurts people and drug use can cause problems. This is true, but although Herb’s recent work certainly falls short of the complexity and depth of socioeconomic critique of conscious masterpieces like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Lil Herb enjoys a significant following amongst the youth of Chicago whom he is trying to reach. This legitimacy makes him a better-suited role model for these vulnerable communities than most other artists right now. Avoiding the hollow lecturing one endures when listening to albums like J Cole’s recent KOD (a major criticism I have with many new attempts at profound “conscious” rap) and emphasizing his own personal struggles with these problems will certainly help G Herbo to reach his target audience and hopefully implement some of the social changes he wishes to see. Additionally, Herb’s storytelling ability serves to shed light on the more personal struggles he and his friends face, an important perspective relatable for many at the very least.

Even with the grim focus of the project, Herb still fits in a few of his more traditionally-themed songs, such as “Hunnit Bands” and “Sessions,” reveling in his money-making prowess and success as a rapper while keeping his name respected in the industry. He maintains his trademark raspy, emphatic voice and constantly-changing lyrical delivery throughout Sessions, so returning Herb fans won’t be disappointed. However, keep in mind Sessions is a fairly short tape, so don’t expect as lengthy and thorough a project as Humble Beast. Perhaps think of Sessions as a teaser to PTSD and 2020 G Herbo.

G Herbo’s new project provides a tantalizing look at what’s to come. Given the title, it’s probably safe to assume PTSD will concern similar themes to those present in Sessions, although hopefully in the form of a longer and more complete album. Herb remains the voice of Chicago’s youth and is certainly showing the artistic and subject growth necessary to fulfill this responsibility. Although the days of Lil Herb and his drill anthems like “Kill Sh*t” will be forever undefeated, Sessions exhibits a continued growing maturity and awareness of his powerful platform by delivering a message of unity many need to hear as we excitedly await PTSD.

John Wootton is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].