A quarter-century is a milestone worth celebrating in any timeline, but for beloved Chicago MC G Herbo, age 25 hits different. “Where I come from, that's a big milestone for everybody,” he tells Apple Music. “A lot of my closest friends and family members didn't really see 25 years old. So it's bittersweet for me because I'm here: I'm at a point in my life where I reached my most success. And beating the system in a way where I'm not a statistic, I'm not in prison or my life wasn't cut short due to gun violence. We literally call n***as OGs when they turn 25 years old. So I want my music to reflect that, to reflect my headspace and the mode that I'm in.”
25 follows 2020’s PTSD, a project that stamped him as one of Chicago’s most impactful MCs and also one of the most revered voices in hip-hop. With 25, Herbo continues to build his legacy, reflecting on art and life in a way he hopes will draw him closer to some of his biggest inspirations. “I just feel like I got in this to go down as somebody that's legendary,” Herbo says. “One of the artists that will be remembered for generations to come, like a Nas, like a JAY-Z, like a Kiss, like DMX, like a Wayne, Fab—those are the people who I looked up to. I work hard enough to feel like I'm a star, but I feel like my ceiling is so much higher and I got so much further to go.” Below, the esteem-focused MC breaks down five tracks from 25 that show his range.
“I Don’t Wanna Die” “I'm a hip-hop artist, so my intro always got to feel like the hardest, one of the songs with the most substance of the whole project. And 'I Don't Wanna Die,' for me, is how I explain the album in a whole, just becoming 25 years old and just beating the streets. It's about me reflecting on the gun violence and the killing in my city—not only from my perspective, but from a mother's perspective, from a child's perspective. It's one of those records where I'm just going all the way in, there's no hook on it, I'm just letting all my feelings and emotions come out.”
“Cry No More” (feat. Polo G & Lil Tjay) "Polo and TJ, they my dogs, both of them my boys. And they was just really speaking on the trauma and the stuff that we endure every day, and not wanting to feel that way no more. [From] being in the streets, or this industry, or dealing with life in general—I feel like a lot of people can relate to it, because it's been a lot of change dealing with the pandemic and a lot of the stuff that's going on. A lot of the trauma that I endured was from street violence, but we just talking about life in general on that song.”
“T.O.P.” (feat. 21 Savage) “A lot of these records, the energy that you feel is because I'm actually connecting with these people. I'm connecting with the producers, I'm connecting with my peers, we all together in the studio when we getting all this stuff done. For 'T.O.P.' I was having fun in the studio with Hitmaka. It’s a record where I was letting my hair down in a sense. I always speak about my story and being in the streets, or what I deal with on a day-to-day basis, but I still have fun with my music, too.”
“You Can’t” (feat. The Kid LAROI & Gunna) “I was in the studio with Turbo and we was just vibing. We recorded a bunch of songs, and that was actually the last song that we did before we left. He just played the beat, and the s**t was so hard, I'm like, I'm about to just lay it right now. I didn't even really have no direction. I just got on the beat and started rapping. And that's why I come in first before the hook. And then LAROI, that's my little brother. He pulled up on me in the studio, and I just played that record like, 'Man, put a hook on this for me.' I feel like it's one of those 'indexing records' that's going to be on a bunch of playlists that I probably usually wouldn't be on.”
“Demands” “‘Demands’ is one of those records where I feel like it's going to cause a little controversy. I always wanted to be known as a conscious rapper since I started. I came out doing music in the drill era, and I never really wanted to be known as that kind of artist. I’m talking about bringing change and shedding light on the situation by saying, 'Hey, this is what I feel we need to do to make a difference, and to put ourselves in a better position.' I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. I’m holding us accountable as a people as well.”