Concert preview: Chicago rapper G Herbo remains humble amid successes

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

In conversation, Chicago rapper G Herbo repeatedly drops the word "humble," which seems like an odd word choice from an MC who named his most recent mixtape -Ballin Like I'm Kobe - for recently retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, arguably one of the most overconfident professionals to ever pick up a basketball.

This supreme braggadocio occasionally spills over into the rapper's rags-to-riches tales, which pair hard-luck stories culled from a childhood spent growing up on the east side of Chicago - "I wasn't born a star … I wasn't born on top," he recites on "Pain" - with the far-flashier spoils accompanying his newfound wealth. Note "Bottom of the Bottoms," for one, which tops out with mentions of $20,000 bracelets dangling from the rapper's wrist.

Despite diamond-studded appearances, Herbo, born Herbert Wright 20 years ago, said his songs merely document the start of his ascension rather than the view from the top.

"I'm really just trying to stay humble and get better, bro," said Herbo, who visits town as part of the Smoker's Club tour, which stops at Park Street Saloon on Thursday, June 30. "I know I can be somebody great and really legendary. I have the potential to be that, so that's what I'm going to strive to be."

Herbo's potential recently landed the rapper a spot on theXXL Freshman Class of 2016, alongside fellow MCs Desiigner, Anderson .Paak and, uh, Lil Dicky, among others. The youngster took the honor in stride, however, describing it as further motivation to deliver on his in-progress studio debut,Humble Beast, which should surface sometime this year. "It drives me to go and be better," he said.

Though Herbo is consistently trying to push his music forward, he's maintained the core honesty that has been a hallmark of his sound since he released his debut mixtapeWelcome to Fazoland as Lil Herb in 2014.

"When you listen to my music you get an inside look at what's going on in Chicago - especially where I'm from," he said. "That's what people want. They want to understand you and get an inside look on your life: the good, the bad and the ugly. I don't lie. I tell the truth and that's how I've always been."

Of course, in recent years Herbo's worldview has expanded far beyond the 79th Street block where he grew up, and it's only natural his music would start to reflect these new realities.

"I'm able to go places I've never been and see things I've only seen in movies," he said. "I still love what I am and where I come from and my people. It's just really a point in my career where I have to expand … but I'm still being true to who I am and true to the streets."

Park Street Saloon

9 p.m. Thursday, June 30

525 N. Park St., Arena District

ALSO PLAYING: Cam'ron, The Underachievers,

Smoke DZA, Nyck Caution