By 2015, having already become a regional veteran, G Herbo’s travels outside of Chicago and his comfort zone felt natural and necessary, eventually leading to work with Atlanta producers like 808 Mafia’s Southside and Metro Boomin. As the story goes, the former of the two literally had to force Herbo to make “Rollin,” an underground hit that unlocked a whole new audience of festival-goers for the rising star. Since then, scattered collabs, such as “100 Days, 100 Nights,” or “Eastside Story,” became the highlights of their respective tapes as the two artists continued to connect with increasing frequency.
Swervo marks the duo’s first official collaboration. It’s a melding of minds that sees each artist actively attempting to elevate the other’s craft. Southside, who is often a victim of his own work ethic, comes through with a versatile arrangement of beats. The most unique of which (“Swervo”; “FoReal”; “Huh”; “Letter”) sometimes readily fighting with G Herbo’s wordy delivery, tripping him up and forcing him to recalibrate. On “FoReal,” Herbo even teases, “Damn, Sizzle, it’s hard for me to rap on these raw ass beats,” before dropping the humble facade in order to take off like a Learjet. On that same song, Herbo eulogizes close friends Capo and Kobe, while simultaneously claiming that “Lil Herb” is back. It’s a pointed message for his core fans: Swervo doesn’t mark a new era, it marks the resurgence of his early hunger.
When Herbo is in his bag, his off-kilter assault is hard to disparage. “Bonjour” is one such clinic that runs through half a dozen flows, expertly utilizing a stream of conscious delivery to toy with the song’s pacing. Although the song is ostensibly about driving foreigns, the cynicism in Herbo’s voice as he delivers these final two lines is inescapable: “Long live that nigga Zack TV, heard he had a daughter/The police here ain’t solving murders, this ain’t Law & Order.”
Unlike his debut, Herbo’s content on Swervo is more compartmentalized; a majority of the tracks here are strictly meant for the young man to vent and talk his CEO boss shit. Where last year’s Humble Beast presented a stark look at survivor’s guilt, Swervo mainly attempts to represent the flipside – leaving Herbo free to finally revel in success. However, the album is at its most effective when the celebration is tempered by Herbo’s astute take on his own vices. On the anxious “Huh,” Herbo repurposes Juvenile’s classic flow in order to highlight his inability to let even the most mundane of disses roll off his shoulder. On “Letter,” a ballad dedicated to his newborn son, we get to hear the new father promise to break a cycle of physical discipline while also taking accountability for his persistent drug use.
Southside, a documented rapper in his own right, only shows up to fill out the hook for “Pac n Dre.” Had he been given more room to rap throughout the project, maybe Herbo’s lack of substance would’ve been less glaring. As it stands, this album plays more like a carefully constructed mixtape and less like G Herbo’s official sophomore effort. As a body of work, it is nowhere near as essential as Herbo’s debut or his stellar mixtapes Welcome 2 Fazoland and Ballin Like Kobe. At the very least, however, Swervo makes a case for the duo’s developing chemistry.