Lil Herb is one of Chicago’s brightest young students in the art of Hip Hop. Herb has been a fixture on the underground scene for quite some time, but it was Drake’s co-sign that thrust the East Side native into mainstream spotlight.
Drake regarded Herb and partner-in-crime Lil Bibby as the “future.” Durk even recored himself rapping Herb’s “Kill S---.”
It was very debatable whether Herb deserved this distinction without ever putting out a mixtape, so of course, I had my doubts.
There was no doubt about Herb’s reputation as a nice rhymer. But a true artist tells a story. An even truer artist can put out a total catalog of new music and stick to a specific theme and draw listeners in to his life.
An artist has free range with a mixtape because there are essentially no rules. But Herb broke the “no rules” clause with debut mixtape “Welcome To Fazoland.”
Artists are usually prone to prove themselves with their debut album. Herb bypassed this and made believers out of nonbelievers with his Fazoland project.
Herb took his time to give listeners a complete project with his debut mixtape. Herb’s “Welcome To Fazoland” project was a perfect blend of everything one could expect from a classic Hip Hop project. Herb essentially recorded an album. It had an LP feel.
It took us awhile to fully gauge this project. But of course, it’s not often KollegeKidd designates a project as a “classic.”
The NLMB native stated prior to his mixtape’s release that greatness couldn’t be rushed.
Herb’s drop date had special significance as it commemorated the birthday of slain friend Fazion Robinson.
Robinson was murdered on April 12, 2010 in an alleged gang-related shooting. He was 18.
Friends formed “Fazoland” in his honor.
Herb didn’t let Fazo, his neighborhood, family, friends or Chicago down with his mixtape.
Herb’s stories were poetry. He captivated his listeners with vivid tales of Chicago’s streets. The mixtape was a lyrical SOS for the people of the city’s urban community.
Herb was an anchor reporting live from ground zero the socioeconomic conditions plaguing the streets of a city now known as “Chiraq.”
There’s no need to skip a track on this tape. Herb got straight business in “At The Light.”
Herb talks hatred and the crabs in the barrel mentality in his hometown, rapping, “And man it’s crazy, that I ain’t even made it, but these n****s hate me/And I’m patient cause I’m still in first place, but I ain’t even racing.”
This hate has Lil Herb fearing for his life as he raps in the song’s hook, “I know n****s out for my life/Gotta look to my left and my right/I’ll be damned I get left at the light/Summertime, I remember them nights.”
Herb is “Koolin” on the block, observing the violence that takes place.
“Why the cops hot on our block,” he asks. “Man, there’s violence everywhere.”
Herb says death can bring pain to family and friends, rapping, “Hollows flying, mommas cryin/There’s homies sighin over there.”
Herb briefly touches on the hood’s “no snitchin” policy, rapping, “Man down, blew his top, then walk around like “Who was shot?”/And we not talking to the cops, so we don’t know what’s true or not.”
One of Herb’s strongest decisions in production selection was his inclusion of soul. Herb’s artistry shined on these tracks. Herb’s “Flight or Fight” is one such track where soul was incorporated.
Herb details the plight of young African American males in this single and touches on poverty, violence and racial discrimination.
He raps, “Cause I don’t come from Hollywood or Beverly Hills/I’m from where mothers don’t care and babies get killed/Where you gotta rob and go steal for stomachs to fill/And it’s hard for a young, black n*gga like myself/Where the police compare oneself with everybody else/So that means if you yourself they think you’re everybody else.”
In Chiraq, according to Herb, everyone is “just fighting to survive.” Herb is disturbed by the lack of peace in the streets, rapping, “It’s a shame I gotta ride with this nina on my side.”
Herb’s tape includes part three of his “4 Minutes Of Hell” series. Herb probes urban Chicago’s socioeconomic conditions in four minutes.
One of the most telling lyrics in this track was Herb’s revelation for his involvement in Chicago’s treacherous streets.
He raps, “We knew the price if we gon live this life/But we like so what/Cause no one gon make a way for none of us to come up/But I’m tryna make a way for every one of us come up.”
Herb tapped Lil Durk and KD Young Cocky for single “On The Corner.” Street hustlers around the nation can relate to this track.
The allure of money and the camaraderie amongst his crew draws Herb to the corner. But the corner is trouble.
Durk’s view of the corner is nightmarish as he raps, “And I lost them n*gas to that corner/Jack boys tryna sneak on that corner/Hell, nah, we ain’t going like that/Shootouts, every night we strapped/Police clear us up, we right back/Send shots, we send them right back.”
Herb knows his decision to leave the porch and venture off into the streets has brought his momma grief.
Herb’s single “Mama I’m Sorry” is an open letter to his OG. This track has a feel similar to Lil Boosie’s “Mama I’m Sorry.”
Herb apologizes for his actions and expresses his plans to show his gratitude for everything she’s done for him.
Herb raps, “First off, I’m still sorry for the stuff that I did/All the lying and back talking sh*t I did as a kid/I was bangin when you told me not/Hustlin when you told me stop/And all the stupid sh*t I did/The love you gave me never stopped/You always came through for me/Not one thing you wouldn’t do for me.”
