We run through the most essential Polo G songs, ahead of his new album "The GOAT."
Polo G is gearing up to release his second album, The GOAT, this coming Friday. The Chicago-bred rapper has made a name for himself, creating emotionally dense bangers fueled by his life growing up in the Northside of Chicago's Marshall Field Garden Apartments. The 21-year old comes off wise beyond his years in many of his songs and interviews, showing an astute appreciation not only for the history embedded within hip-hop but equally a desire to learn, and grow. His music is often based in reflections, whether it be a drug habit he's trying to ditch or friends that he lost to street violence-- he shares these stories with his listeners in an effort to inspire and motivate them to leave this life alone.
It's been almost a year since the rapper delivered his Columbia Records debut, Die A Legend, and while his catalogue of songs isn't immense, it would be a prime moment to familiarize yourself with the star-on-the-rise. We've compiled his 10 essential songs for that reason.
Feel free to mention your favorite Polo G records in the comment section.
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Through da Storm
“Through da Storm” definitely tugs on the heartstrings. The record begins with an audio clip from Polo G’s younger sister, who declares just how proud she is of her big brother for all his success. The beat, from DJ Ayo, a frequent collaborator, interpolates the sound of a music box winding up, creating a lullaby-like record-- the juxtaposition with Polo’s gruff rhymes making the contrast even more stark.
The hook really encapsulates what Polo G’s music is all about: family and ambition. This ambition is tied up in his desire to lead a better life, while sharing the grim details of his past life; as if to help others avoid his mistakes, or perhaps simply educate the unaware. His delivery is downtrodden yet purposeful, as he aligns each bar with the child-like noises twinkling in the background: “Know my grandma still with me, when it get cold, I feel your spirit / Talkin' to my lil' sister, phone calls through Securus / Walk in court in them shackles, see my mama, her eyes tearin’ / Tryna work towards these blessings but the devil keep interfering / Everybody go through something, it's all about persevering / They was counting me out, I put passion in every lyric / Fuck a sack up at Neimans, spend some racks on my appearance / Yeah, I know that they hate, I'm the man, ain't tryna hear it.”
Pop Out feat. Lil Tjay
Obviously. It’s hard to really know if Polo G would be in his current lofty position without the phenomenal success of “Pop Out,” the song that started the snowball of his career. The record, featuring Lil Tjay, was released after Polo G had signed to Columbia Records, and forced the whole rap game to stop and stare-- and pay close attention. The two up-and-comers have since forged their respective, successful paths within the industry. “Pop Out” helped solidify this for each artist, as the song quickly became an unavoidable party anthem in 2019 and well into 2020.
The song received a seemingly unnecessary remix featuring Lil Baby and Gunna alongside Polo G’s debut album Die A Legend, because let’s be honest, you only need the OG version. Lil Tjay is an essential part of the record, as the two artists are torchbearers for a brand new generation of artists who fuel their music with passionate-verging-on-aggressive melodies. That style is what is showcased on “Pop Out,” with vibrant piano production from JD On The Track and Iceberg acting as a moody celebration, just as much as it serves as an ode to their past.
“Lost Files” serves as the album opener for Polo G’s impressive debut album, Die A Legend. It opens innocently enough, or perhaps better put, ominously enough-- the creeping piano keys lend to this sense of foreboding, and within seconds, Polo G is spitting with rapid-fire delivery and painting a picture in the process. As the opening song on his album, “Lost Files” is inviting the listener in, showing the listener around Polo G’s Chicago neighborhood. “Everything was all good way back in the day / Then the whole hood really went wild . Long live the gang, man, the whole hood missin' them smiles / Swear the whole hood missin’ them smiles / I'm a Sed baby, 1300 block ass nigga,” he raps. He’s reminiscing in a sense, but not in a wistful way, more of a hard-nosed reflection.
“Effortless” is a great example of just how effortless Polo G makes it look. Once again this is a trap-like record that dabbles in piano and flute elements, creating an emotional banger, especially when paired with Polo G’s rhymes: “I come from a dark place, I’ll never be there again,” he promises on wax. He means it, as he instantly switches to his new-found luxury: “Double G's on everything, Gucci my headband.”
Polo G’s honesty about that “dark place” is what makes his music so intriguing. These aren’t sugar-coated, seemingly out-of-touch bars about toting guns and dealing drugs, rather, these are reflections on how such activities have affected him present-day: “My homie died at 16 I remember I was up all night / Kept seeing death in my dreams,” he raps somberly.
“Heartless” is one of Polo’s newer releases, post-debut-album, and equally, veering off into new production territory thanks to a Mustard beat. The single will be included on Polo’s upcoming album, The GOAT.
While the West Coast producer may not be the norm for Polo G’s typically dark style, he’s cooked up something perfectly in line with Polo G’s needs. The beat includes a subtle guitar, which, if not the piano, tends to be Polo’s second go-to production element. Meanwhile, Polo is detailing Chicago life in close detail, while also reaching new heights when it comes to career, and attempting to juggle the two-- “I used to starve, now I'm blowing up like propane / Told my inner-self, 'I promise you I won't change,'" he says.
