G Herbo is a Chicago based, drill rapper whose hard hitting flow and impressive lyrical abilities have allowed him to rise to the top of a dilapidated sub-genre as the only significant mainstream export from the Chicago drill-rap scene since the likes of Chief Keef and Lil Durk in the early 2010’s. His discography includes four excellent mixtapes and a solid studio LP, all of which precede this, his sixth release.
Swervo may seem to be, at first glance, just a collection of fourteen trap-bangers, some better than others, featuring a few of the better known, young trap stars of the past few years, but upon a closer listen one will notice that Herbo’s newest record, a collaboration with producer Southside, is one of the most diverse and unique albums that the genre has to offer.
The bangers are far from missing, however, as tracks like “That’s How I Grew Up,” and “Bonjour,” very much follow this mold, checking off the list of heavy bass, trap-drums, repetitive choruses, and braggadocios lyricism. Further, the title track and the opener, “Some Nights,” borrow a few of these tropes as well, with the latter featuring one of the hardest verses I’ve heard in a very long time.
Southside’s production is also tip-top throughout, his famous work ethic leading to an extremely competent and consistent product. Tracks like “Huh,” and “Focused” benefit from Southside’s work tremendously with very unique and thoughtful beats setting their foundations.
Feature wise, this album is much better than one may have expected. Their are only four features on the project, and each of them really make the track their own and stand out well. 21 Savage gives, perhaps, his first ever good performance, while Juice WRLD creates an almost Post Malone-esque, auto-croon banger that is one of my favorite tracks on the whole project. Chief Keef’s contribution is all but negligible, but his presence on the album grants more name recognition and gravitas. The only truly bad feature comes from Young Thug on “100 Sticks,” where he seemed to decide that he should just make odd, dog-like noises in the background throughout the entire song.
This brings us, naturally, to the weak spots on Swervo, and there are a few. “Tweakin,” and “Pac n Dre,” focus, almost exclusively, on acts of oral sex and thus grow tiring very quickly. In addition, the “Who Run It” remix serves as a terrible finish to an otherwise admirable record. Then, there’s the use of the classic, drill-rap trope of multiple voices talking all at once, a style which I never cared for, and which certainly doesn’t help establish a more solid tone on this album.
But any issue there is to be taken with Swervo will be blasted away with G Herbo’s incredible performance on this album. His lyricism is tight, his flow is brutal, his hooks are singable, and he’s somehow able to perfectly capture the aesthetic of the drill-rap scene, long after its sell by date.
He shines especially bright on “Letter,” in which he makes a list of very candid and vulnerable wishes to be a better man for his forthcoming child. He speaks to the horrible violence and dangerous world he grew up in, and his desire to protect his child from the same fate, all while writing smoothly and naturally.
All in all, Swervo is an impressive project, and will likely lead Herbo further down his path to mainstream acclaim. The bangers are exciting, the heartfelt moments are surprising, and everything in between is performed with heart. With the relative death of the Chicago trap scene, which produced gems like Signed to the Streets 2 and Cursed With a Blessing, it is refreshing to hear that the style may not have breathed its final breath.
The album is by no means perfect, but it is certainly worth a listen for rap fans, if for no other reason than to keep up with one of the hottest acts coming out of the underground today.