Mixtape Review: Lil Herb, Welcome to Fazoland

Chi-Town rapper shows star potential on his debut effort.

4star
Posted: 02/25/2014 10:45 AM EST

Much like his friend and frequent collaborator, Lil Bibby, Lil Herb exploded onto the "Chiraq" hip hop scene with a stentorian voice, heavy production and gritty wordplay, which has helped his still nascent career gain national attention.

But unlike Bibby, the 17-year-old from Chicago's Black P. Stone gang can speed up his flow while maintaining his gruff vocal stylings — which are like a mix between Meek Mill and Sticky Fingaz — with unbridled clarity. And although his raps mostly center around street tales, he does occasionally show different, more humanizing sides of himself that could certainly prove helpful to his success.

On his debut mixtape, the DJ Don Cannon-backed Welcome to Fazoland, Herb uses heavy bass, rapid fire snare and the occasional synth to accompany his stories of paranoia, drug dealing and constant danger that tend to consume his psyche.

Lil Herb gives the listener a visceral feel of the dangerous world he grew up in on songs like "Koolin'" (which featured Herb showing off his rapid flow), "4 Minutes of Hell Pt. 3" and the opening track "At the Light," on which he details his habitual caution with lines like, "I know n----s out for my life/Gotta look to my left and my right/I'll be damned if I get left at the light/Summer time, I remember them nights."

But the young MC shows vulnerability under that gruff voice on "Mamma Im Sorry," "Fight or Flight" and "Still F--ked Up," which would have made a great introductory track as it offers some notes on Herb's life growing up. "Let me introduce myself/It's G-Herbo, I'm that youngin' I be flexin/I love stuntin' cause I grinded up from nothin'/I grew up in a apartment with 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 with all the cars, and all the money," he spit.

As far as cameos, Lil Herb kept it mostly Chi-town exclusive and he surprisingly only features Lil Bibby on one song, "All I Got," on which the two go back and forth as they describe their priorities: themselves, their brethren and getting money.

Other features included King Louie, whose raucous flow on "Another Day" packs a punch as he and Herb send out a warning to adversaries; Chief Keef affiliate Lil Reese ("On My Soul"); and Lil Durk ("On The Corner").

But despite collaborating with some of the Windy City's all stars, Herb was never outdone on his own track. In fact, the tape did not really have any weak points, save for the repetitive subject matter and mostly similar — but dope — production.

Also like Lil Bibby, Herb is helping to do for his city what N.W.A did for Compton in the '80s: bringing awareness to what life is like in a city that has spent recent years as one of America's most dangerous places to live and adding layers of personality and vulnerability that are somewhat reminiscent of Tupac. From just the first official listen, it's known that the sky is the limit for Lil Herb.

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(Photo: Arrival Entertainment)

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