“Dyin Breed” serves as the second song on Polo G’s Die A Legend album, and that means we now have the first five songs from his debut album back-to-back on our essentials list-- proving just how strong Die A Legend is. The album received fast critical acclaim when it first released in June of last year, as an un-skippable, deeply personal look into Polo G’s life. Whereas some artists struggle to let listeners in, Polo G never seemed to have an issue opening up. “Dyin Breed,” complete with stuttering hi-hats and fading piano keys, has Polo G detailing street politics, with a subdued tone. “Them was my sandbox niggas like I been with 'em since birth / Tryna pull up on they corner and make niggas disperse / We just want 'em to feel our pain 'cause we been hurt / They took one of ours, we just tryna get reimbursed / Took so many losses, swear I thought the hood was cursed.” He reflects later, “Feel like I'm goin' numb, swallowin' these X pills and Percs / Them drugs beatin' me, feel like my heart gon' jump through my shirt.”
This isn’t the type of Future-glorified rap (sorry Future, still enjoy your music) about doing prescription pills, rather, it’s a reflection on a habit that Polo clearly doesn’t like, but also seems powerless to kick. Polo G mentioned in an interview with Pitchfork that he was quitting pills following the birth of his son. “When I started I didn’t see no reason to stop. But then the effects started kicking in, and I seen myself changing. When I turned 20 I started to catch on that I was losing my temper, and my memory was gone,” he told the publication, once again proving a type of maturity you don’t often see in a 20-year old. He referred to himself as an “old soul” in this same interview, and that couldn’t be more true.
“Hollywood” is a banger that might have missed some of the late-to-party Polo fans because it didn’t wind up any body of work, rather it’s been relegated to loosie status-- it did receive an official music video in October 2018, which tellingly says “Unsigned 19yr old North side of Chicago Artist Polo G,” in the YouTube description. Now, the visual has over 24 million views. Polo G has previously said in interviews how he first found viral success on YouTube and Facebook, as opposed to a platform like Soundcloud or Spotify. The rapper is more akin to emotionally-distressed street-bred artists like NBA Youngboy and Kevin Gates, both of whom are YouTube darlings, so it makes sense. “Hollywood” is actually a perfect example of this exact style, with Polo G’s melodies filled with a certain anguish as he rhymes about the aftereffects of all he’s witnessed growing up in the Chi, resulting in PTSD. The piano-laced production showcases another Polo trademark, while his vocals on the hook tremble, as though he’s holding back tears.
“Probably this shit left me shell shocked and traumatized / It's hard to speak on what I'm feeling up inside / I can't even look my mama in her eyes / I put you through so much and I apologize / I'm cashing checks I hope these hunnids stop the crying / Where I'm from they only love you when you die / I'm from the trenches where we fighting to survive / Can't be another victim of these homicides,” he raps in the surprisingly vulnerable hook-- again, this why Polo G has made such a deep connection with his fans, who are constantly praising him all over his many viral YouTube videos.
“DND” was released in the promo run ahead of The GOAT. How does it begin? With those piano keys, of course. Somehow, no matter how frequently Polo G incorporates it, it never gets old. The production is from WayneOnTheBeat, not necessarily a name you’re familiar with but again, this is where Polo G tends to veer in the path less taken-- his preference is for unknown producers, producers who are hungry-- this he details in our interview, dropping on Friday (stay tuned, and all that).
The record is all about momentum, with the bars to match: “Once we start a riot, we can't keep quiet / We want all the smoke, fuck theâ peaceâ signs.” The record covers what are now familiar Polo topics; from his drug habit to his OG attitude. He seems to have blinders on, opting to put his phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ thus inspiring the song’s acronym title. It’s this blinders-on attitude that’s helped Polo find success, he’s not the rapper you see embroiled in online beef or chasing an online status with some sort of social media antic/trend-- he keeps to himself and he gets shit done.
“Battle Cry” appears on Die A Legend, as a haunting tribute to his life in Chicago. The slow-burning chimes at the outset only add to this goosebump-feeling, and Polo G is quickly painting a bleak picture, as he tends to do: “Addicted to this ecstasy, I like how it feel / It's like I been poppin' X ever since I tried a pill / Shit got me through some hard times, I lost my mind for real / Lot of shit happened way too fast, I ain't have time to heal / Ed was gon' make it on that court but he died in the field / I was still hangin' in the hood before I signed a deal / Posted on Hudson, jakes ridin' past, I had my nine concealed,” he raps in the first verse.
This type of dark candor permeates much of Polo’s music, and it’s also reflected in his sing-song voice; his vocals throbbing in discomfort.
Capping off this list, we’re highlighting another Die A Legend cut (and by now, you should realize just how strong this album is-- while this list is particularly heavy on the front-end of the album, don’t neglect the latter half). On “Finer Things” Polo G is really crooning, mixing his trap dreams with a bit of subtle r’n’b vibes. The song itself isn’t “hard-hitting”-- it’s downcast production from DJ L Beats and DJ Ayo, while Polo debates openly if he should just let go of the streets altogether and focus on the accoutrements of wealth and success that are coming his way-- “Lately, I've been feelin' like fuck the streets, this shit a scam / These days, if it ain't 'bout money, I don't give a damn / I'm just gon' get rich and fuck them plastic hoes on Instagram.”
This is a record where Polo G is looking to his future, a promising future at that, and realizing, perhaps, about just how damaging street life can be-- “Almost went insane, went insane, went insane / From all this pain, all this pain, all this pain.” Still, he’s a beacon of hope amidst it all, and this is why his fans look up to him so much, with the next bar finding the positive in a rather desolate situation: “Turned that pain into passion and made it happen.” Indeed.