G Herbo Stumbles on Third Studio Album

While Still Swervin’ features more than its fair share of strong moments, it’s G Herbo’s weakest effort to date and the first to sound like he just didn’t try.

G Herbo is a rapper and producer from Chicago, Illinois. He debuted in 2014 with the Welcome to Fazoland and Pistol P Project mixtapes. He quickly became a key part of the later years of the Chicago drill movement, long after the successes of genre staples like Chief Keef and Lil Durk. Nevertheless, he found substantial success and eventually found his way onto charts and released his first LP, Humble Beast in 2017. Shortly after, he signed with 808 Mafia and released his sophomore record, Swervo, which received mild acclaim from critics, including this website.

His success hinges on a few things but none more than his flow. His style is hard-hitting and violent, perfectly in line with the sound that put drill rap on the map. He also writes with quite a bit of raw passion, refusing to turn away from the harsh realities of life in downtown Chicago. His rough voice plays well against the classically hectic instrumentals of trap music and makes for a tight package that is extremely enjoyable for fans of his style of music. He doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel, but he does what he does very well. He aims to continue that style with Still Swervin’ which is his most mixed effort to date.

Much of what we’ve come to appreciate from Herbo is here on the record. His flow is hard hitting on tracks like the opener, “Sacrifice,” and “Do Yo Sh!t.” Several tracks, including these two, have no chorus or hook and instead consist of one long verse from Herbo that feels almost like a freestyle. While the flows can often feel repetitive, they hit hard enough to keep a listener entertained.

His lyrics are fairly impressive on more than a few occasions as well. Tracks like “Yerk 30,” and “Wilt Chamberlin” are some of the best on the project because of Herbo’s braggadocios lyricism and creative imagery. He’s at his best when he’s writing about his money and street cred, though his rare attempt at telling a more vulnerable story on the closer, “Hood Cycle,” feels surprisingly genuine.

The few features that do appear on the record run the gamut from the fantastic work of Pretty Savage on the album’s best track, “Bug,” and the very funny “Shakey Skit,” to the sleepy performances from Gunna on “Trained to Kill,” or Juice WRLD on “Never Scared,” both of which suck the life out of otherwise enjoyable tracks. Aside from Pretty Savage, however, none of the features feel necessary or even helpful, especially since Herbo has such a dynamic voice as he shows on tracks like “Ok.”

This is still more than I can say for the production, however. Nearly every instrumental on the album is either boring or unlistenable. The manic energy of old school drill rap is gone in favor of nothing beats like “Up It,” and “Visionary.” Virtually the entire album is drenched in uninventive trap cymbals and the occasional accent which is generally abrasively mixed and completely out of place.

The worst quality of the record, however, and one that plagues the entirety of the nearly 50 minute runtime, is G Herbo’s inability to stay on beat. It’s especially bad in the first half, with tracks like “Scratchy & Itchy,” and “Bought a Tool,” sounding as if the vocals were recorded totally separately and just layered over the existing beat. Not to be outdone, however, the latter half contains “Boww,” which is easily one of the worst rap songs I’ve heard in many years and the worst on the album by a mile.

The album is an odd outing for Herbo and disappointing to say the least. With a solid debut and an even better sophomore effort under his belt, this record would’ve been the perfect opportunity for his sound to pierce the mainstream bubble. Unfortunately, even its best moments are pulled down by structural problems like weak instrumentals and off-beat rapping that are so severe that the LP never does quite find its footing.

While Still Swervin’ features more than its fair share of strong moments, it’s G Herbo’s weakest effort to date and the first to sound like he just didn’t try.

3/10

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Montana of 300 Finally Realizes His Potential

A Gun In The Teacher’s Desk is a return to form for one of drill’s most promising early artists which keeps many of the qualities that drill fans have come to love, while improving on the genre’s faults in a mature and creative way.

     Montana of 300 is a drill rapper from Chicago. He built a name for himself with several mixtape releases on the popular streaming service, Spinrilla, but his debut LP came in 2014 with Cursed With a Blessing. The album was one of the best of the year, sporting better instrumentals than most of his counterparts and elevated highly by Montana’s hard-hitting flow and daring lyricism. Nevertheless, the LP was seemingly lost in the sea of drill releases coming out of Chicago at the time and he became something of a second tier drill star, lacking the crossover name recognition of artists like Lil Durk and Chief Kief.  Since then, he’s dropped four albums, beginning with 2015’s Gunz n Roses, which was widely criticized for sanding off the rough edges of the drill sound to find a wider audience.

   This was a shame because Montana’s sound on Cursed was the perfect, distilled essence of what made drill what it was. He wrote boldly and delivered his lyrics with an explosive flow. All this over hectic tracks which, while they did abuse the electronic cymbals, weren’t infected with the bass heavy mixing style of trap. Gunz n’ Roses was a major turnoff for me as a fan, adding rock instrumentation poorly and watering down his writing. Thankfully, A Gun In The Teacher’s Desk is something of a return to form.

   The truer drill influences are clear from the first moments of the opener, “Favorite Teacher,” as well as the later track, “Art Class.” Here, the abrasive instrumentals and lo-fi production are perfect throwbacks to the golden days of Chicago rap, which has now been mostly taken over by trap beats. The latter even features a few excellent drop outs, a veritable staple of the genre, which are timed very well.

   The flows on this album are absolutely bombastic. “Been A Beast,” follows the opener and simply refuses to quit. “Good Luck,” is another excellent example of 300’s strong flow. Both see him dropping one meaningful bar after another and dance over the beat with an unpredictable rhyme schemes. Over the tinnie instrumentals, these vocal performance drive each track along, as not one drags, even for a moment.

   Beyond the flow, he also seems to have quite the affinity for writing hooks. “Long Way,” is perhaps the most obvious example of this, sporting an excellent, autotuned hook, but “What’s Wrong With Me,” slips comfortably into the latter half of the track list despite a catchy chorus, good message, and well-sampled guitar.

   Above all, though, it’s the lyricism that sets Montana of 300 apart from his drill counterparts, as it always has. The fantastic closer, “Bloodsport,” showcases his ability to address serious topics like his mother’s drug addiction, his desire to leave his dangerous neighborhood, and one of his favorite topics, organized religion. The latter is particularly unique within the genre.

   There are two underwhelming cuts on this project as well. “FGE Cypher Pt. 8,” while fun, certainly doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. In addition, none of the features live up to the standard which Montana set’s throughout the rest of the record and several lean on an overdone, triplet flow, causing the track to fall a bit flat.

   The only truly bad song on the album is “Dip-N-Sauce.” This is the only cut that I likely won’t revisit again after this review as the strange flute melody and annoying reggae influences feel like a strange entry from the depths of left field. It’s also, mercifully, the shortest song on the album and as a function it feels a bit underdeveloped. 

   I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a few general, structural complaints about A Gun In The Teacher’s Desk, but I can overlook most all of them for two reasons. Firstly, this album does a lot of things, namely pacing, cohesiveness, lyricism, and production, which are generally considered absent from the drill genre as a whole. Each song clocks in between four and five minutes and that runtime is used well to develop ideas and write full choruses. This is incredibly rare in one of rap’s most anarchic subgenres. The second of these is quite simple:

   A Gun In The Teacher’s Desk is a return to form for one of drill’s most promising early artists which keeps many of the qualities that drill fans have come to love, while improving on the genre’s faults in a mature and creative way.

6/10

HEAR A GUN IN THE TEACHER’S DESKhttps://open.spotify.com/album/2o5kWHEh53gIQZwZxKDfqr