According to the title track, Swervo is an alter ego for G Herbo, one in which he can discuss more basic rap topics like money. Hearing this, especially after a song like “Some Nights” in which he details his personal struggles with poverty, violence, and the law, I was given the impression that this album was going to abuse the mixtape format. In many ways it does, but it also manages to pay tribute to Herbo’s city of Chicago and provide some interesting highlights.
When one mentions ‘abusing the mixtape format,’ it refers to rappers tendency to make more vapid or uninspired music simply because the project is not labeled an album. This is the case with a few songs here, specifically “FoReal” and “Tweakin (Head).” Both of those songs are unremarkably basic filler songs that don’t motivate a second listen. Though Southside’s production is solid throughout the majority of this album, G Herbo doesn’t have the kind of flows necessary to simply ride a beat without say anything clever or impressive. This is why songs like “Some Nights” work, as G Herbo’s lackluster cadence is made up for by his detailing his past growing up in a dangerous Chicago.
In fact, the better moments on this album are the moments of Chicago fanfare. “Catch Up” with Chief Keef is the crown jewel of this strategy, as it utilizes the aggressive and intimidating style of trap that launched Keef’s career. Furthermore, the collaboration with Juice WRLD manages to be surprisingly alright, and is most likely a smart collaboration considering Juice WRLD’s rising popularity.
There are a few interesting moments outside of this, like “Letter,” in which G Herbo brings his best flow on this mixtape. This isn’t to say it’s an impressive cadence, but rather that it’s the most melodic the rapper manages to be here. With more bars about his rough childhood and the lessons it has imparted on him, “Letter” manages to be one of the best songs here despite not being the most popular.
Nevertheless, a good deal of this feels like filler and throw aways. A lukewarm Young Thug feature and a couple of songs that don’t sound too different than one another keep ‘Swervo’ tied down to the flaws that are inherent to abusing the mixtape format. 21 Savage has a decent contribution which I would be remiss to ignore, but then again all 21 Savage features sound exactly the same in terms of energy and approach. All in all, Swervo is a very average mixtape with a handful of good songs and a lack of longevity, like many other average mixtapes in the genre.