G Herbo Credit: Haley Scott

I wish the right-wing miscreants in the federal government were as dependable as Chicago rapper G Herbo. For close to a decade, he’s released albums and mixtapes of rapid-fire drill with reassuring frequency, and even his most run-of-the-mill offerings benefit from his pragmatic empathy and lucid descriptions—he brings a distinctive emotional gravity to his detailed lyrics about the harshness of the city’s impoverished Black enclaves. Born Herbert Wright, Herbo grew up in a part of South Shore so besieged by violence it became known as Terror Town, and in his music he captures both the up-close-and-personal feeling of mortal fear and a large-scale view of the structural inequality that created the circumstances of his life. That baked-in injustice continues to affect him: ever since his arrest for aggravated unlawful use of a loaded weapon in February 2018, for instance, Herbo has had to deal with local venues canceling his shows. But he’s also used his prominent position to benefit those in need—most notably, as he explained in his episode of the TRiiBE’s Block Beat series in September 2018, he’s part of the team that bought Anthony Overton Elementary School (which Rahm Emanuel closed in 2013) to turn it into a hub for job training and youth afterschool programs. On the February album PTSD (Epic/Machine Entertainment Group), Herbo contemplates the lasting effects of growing up in a community where violence took so many of his friends—it may not be literally around the corner for him today, but it’s still playing out in his life, even now that he’s a genuine star (PTSD debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200). He fills his raps to overflowing with anxiety, grief, and compassion, and he delivers his lines with enough force to convince you he can overcome anything. On tracks such as “Gangbangin,” “Lawyer Fees” (featuring Polo G), and “PTSD” (with Juice Wrld, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Uzi Vert), Herbo transmutes his trauma into euphoria without dismissing or oversimplifying the profound emotions that inspire his music.   v