Train of Thought
G Herbo on “Outside Looking In”
Interview: Robby Seabrook III
Editor’s Note: This story will appear in the Winter 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
“A good kid raised in a world so tragic/Charm of his mama and the heart of his daddy/Got his whole life ahead of him, he smart and he ready/With a crown on his melon, but it’s hard and it’s heavy/He was young, under pressure, loved guns and aggressive/Too intelligent to be out actin’ dumb ’cause he special/ Went to jail at like 12, had his run-ins with oppressors/And he stayed in situations like he made it his profession/Born over East, so he grew up on the Eastside/Had family on the Southside and ’burbs, he lived three lives/He shy but charismatic, read stories in his free time/Had love for the savages way before he had his street ties/He was always labeled cool, he was always good in school/But he mastered bein’ devious, didn’t like to follow rules/Used to hang with older cousins, they was like his sisters, brothers/But he couldn’t act like the youngest, they ain’t cut him slack for nothin’/Doin’ things they did as teens, so at like 10, he started fuckin’/Wasn’t from a broken home, but it was hardly no discussion/He ain’t learn the birds and bees, only black stones with G’s/Family functions, all he seen was drinkin’ gin and smokin’ weed/He ain’t know they was misleadin’ him with all the shit they feedin’ him/Dependent, so he needed ’em, in a strange way, they breeded him/For a cold world and to be strong on his own, they gave him leadership/Set goals and had dreams, by any means, that he achievin’ ’em/He barely spoke of anything, ain’t think no one believed in him/He learned fast, circumstances turned him bad/Gained loyalty from his friends, sometimes he felt that’s all he had/It’s all good, they havin’ fun/Next year, they all dead, fucked up his head/Vicious now that he older, confident, he bolder/ Turnt into a soldier, hardly ever sober/Big chip on his shoulders, rap sheet like a folder/Could feel the walls closin’, he filled up with emotions/Still feel like he chosen, if they know him, call him golden/At that rap shit, he the coldest, but he don’t know how to open, shit/So don’t nobody know it, gotta find a way to show it/Thuggin’ hard and he can’t focus, this his chance and he can’t blow it/Too much pride to ride a wave, now all the stars won’t even notice him/But he know he him/Fastforward time, he on his grind, now they all over him/Now the niggas wanna be him, the ones that left, they comin’ again/Now everybody want him to win, they wanna get in/Said he ain’t gon’ never stop ’cause he locked in/And he gon’ make it to the top ’cause he locked in/His strong will and his mind, that’s his only friend/Shit ain’t easy, but it’s fine, stay strategic with his time/Felt like when he picked up five, he just dropped 10/Took his losses to the chin, but he like, ‘Not again’/Most the shit he ever lost in life, he got again/Open your eyes and see, that nigga was me”
“He was young, under pressure, loved guns and aggressive/Too intelligent to be out actin’ dumb ’cause he special.” When did you realize that you were too smart to behave the way you were?
I always knew I was special. It was just my environment. The circumstances that I was up against that made me make certain decisions. It was always hope for me. I knew that I was gon’ make something of myself.
“Wasn’t from a broken home, but it was hardly no discussion/He ain’t learn the birds and bees, only black stones with G’s/ Family functions, all he seen was drinkin’ gin and smokin’ weed/He ain’t know they was misleadin’ him with all the shit they feedin’ him.” Do you feel you were guided by what you were experiencing outside?
When I used to go visit my aunt house, all they really did was gangbang and sell drugs and shit. Don’t get me wrong, it was family vibes, but that’s what I was exposed to. At my grandmother house, she liked to gamble. Her crib was like a party spot, a gambling spot. They played cards all night. But when you a kid, they not really paying attention to us observing everything that’s going on around. Referring to the birds and bees, I never had those conversations with my parents growing up. It just happened naturally. I was exposed to that type of stuff early.
“Set goals and had dreams, by any means, that he achievin’ ’em/He barely spoke of anything, ain’t think no one believed in him.” Why did you feel like people didn’t believe in you?
I was ahead of my time. I was smart and people in my life that I looked up to, they looked at me as like, “That’s just lil Herbie, my lil cousin.” They didn’t take me serious when I would bring up rap. When I was going to my first studio sessions and stuff like that, I never used to let my family hear my music or nothing. I never really spoke of my dreams and aspirations ’cause I learned early on, if people don’t see it for themselves, they’ll never really see it for you. All these years later, I’m still trying to like build that connection with my family.
“Big chip on his shoulders, rap sheet like a folder/Could feel the walls closin’, he filled up with emotions/Still feel like he chosen, if they know him, call him golden.” How did you change your mindset to focus on rap, as opposed to the street stuff?
I disassociated myself with the streets and with the outside world. I wasn’t engaged with nothing other than chasing my dreams. I believe in God, so when I have those moments where I feel chills or I have those deep thoughts, my calling, my destiny. I believe in that type of stuff. I wanted to focus on solely being a rapper. I took a flying leap of faith and I really did it.
Buy the winter 2022 issue of XXL magazine on newsstands now or online at the XXL store.
Read G Herbo’s interview in the winter issue of XXL magazine, on newsstands now. Check out additional interviews in the magazine, including the cover story with Pusha T as well as conversations with Chance The Rapper, Ab-Soul, Freddie Gibbs, EST Gee, DaBaby, EST Gee, Murda Beatz, Morray, Ice Spice, Jeleel!, Armani White, Destroy Lonely, producer Dez Wright, singer Kiana Ledé, actor Shameik Moore, plus a look at hip-hop’s love for wrestling, a deep dive into how new artists get on in hip-hop these days, the ways in which women in rap succeeded in 2022, the rapper-run podcasts the game has grown to love and a tribute to rappers we lost in 2022.