G Herbo
G Herbo Credit: Jenna Marsh

Chicago rapper Herbert Wright III, better known as G Herbo, has become the kind of public figure whose smallest social media movement is fodder for the content mill. When Herb’s girlfriend, Taina Williams, recently blocked him on Instagram, the nonevent inspired blog posts at Complex, HotNewHipHop, and Bossip. Thankfully, whatever strains and pressures come with this level of celebrity don’t seem to have impacted Herb’s music. On his latest album, 25 (Machine Entertainment Group/Republic), he’s still doing what launched him to fame in the first place: dispensing vivid, complex verses about growing up in a neighborhood beset by gun violence that also express deep empathy for survivors, victims, and bystanders. His lived experience gives him the perspective to do that with a great deal more care than outsiders who use Chicago shooting statistics to defend the status quo while neglecting neighborhoods in need. (He addresses the harm done to communities of color by inequities in tangible resources on “Demands.”) One of Herb’s gifts is his ability to open up a world in just a few seconds. I’ve been thinking a lot about two solemn lines from an interlude on “Cold World”: “I ain’t know the world was cold when saw a murder at nine / Still thought I was fine, no wonder I play with cap guns all the time.” He reflects on his own trauma gingerly while implying his gratitude for the support network he’s built to provide a better life for his children. And he does it with his love for Chicago on his sleeve: you can hear it not just in the brazen drill beats that power much of his music but also in the hiccuping percussion on “Cold World,” which anyone who’s felt the bass rattle their rib cage at a footwork battle knows intimately.  v