WELCOME TO FAZOLAND: ALBUM REVIEW
The 2014 mixtape Welcome to Fazoland by G Herbo is one of the most overlooked and influential hip-hop projects of all time. Without Welcome to Fazoland, rappers like polo G, Lil Tecca, and Calboy wouldn’t exist, but Welcome to Fazoland’s influence runs much deeper. Although UK drill existed before Fazoland, Lil Herb greatly inspired the drill scene across the pond, and by proxy, the New York drill scene.
As G Herbo and his Chicago contemporaries continue to ascend to greater mainstream success, an entire legacy of Chicago music is being slowly erased. Anecdotally, yesterday I went through the “Lil Durk Essentials” playlist on Apple Music and the only pre-2016 song on the playlist was “Dis Ain’t What You Want.” G Herbo’s top songs (with the exception of Kill Shit) are all tracks released after 2016. Both artists have outgrown their older music and so have their fanbases, but especially with G Herbo, his fans are forgetting one of the most legendary and game-changing drill mixtapes of all time.
In 2014, drill was still a nationally dominant genre of hip-hop. Chief Keef had just finished making waves, and a new crop of artists were on the rise in Chicago. G Herbo, Lil Bibby, and King Louie seemed like the obvious next set of artists to make it big. G Herbo had teased Welcome to Fazoland for what felt like years, but nothing could prepare the city for what it would be like when it was finally released.
Welcome to Fazoland was one of those albums that you couldn’t walk more than a couple of blocks without hearing it blaring out of someone’s car speakers. Everything about the project was distinctive, and it proved singlehandedly that drill had the capacity to evolve. It borrowed from classic drill elements, like the heavy synths and growling bass, while Herb demonstrated a lyrical dexterity and topic variety that few other rappers were even attempting. Unfortunately, Welcome to Fazoland now represents more of an end than a beginning. Although it was the start of Herb’s career, it signaled the falling stature of Chicago drill on the national stage.
There’s not a bad song on Welcome to Fazoland. By about halfway through the album, you’ve been hit with an absolute onslaught of bars and punchlines. Herb makes it very clear that he is there to rap, nothing else. Through every bar, you hear his genuine emotion, whether he is rapping about Chicago violence or his love for his mother. His flow feels savage and uncut; there’s no topic he is afraid to rip apart.
The instrumentals on Welcome to Fazoland are mind-blowing. “Mamma I’m So Sorry” has one of the most beautiful instrumentals I’ve ever heard as Herb glides over crescendoing strings. “On the Corner” brings back the classic hi-hats of early 2010s drill beat beautifully. Herb also incorporates soul samples all over the project, most notably on “Still Fucked Up” and “Fight or Flight.” These soul samples fit Herb’s flow perfectly and on these tracks, it feels like Herb is subtly acknowledging Chicago hip-hop history with a nod to Kanye.
If you haven’t listened to Welcome to Fazoland in a while, go remind yourself of its greatness. It’s truly a towering achievement in music, and one of the five best albums to come out of Chicago in the last decade. It holds up incredibly well in the present day. G Herbo changed lives with Welcome to Fazoland, and although he has moved past it, Fazoland deserves to be remembered like other classic rap albums.