One Man Show: Lil Herb Preps ‘Ballin’ Like I’m Kobe’ With A New Sense Of Self

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No matter where he is, Lil Herb is focused. Even as he walks backstage with his manager/DJ after performing his set dapping people up, hugging the girls, kicking it with fellow Chicagoan, Vic Mensa, and politicking with Brooklynites as everyone else backstage rolls paper planes, his priority is elevating his craft and performing real-life raps.

Lil Herb’s lit performance at the Red Bull Sound Select show on Monday night (Aug. 10) proved to be a sentimental night for the Chi-Town spitter. His late friend, Jacoby “Kobe” Herron, who inspired the name of his upcoming project, Ballin’ Like I’m Kobe, was a victim of gun violence in 2013. G-Herbo’s Brooklyn show marked the two-year anniversary of Jacoby’s passing. At 19, Herb’s among a rising crop of Chicago talent alongside Lil Durk, Lil Bibby, Tink, King Louie, and Chance The Rapper (all of whom he collaborated with). Since his critically acclaimed debut mixtape, Welcome To Fazoland and the follow-up, The Pistol P Project, dropped in 2014, all eyes have been on him in the streets and the industry. Now, G-Herbo (real name Herbert Wright) plans on shocking the system as a pound-for-pound lyricist with Ballin’.

“I want [this tape] to solidify [my place]. Like, ‘He ain’t f**kin around, can’t nobody f**k with him,'” he told VIBE backstage.

G-Herbo also shared his thoughts on the universal struggle, the Meek Mill and Drake beef, and what he would change in Chicago. Meet the more mature Herb below.—Mark Braboy (@DRD_Poetry17)

VIBE: How long have you been affiliated with Roc Block?
Lil Herb: That’s where I was raised, that’s my hood. It was Roc Block recently. We named it Roc Block after my homie [named Roc] got killed. That was my mans already so we just grew up together in the neighborhood.

It’s known as Terror Town right?
Yeah, but we was just little shorties running through that b*tch. We wasn’t really claiming it.

How did the passing of your friend, Jacoby, influence Ballin Like I’m Kobe?
It influenced the tape just off the simple fact that Jacoby is my home. That was my mans for 10 years. We known each other since we was shorties and he died during the process of me making my first tape, Welcome to Fazoland. So that was really just the whole thing and that influence me to just start naming my projects after my homies ’cause I just cherish life. You could be here one second and be gone the next. I was with Jacoby before he died, like five minutes before he died. That’s my homie. It was just the love I got for him will keep his name alive and that’s what influenced the whole thing.

READ: Review: Vince Staples & Lil Herb Offer A Break From The Ills Of The World At Red Bull Sound Select

What are the differences between Welcome To Fazoland and Ballin Like I’m Kobe as far as tone?
It’s pretty much… I don’t wanna say it’s the same, but it’s the same. I wouldn’t even say it’s the same me. Ballin Like I’m Kobe is just a transition. The transition of me from Welcome to Fazoland, the man I became. How I mature and what I’m going through now and the situations I been through since then. Within those two years, a lot of sh*t has happened and that’s really why I wanted to do Ballin Like I’m Kobe. I’m talking about, in Fazoland, my life, what I been through, my struggles. Now I’m talking about my struggle of me doing something with my life, like how I’m doing something with myself and just heading in the right path, trying to do something with my life and my career. It’s still sh*t that comes your way in the midst of that and I’m really just talking about that from a real perspective. I like to talk about my life and what I’m going through and what I’m feeling so it’s really my life as of right now. That’s what Ballin Like I’m Kobe gon’ be about.

What features do you have on the tape?
Pretty much just Bibby. I’m on my own sh*t bro. I ain’t reaching out for no features. I’mma f**k with Durk, I’mma f**k with my homie Reese, Fredo, niggas who I f**k with, who I got genuine relationships with. I’mma f**k with my man’s [King] Louie. That’s pretty much it.

Describe the transition in your life between those two mixtapes, especially since your profile has been increasing.
Really, that main thing is to stay humble and to keep yourself grounded. I got a name for myself because I did something to solidify my career. But it’s just any second of how I’m living could cost me my life, my career, anything, bro. So I just gotta move carefully and meticulously. That’s really just the whole transition. I done seen a lot and seen a lot of sh*t that makes me not want to go back to the life I’ve lived before. So it’s just really me trying to stay on the right path to do what’s best for me and my family. I matured as a man some more.

Is that why you left Chicago?
I left Chicago because I’m not perfecting my craft there. It’s a lot of sh*t that distract you. I feel like until I be in Chicago and not let what’s going on Chicago affect me, I don’t need to be there.

It’s struggle no matter who you are, where you from, everybody got their own struggle and that’s just what I try to speak on.

Chief Keef can’t perform anywhere in Chicago because of his legal situation and for years, drill rappers have had a hard time getting shows there because of the negative stigma. How have you as an individual been able to overcome it?
I’ve been able to overcome it because I don’t put myself in those type of categories. I got my ties and I am who I am but I’m an artist and I’mma perfect my craft. I take my craft seriously so I’m not taking the streets or none of that bullsh*t more serious than I take my craft. So, performing and sh*t, that’s what I like to do. I enjoy performing, I enjoy being an artist. And that’s what I want to do and that’s how I portray myself. I know how to give those people faith. It’s not like I put on an act or anything for ‘em. I just know how to behave myself and I know how to keep myself out of harm’s way and keep that bullsh*t off my name—that’s just how I maintain.