Herb linked with Lil Reese for “On My Soul.” Herb and Reese boast their street clout on this track.
Herb raps, “On my soul in the field, remember plain nights/Totin’ pipes, trappin sellin white tryna get it right/Came straight from the block now I’m on the mic/Cockroaches all in the trap, used to spend the night.”
Reese’s bars and clever hook shined on this track. Reese took aim at has-been rappers, rapping, “You’s a woulda, shoulda, coulda n----/Okay yo clique a buncha, woulda, shoulda, coulda n----- (Fufu).”
Hip Hop has long had a fixation on materialistic items. Herb’s tape wouldn’t be complete if he didn’t rhyme about “Designer.”
Lil Herb is fond of Italian fashion, rapping, “This Gucci, this Louie, these Fendi, these Robin, Givenchy, and Truey fits/ That Prada, Versace, Bali, and Armani, what am I gon’ do wit it? All these 100s, these 50s, these 20s add up til I count me a million.”
It was a drill in song “Another Day.” But the track wouldn’t be a complete drill if King Louie were not involved.
Herb is sinister in this track, rapping, “Pump a n***a, I’ll slump a n***a/And I been shot at by a bunch a n***as/But I’ll still never run from a n***a/Catch a n***a hollows flyin for dem n***s/50 hit every last one of n****s/Got some old heads that’ll slump a n***a/But you still can get killed by my younger n***s.”
King Louie gets straight to business doing what he is known for, rapping, “If I want him gone, I’ll put money on em/AKs wit them hunnids in em/Let em up, bring out the runner in em.”
My favorite single on this tape is “Still F*cked Up.” Herb’s production on this track is again infused with soulful vocals.
Lil Herb tells listeners a story on his humble beginnings and aspirations to get rich. Despite realizing his dreams, he acknowledges it is still a jungle in Chiraq.
This deeply introspective track has Herb rapping, “I be flexin’, I love stuntin/Cause I grinded up from nothing/I grew up in an apartment/Wit’ my grandma and my mother/And my sister and my auntie/So my cousins like my brothers/Used to stay up in that basement/It was dark just like the dungeon/Close my eyes, pretend I’m rich/Wit’ all the cars and all the money/Now I let my money talk.”
Herb’s “All My N*ggas” is an ode to N.L.M.B. Herb puts on for fallen friends and incarcerated brethren, rapping, “Ball my n*ggas, seem like I lost all my n*ggas/R.I.P. Lil Roc, Vito, Fazo can’t believe y’all gone my n*gga/And its real f*cked up how it’s good one day, next day go wrong my n*gga/But I gotta stay strong my n----/So I wrote this song my n*gga.”
Herb again remembers lost friends in “Write Your Name.” The title of this single has special meaning for Herb as he knows his fallen friends are in Heaven. Herb looks to the Sky and sees the names of friends Vito, Chico, Fazo and Lil Roc.
Herb reunited with right hand man Lil Bibby for “All I Got.” This song is again an ode to N.L.M.B., an acronym for “Never Leave My Brothers.”
Herb shed light on his neighborhood during an interview with XXL.
“We from 79th and Essex “Roc Block” named after my brother Roc (RIP). That’s where we all grew up,” Herb said. “The neighborhood really called Terror Town, but we roc block 79th and Essex N.L.M.B. Never Leave My Brothers.”
Lil Bibby handle this track’s hook, rapping, “Goin hard for my n*ggas, that’s all I got/Man whatever mine is yours, that’s all I got/And all I know is the hood, that’s all I got/That’s on everything I love that’s all I got/No, I don’t play about my mom, she al I got/Yes, I will you about me brothers, they all I got.
Herb carries this energy into his verse, rapping, “No, I won’t never leave my brothers they all I got/S---’ll never be the same/Seen my 10-year n*gga Kobe die right before my eyes/And I miss my bro, so I’m rollin u swishers and I’m pourin up a 4 right now.”
What can be appreciated from Herb in this tape is his use of Hip Hop to anchor himself as a representative for the Chicago’s young urban community.
Chicago was named the murder capital in the U.S. in 2012 and 2013. The souls of the Chicago’s lost ones have gone unnoticed until the city’s Hip Hop scene broke through the spotlight.
Herb is refreshing for Hip Hop. The industry is moving Hip Hop away from the streets and toward a “back pack” era.
Herb and the rest of Chicago Hip Hop is keeping Hip Hop right where it belongs- the streets.
Herb is a modern day Nas and “Welcome To Fazoland” is his “Illmatic.” The scary thing about the 17-year-old spitter is he can only get better from this point on. But that’s only if he stays true to himself and the art form. A lot of artists get sidetrack through the fame and knock themselves out of the race.
I’m excited to hear more records from this teen MC. Herb will definitely be a problem in the industry and Hip Hop.
Lil Herb Crafts Classic In ‘Welcome To Fazoland’ Mixtape
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