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G Herbo Talks 'PTSD' And The Importance Of Mental Health: "People Need To Treat Mental Health More Seriously"

G Herbo

Courtesy Photo: Haley Scott

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G Herbo Talks 'PTSD' And The Importance Of Mental Health: "People Need To Treat Mental Health More Seriously"

The Chicago rapper chats about how he's using his newest album and his platform to de-stigmatize mental health and demystify the commonly misunderstood mental disorder

GRAMMYs/Jul 24, 2020 - 05:00 pm

On the title track to his newest album, PTSD, Chicago rapper G Herbo enlists his hometown's hip-hop heroes, Chance The Rapper and the late Juice WRLD. (Philadelphia's Lil Uzi Vert is the track's lone guest not hailing from the Windy City.) 

On paper, "PTSD" creates the impression of a heavy-hitting anthem: four of the genre's biggest artists coming together like the rap game's The Avengers. Instead, the song offers an intimate look into the minds and vulnerabilities behind hip-hop's new generation. 

G Herbo raps about the friends he's lost to Chicago's extreme gun violence. Chance talks about how he and his mother avoided talking about the social issues plaguing his community. Lil Uzi sing-raps about the paranoia-induced "war zone laying inside my head." 

Juice WLRD's emotionally charged chorus encapsulates the song's overarching theme: "I got a war zone on inside of my head / I made it on my own, they said I'd be in jail or dead / I've seen my brothers fall over and over again / Don't stand too close to me, I got PTSD."

As the album's poignant centerpiece, the track embodies G Herbo's mission to de-stigmatize mental health and demystify the commonly misunderstood mental disorder, clinically known as post-traumatic stress disorder, across PTSD.

Originally released in February, PTSD is inspired by G Herbo's personal experience with the mental health condition—he was clinically diagnosed with PTSD in 2019—and the therapy treatment he sought to address it. Following a gun-related arrest in 2018, he agreed to enter therapy based on the suggestion of his lawyer. He'd never attended therapy before and, admittedly, he didn't know much about the practice, a likely result of the many barriers preventing people of color from accessing mental healthcare.

"I didn't really think [therapy] was something that I needed or something that was for me, because where I come from, the things that we go through and the things that we experience, we sort of normalize," G Herbo tells GRAMMY.com. "So we don't think that we're crazy. We don't think that we're suffering from mental illness because we're paranoid for our life, because everyone around us is paranoid for their life. So we don't feel like the oddball, and I think that needs to change."

Across PTSD, G Herbo tackles heavy, real-life issues through a personal lens. "Gangstas Cry" dissects toxic masculinity, "Lawyer Fees" chronicles the gun violence that infested his childhood and community, and "Feelings" documents his relationship problems with the mother of his child. 

Despite, or maybe because of, its self-reflective intimacy, the album is resonating with G Herbo fans around the world: PTSD became a Top 10 Billboard hit, while the title track has gone gold in the U.S. (In May, G Herbo released the deluxe version of PTSD, which features 14 new tracks.)

"I never really gave it much thought about [the album] being too heavy for people, because I felt like people may look at my situation and my life like I don't do these things, like I don't have problems, like I don't endure pain or stress. I just wanted the world to know that we all are the same," G Herbo says of PTSD, which he calls his "most complete" project to date. 

Five months after the album's release, G Herbo continues to use PTSD and his platform to effect the change he wants to see in the world. In May, alongside the Alliance For Safety And Justice, he donated 20,000 protective masks to Chicago's Cook County Jail, which was identified as the "largest-known source of coronavirus infections" in the U.S. in April. For National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month this July, he launched Swervin' Through Stress, an initiative providing therapeutic and mental health resources, including a free therapy-intensive program, to Black young adults. 

"I think people need to treat mental health more seriously," G Herbo reflects. "You just have to take these things seriously so more and more people can be aware and more people that could bring change actually want to bring change. That's what PTSD is [about]."

GRAMMY.com spoke with G Herbo about the personal journey behind PTSD, the importance of mental health and the coping mechanisms he's adopting to survive our current volatile world. 

Your latest album, PTSD, is inspired by your experience with therapy. Was that your first time going to therapy?

Yeah. In the process of recording the album, I was going to therapy ... I'd never tried therapy until that period of time of my life.

Your decision to enter therapy came from your lawyer's recommendation after you were arrested in 2018. Looking back at it now, do you think you would have ended up in therapy eventually by your own choice?