I f*ck with Sosa. Since Sosa been gone, he ain’t been in none of that sh*t, like he ain’t been in no trouble or nothing, so I can’t see why he can’t perform in Chicago. It’s just the type of bullsh*t. When you portray that type of picture, that’s just people wanting to follow the negativity, no matter if you doing something positive or not. All they remember is that negative sh*t.

Which artists influence your writing?
Jay Z, Jadakiss, Styles P, Gucci [Mane], [Yo] Gotti and n***as like that who spit real sh*t. It’s not even like coming up. I wasn’t big on hip-hop, bro, I didn’t always want to be a rapper. I was playing basketball and I just so happened to be in the streets and I knew how to rap and I had rap culture in me, but I just started to take it seriously. It’s just the way I think. It’s not that I try to rap like those guys on purpose. It’s just when I started rapping, it was so much going on in my life that it’s all I could think about. I wasn’t thinking about just rap music, shoot ‘em up, boom boom sh*t. I was thinking about my life and what I’m going through. Real sh*t, I was 15, 16, living the life of a 30-year-old. That’s a lot to be on a 16-year-old’s mind and all that. That’s really what inspired me to write and what I speak on the sh*t I spoke on. It’s just my lifestyle that I had growing up. I didn’t have an average 15, 16, 17-year-old lifestyle. That’s pretty much it.

Your music connects with a lot of people.
It feel good. That’s why I do it, bro. I try to connect with people who could feel my same struggle, bro. I relate to artists right now like Meek Mill and Future. I feel that sh*t, bro. That’s the type of sh*t I been through or can relate to or know people who’s going through this type of sh*t. So why I spit the type of sh*t I spit because I’m not the only person who grew up how I grew up. It’s really just to touch different type of people from wherever culture. From the United States, the world, wherever, bro, because it’s struggle no matter who you are, where you from, everybody got their own struggle and that’s just what I try to speak on. Just the good, the bad, the ugly, all that. I try to be well-rounded. I do drill sh*t with my eyes closed. I can do turn-up sh*t and that soulful sh*t. That’s what I like the most ’cause that’s my life. I be in the house or in the car riding and I think about my life or just anything, bro. Just my life or anything I been through or what I want to go through or what I want to see. And that inspires me, like I have goals and dreams for myself so that’s what inspires me to rap.

READ: A Conversation With Chicago’s Lil Herb About His New Music, Dipset And Dream Collabo

Speaking of Meek, what are your thoughts on his situation with Drake?
It is what it is. I f*ck with Meek heavy. Like I said, I relate to Meek all day long. I f*ck with Drake heavy. Drake co-signed my career damn near. Well, I wouldn’t say co-signed, but he shouted me out and showed me love. I fuck with both of ‘em, I don’t really feel too much on it. I don’t know really who’s in the right or who’s in the wrong. I f*ck with both of them.

From one Chicagoan to another, I know that you get a lot of questions about the violence in Chicago. There’s a lot of media attention that’s constantly surrounding the city. Do you think the portrayal is accurate?
I speak on that a lot and on one of my songs, I said, “Why the cops hot on our block? Man, there’s violence everywhere.” Everywhere you go, like I said, people go through a struggle. I ain’t gon lie Chicago is a lot more violent than a lot of other places. It’s nowhere like Chicago, bro. I done seen the world and other places. I done been to other hoods. No hood reminds me of Chicago or my hood so maybe that’s why. A lot of people killing and don’t nobody know why. Like, a lot of sh*t in the world be over money, power, and territory. None of that is over. Now, people killing for no reason, for “he say, she say” stuff. And that’s why Chicago got a spotlight on it, because it’s sh*t people never seen before. It’s like Chicago got a murder rate higher that Iraq? But why?

From your perspective, what’s so different about the hoods in Chicago compared to a hood in say, Newark, Harlem or Brooklyn?
I feel like hoods like Brooklyn and Harlem, it’s more structure, bro. If you from Brooklyn or Harlem, you gon’ take up for Brooklyn’s name or Harlem’s name. If a mothaf**ka talk down on Brooklyn or Harlem and you from there, you gon’ say something. If a mothaf**ka talk down on Chicago, don’t nobody give a f**k, they care about their hood. You can’t talk about that person’s hood but you can say, “F**k Chicago.” And that’s f**ked up, that’s backwards. I don’t see why people don’t get that. Chicago is a hateful city. Ain’t no unity. So that’s why it’s like that, that’s why Chicago’s not like nowhere else and I feel like that’s why certain hoods not like nowhere else because it’s not no unity in Chicago. That’s certain people is so loyal to certain areas, because ain’t no love for them nowhere else and that’s just how that is.

If you could change or make one situation better in Chicago, whether it’s the government or the streets, what would it be?
I just would make a change in the streets, bro. Just unity. If Chicago can come together, we’ll be so f**kin’ powerful. I been put my pride to the side. I ain’t never had no rap beef so I don’t got no problem working with all types of artists from Chicago if it makes sense. Chicago got the most talent to me, the most originality. We got our own style, we got our own slide, like ain’t no n***as like Chicago n***as. So if we can come together and use that as a weapon, bro, ain’t nobody gon be able to f**k with Chicago. Chicago has always had more than one type of style, whether it’s house music, or Twista and Common’s era, or Kanye and Lupe’s era, and now the Drill era. It’s just nobody support one another. So if we just support one another, Chicago will be good.

Tags: Lil Herb