The Stretch #1: Roddy Ricch and G Herbo

Myles Andrews-Duve and Brandon Callender present a new series highlighting the best three-song stretches in rap.
By    January 8, 2020

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As albums slowly become massive playlists for major labels to farm streams off of hot singles, they’ve  forgotten about the art of sequencing. “The Stretch” is a monthly series highlighting some of the best three-song stretches from albums that dropped in the previous month or so.

Roddy Ricch – Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

The Stretch:

  1. “The Box”
  2. “Start Wit Me (feat. Gunna)”
  3. “Perfect Time”

“A lot of these niggas get so wrapped up in this industry shit they forget what the point of making music was … No, nigga, make that shit for the niggas who are going through it. Make that shit for the niggas who really need to hear this shit.”  -Roddy Ricch via Complex, 2019

Roddy Ricch was built for this moment. He’s a 21-year-old who survived the trenches and moves with veteran level purpose and wisdom. He offers a vivid truth in his music that cuts through as wholly accessible, he is capable of spilling out hit songs with what seems like minimal effort, and walks around with the weight of a city on his shoulders.

“The Box” is special, in part, because it feels like Roddy’s ceremonious arrival to stardom. It is a career-defining song, the type you only have to hear once to say “this is the one.” The track can best be described as an aggressively maximalist three-minute flex — one where Roddy rips off lines about getting head, bulletproofing his Cadillac, and putting bounties on George Zimmerman with equal conviction. This joint characterizes “earworm.” I have heard it performed live, in the function, the Uber, and the comfort of my own home, and still can not go a day without rapping a bar or two.

The 30 Roc beat is a sonic uplift: its string arrangements land somewhere between ominous and grandiose, the 808s add weight where Roddy stops for air, and the squeaky “eh-errr”s transcend the whole thing into a different stratosphere. 30 Roc built a world and Roddy is delivering each bar like his life depends on it, packing words into every meter with a breathless urgency — as if he needs to rush ideas out before new ones emerge. 

This energy doesn’t let up on “Start Wit Me,” which feels like “The Box’”s more grim and melodic step brother. The flexing continues, only more focused on warning whoever may be tempted to start shit. Roddy is ducking in and out of each pocket to boast about his strap, girl, and Givenchy sweatsuit… but mostly about his strap. Gunna floats over Jetson’s punchy 808s with every line as straightforward as the last: “I fucked and left, I hope it ain’t no hard feelings / Was broke as fuck, that’s how I started drug dealin’ / Get some millions, it’ll make a nigga love livin.’”

Roddy makes music with a compelling level of honesty. His lyrics often feel post-traumatic, as if he can only celebrate for so long until the pain lurks over his shoulder. The trauma as he reflects on his brother behind bars and close friends passing feels as palpable as the glee when describing his new patek. He can’t bask in this life without being soberingly aware that it can be taken from him in an instant.

“Perfect Time” epitomizes this. For every line like “Shorty done fell in love with all my diamonds,” there is a “But everybody change on you like the seasons” to follow. A few “nightmares in church” to pair with dreams of making sure “my mama got a couple racks in her purse.” He is indulging, but realizing in real-time that shit can get lonelier the more you do. Roddy harnesses his pain on the chorus as his voice audibly cracks the higher it goes, reflective of a fate he is trying to avoid. 

“Perfect Time” is a street ballad. It is stripped down, introspective, and driven by piano keys. At this point on the album, the aggressive show-off of the previous tracks has slowed and Roddy is delivering boasts with a meditative drawl, like each marker of success is a reminder of when shit wasn’t close to this good. There is throwing money in the air and there is hoping your friends in the sky can catch it.

Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial feels like a moment because it is. Roddy adopts the muddiness of Feed Tha Streets I and II and polishes it with a few more radio tracks, higher profile features, and lush sequencing and arrangements. The result is an album that lacks the end-to-end consistency of the earlier tapes, but reflects a budding artist who is actively experimenting. You hear Roddy refining his storytelling and toying with new sounds and vocal ranges on each track. The album carries the off-the-wall urgency of an artist on the brink of becoming a rap heavyweight, yet nowhere close to his artistic peak. To hear it is also to hear a man grappling with these new heights, someone who is reveling in their success but still earnestly processing the experiences that got him here. –Myles Andrews-Duve

G Herbo – Sessions

The Stretch:

  1. “My Bro’s A Legend”
  2. “Remember”
  3. “Sessions”

“Yeah, our line of work, it’s always out there. You probably don’t even hear it when it happens right? Listen to us, morbid fucks.” — Bobby Bacala, “The Sopranos,” S6E13: Soprano Home Movies

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that scene between Tony Soprano and Bobby Bacala where paddle around a lake talking about the unpredictability of death. According to Tony, death by gunshot — or a life sentence like Johnny Sack — is the inevitable outcome of being in the mafia. It’s terrifying to go through life imagining how you’ll be eulogized at your funeral, but it’s how Tony and Bobby choose to spend their vacation. They live a different life than anyone else: Scanning rooms for entrances and exits, jumping up when things fall and never sitting down if you can’t see a door. 

In his music, G Herbo’s always looking over his shoulder. Herbo’s 24 years old, almost an eternity in street years. Early on in his music, he’d be juxtaposing gory, violent crimes with crying mothers and memorial candles. More and more, he’s started turning the camera inwards, slowly becoming more comfortable talking about how he’s been affected by seeing all of this. He’s been slowly building up hype for his next album, PTSD, which he says is going to “shed light” on the experiences he had growing up. Sessions is obviously made up of throwaways from the album (some deservedly so), but the hits outweigh the misfires. 

He hits his stride in the middle of the project, starting with the Zaytoven-produced “My Bro’s a Legend.” Herbo is a master of the “pain song,” the modern-day equivalent of the blues for hood niggas. They’re gut punches meant to mourn and honor dead homies, making sure they know that they haven’t been forgotten. “My Bro’s a Legend” doesn’t cut as deep as the other two tracks, but it puts you in the headspace for the next two. Herbo’s voice is his greatest instrument. When the beat dies out during the chorus, his droning repetition of “My brother was a legend he’s in Heaven now / Should’ve been right there, feel like I let him down,” gets drilled into your skull.

“Remember” is a slow descent into darkness. Herbo opens the song talking about how he doesn’t even say “RIP or “Long Live” anymore because of all the friends he’s lost. He’s talking to his homies that’ve passed away, hoping for a response. He wonders what he’d be doing right now if Fazo was still alive. He’s still mourning Cap, wishing that he was here to celebrate his success as a rapper. Herbo quickly changes his focus on this song, shifting from asking questions that can’t get answered to the dead homies, to remembering the times they spent together, and then ending the song pleading for some of his other homies’ freedom. Herbo leaps from topic to topic as soon as he gets reminded of it. If there was a hook breaking this song up into verses, it wouldn’t feel the same. It’d pull you out of the chaotic spiral that Herbo’s living in. 

After those two stressful and suffocating tracks, “Sessions” is a sigh of relief. He’s no longer being weighed down by iintrusive thoughts on this song, but they still lurk in the shadows. He’s getting the chance to celebrate his success, sharing it with his homies locked up, asking them how much money he’s sent. Herbo finds himself at a crossroads on this song, asking “Why God keep blessing me and I’m committin’ sins?” He’s grateful for his success, but finds himself still struggling to be positive role model he wants to be. Herbo’s trying to find balance within himself. While he’s dealing with all of his trauma from seeing blood spilled on the street, Herbo’s found success and he’s proud of how far he’s come. Even when G Herbo’s looking over his shoulder he’s focused on what’s ahead of him, ready for whatever the future’s going to throw at him. –Brandon Callender

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