I don't think so … But I can't really say that, because as you grow, you experience life more. You never know what your mind may open up to you, but I'm so glad that I did go to therapy. I'm glad that I did take that leap of faith to just go talk to somebody about my situation and just my thoughts, and get 'em to a person with an unbiased opinion.

[The decision to go to therapy] did come from a recommendation from my lawyer because ... as I grew as a man and an artist and having so much going on in my life and so much to lose ... when I got into that situation with the arrest in 2018, I felt like, "What did I do?" Or, "What led me up to this point? What could I be doing wrong? What miscalculated steps did I take, if I thought I was doing all of these things right, to get myself to the next level?"

You could see in life, I'm not in harm's way. I'm not putting myself in danger, but yet I was carrying a gun [that day] because I have post-traumatic stress disorder, because [when] I leave the house every day, I'm paranoid. I'm thinking that my life can be taken from me at any moment, at the drop of a dime, by somebody just making a careless decision or somebody just with nothing to lose, like I once was at a time in my life.

I opened up to my lawyer and told her how I feel and why I carry a gun and why I need to have a guard around me 24/7. She told me to go to therapy, and I felt like it was one step closer to me trying to help myself. So I wanted to speak about it to the world.

You hadn't gone to therapy previously, but you obviously knew what it was before you started your treatment. What was your opinion on or understanding of therapy before you started going?

I honestly didn't know too much about therapy, but that is the point. You're talking to a professional who's supposed to listen to your problems and give you insight on life in a way where you could try to help yourself. I didn't really think that it was something that I needed or something that was for me, because where I come from, the things that we go through and the things that we experience, we sort of normalize.

It's normal, it's everyday life. So we don't think that we're crazy. We don't think that we're suffering from mental illness because we're paranoid for our life, because everyone around us is paranoid for their life. So we don't feel like the oddball, and I think that needs to change.

You then took that whole experience and channeled it into what became PTSD. How did you go about creating an album out of such a personal experience?

I feel like it was only right for me to touch on [the topic] in a way where it could resonate with the entire world, not just my neighborhood. I began rapping and I was talking about the things that I experienced on that four-to-eight-block radius. I'm not really talking about things that the world can relate to; I was talking about things that only my neighborhood could relate to ... It did go head-on directly with PTSD. It is PTSD: losing friends and people dying, and you being close to death and being afraid for your life.

Therapy is not going to solve your problems, but it will help you think about life in a better way to just move towards where you want to be and just get through the toughest situations. That's why therapy is important to me …

Where we come from, we're not able to vent, we're not able to grieve because so many people around us are grieving and going through the same thing. Who can you vent to? Who can you grieve to?

When you went in to write PTSD at the beginning stage, did you already know you were going to theme it around your mental health and your own experience with PTSD? Or did the idea come to you later when you started working on the project?

The idea came naturally. I just wanted to talk about something that was near and dear to me, talk about my life and everything I've been through from a grown man's perspective. My music, if you go back to even my old catalog ... my first albums, Ballin Like I'm Kobe [2015] and Welcome To Fazoland [2014]—all of these projects, I'm speaking on these same subjects, just from a 16-, 17-year-old perspective.

It was always in a way to help people get through it, to help people better understand me and understand themselves and know that life isn't a coincidence. You're going through these things for a reason. They may be tough, but it's always a way to get through it. It's always a way to find inspiration and motivation in these negative things to change your situation, to turn your situation around. I think it came naturally. I didn't have intentions of creating PTSD the way I did. I think that's what's so special about it.

The album covers a lot of heavy issues. "Gangstas Cry" tackles toxic masculinity, for example. Were you ever concerned that your fans would not accept the album and what it was trying to dissect?

No, not at all. Because for one, no matter how tough your situation is, there's always somebody that's going through something 10 times as hard. So I'm not afraid to open up. I'm not afraid to be vulnerable in my music. I think that's what the fans connected to the most, because we all cry. Every man in the world has cried before. Whether you want to do it in private, whether you feel it's masculine, [unmasculine] or not, you still have shed tears for something in your life.

So I'm just saying it's OK to do that. I'm just saying it's a right to let it out; you have to do that sometimes. I'm not a crier, but I do cry. I have cried on many occasions for many things. And I'm completely, 100 percent secure in my masculinity. I know that I'm a man, I'm aggressive. I know that there's nothing wrong with crying. I just wanted to give a piece of me to the world that I thought that they would appreciate.

