Written Before Listen
Saba is a midwest rapper who I think has a lot of relatability and lyrical skill. His previous album “CARE FOR ME'' was a really good showcase of poverty and mental health. It’s been 4 years since that album so he has been kind of quiet. Luckily he did drop a new release a couple of weeks ago “Few Good Things”. Without further ado, let’s get right into it.
I always saw Saba’s production as unique but not at the forefront of his music. He chooses beats that fit for him but a lot of the loops and instrumental choices usually fit more on a Neo-soul song than a hip hop track. The drums have a different story but Saba usually deals with the production alongside Daoud and daedaepivot. There are also some stylistic switches on this album, especially with “Survivors Guilt” with G Herbo where Saba raps over this dark, minimal trap banger. The song “Soldier” has a somewhat double-time groove that sounds straight out of the early 2000s. There’s also “Fearmonger'' which is like a summer jam but with a mix of alternative hip hop. Other than that, I will say that…Saba doesn’t impress me that much on beat choice. I think that a lot of his sound is devoted to the lyrics.
Saba has always proved himself to be an above-average lyricist. Quick flows, unique word choices and rhyme schemes as well as consistent topics. I always saw Saba as someone who writes about things because it’s therapeutic and this album surely is that, but this time it’s about making out of the topics he discussed on “CARE FOR ME”. Despite the banger “Survivors Guilt” is, it is about dealing with emotions that he has to deal with now after being through poverty. “If I Had A Dollar” is about progressing through success as well as failure. He still does look back on things on “2012” where he talks about young love in a relatable way and sometimes, songs like that are where Saba shines best. We also can’t talk about songwriting without mentioning the penultimate track. A three-parter that discusses Saba’s struggle for getting more than he asked for, but it’s a perfect clincher statement for the album. Lyrically, he aces the work, but I’ve had a struggle with resonating with his structures and melodies most of the time. I never really saw him as a lyricist at first, but everything outside of the lyrics lacks some personality. I know that he portrays someone who’s extremely real and upfront but there’s isn’t a lot of color to his sound. Luckily it doesn't affect my experience that much and also doesn’t distract my enjoyment of his lyricism.
Saba never grabbed the most name-brand features. The only notable feature on CARE FOR ME was Chance The Rapper and that is one of the most forgettable things on that album. On this album, he brings R&B and hip hop musicians from different eras. We get G Herbo on “Survivors Guilt” and he comes with an aggressive verse and I will say that he does contrast Saba’s style but works with the concept. On “Come My Way” we get Krayzie Bone from Bone Thugs N Harmony fame and his verse is just necessary as stylistically and topically, the song is inspired by their big hit “1st of Tha Month”. We get the trio of laid-back alternative hip hop artists as 6LACK and Smino join Saba on the song “Still” and I guess they do their job, but I kind of forget what they do after they do their part. There are certainly good R&B features but the last feature I want is on the title track with Black Thought. I will say right now that Black Thought killed the feature, but what spotlights the track….is Saba. It takes an elite MC to match if not top Black Thought on a song. Overall, I think the features are good choices, but sometimes it’s for the name/idea that Saba wants and not what works for the song.
I think my biggest problem with Saba is that he barely steps out as his own artist. He is extremely skilled as a songwriter, lyricist, and mood setter but he shows the artists he’s influenced by. The second track gives me the vibes that Kid Cudi’s debut gave me. I like “Survivors Guilt” but the main thing I was thinking was how cool it would’ve been to have Freddie Gibbs annihilate that beat. The song “Fearmonger '' has a happy and vibrant beat with colorful flows that reminds me of ACIDRAP era Chance. The song “A Simpler Time” has a dance groove that I see Tyler The Creator going off on and the song “Soldier” is basically a tribute to OutKast. Overall, I love most of the artists he takes influence from, but it doesn’t distract the fact that I automatically think of those artists when I hear the songs I mentioned.
I think I’ve mentioned most of the cons already. I think he doesn’t have his sound yet, I think some of the features underperformed and I think some of the production could’ve stuck out more, but I also think Saba’s relatability and conceptual factors that he had on Care for Me decreased on focus. Other than that, I would say that this album does have a few good things for it.
At the end of the day, Saba delivered a good project. I liked a lot of the songs on this project, he’s lyrically consistent and his album sequencing is good too, but does this album have problems? Yes, but most of my thoughts on this album are that this is an album I enjoy for most of it.