So no, I never really gave it much thought about [the album] being too heavy for people, because I felt like people may look at my situation and my life like I don't do these things, like I don't have problems, like I don't endure pain or stress. I just wanted the world to know that we all are the same.

You dropped PTSD back in February. The world has basically changed since then. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. Protestors have taken to the streets demanding racial justice. A lot of Black citizens have been killed by police in that three-month window. How are you coping with everything now? What are you doing to keep your own mental health in balance?

Now, I feel I'm just trying to pour resources into myself, into my people, and just share resources to make things better. I've been speaking on these exact same things since I was 17 years old. I've always experienced racial injustice, police brutality and police injustice. I have friends who were killed by police when I was in eighth grade ... I'm no stranger to these things.

Now, I think with me just having my platform and me being who I am, I'm able to talk about it in a way where I can bring change to the situation in any way possible. I feel during these times, that's what I'm trying to do the most, just try to be strong for myself and my family through these tough times … [I] try to use my platform to speak on it, where people understand that, "Hey, it's no coincidence we're going through these things; we've been going through these [things]."

To bring change, you have to change. We have to pour resources into each other and start to move one step closer towards making sure that these things never happen again, because they shouldn't.

Read: Coping For The Best: How To Manage Mental Health During Social Unrest & A Global Pandemic

You mentioned the normalization of traumatic experiences in your neighborhood. I come from a similar cultural background as you, so I'm highly aware of the stigmas around mental health within ethnic minority communities. As a Latino man, I've heard people in my own community make jokes against therapy. What do you think needs to change in order for minority groups to get over that stigma and embrace resources like mental health and therapy?

I wouldn't say therapy is for absolutely everybody. So many different things can be therapeutic for a person. I feel just us being resourceful to one another, where people can understand that you can treat yourself in a way where you can ... do certain things where people who go to therapy can be resourceful. Certain things may work for certain people. So I feel that's important to just touch on these subjects … whether it's through therapy, whether it's through just talking to a friend, talking to your children or whatever the case may be. We just need to take one step closer towards telling each other.

This month marks National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. What would you want people of color and communities of color to learn about mental health?

That mental health is a state. That mental health is real. That anxiety is real. I think people need to treat mental health more seriously ... There's so much pressure right now where a lot of people don't know how to deal with it. I think that the people who do and the people who are in a better mind state, in a better position to survive mentally, physically, economically, financially, [who are] able to help others get through these situations ... I'm not saying you're going to be able to change the world with a blink of a finger. It's not an overnight process. You just have to take these things seriously so more and more people can be aware and more people that could bring change actually want to bring change. That's what PTSD is [about].

Do you feel PTSD accomplished what you wanted it to accomplish?

Yeah, I do. I don't have any regrets about the album, no ill thoughts about anything that it should have did that it didn't do. I felt like I was able to get my story out to the world, and they heard it and they appreciated it. Personally, I felt like it was a complete body of work. The album was my most complete, thought-out, well-put-together project that I've ever done; I know that from experience. I've never put this much time, this much effort—blood, sweat, tears—into my craft the way that I did with PTSD. I feel like the response it's getting is a direct result from that.

Do you think you'll continue to explore heavy issues and personal traumas, like you did on PTSD, in your future music?

Yeah, I do, because I feel there's always that one fan that you may have to speak to. But I think the more I experience life, it's not going to be the same. But people still experience trauma. We still experience pain. We still suffer, regardless of what level you're on. So I think me just being who I am, I'll always be able to speak on that. I'll always have a platform for people to listen because they want me to speak on it; they appreciate it. It helps them the same way it's helpful to me.

My music is therapeutic to me ... The things that I say are hand-in-hand with my life. It's 100 percent real, it's natural, it's organic. So it helps me the same way that it helps my fans. The response that I get from my fans I feel is only going to drive me to go harder with my craft, with my music and with the message that I'm trying to put out.

Bun B On The Fight For Racial Equality & How Artists & Allies Can Help

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Doja Cat

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December

GRAMMYs/Oct 2, 2019 - 12:11 am

Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.

This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the RapperLil Uzi VertJuice WRLDYoung Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.

L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.

The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.

Tickets for Rolling Loud L.A. go on sale this Friday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. PST. The complete lineup and more info on this event and their other fests can be found here.

Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY: Fantastic Negrito

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.