Saba – Few Good Things (Review)

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After four long years, Chicago’s best young storyteller comes through with a contemplative celebration and lament of his life and culture. Saba is a strong, conscious MC in the vain of Common before him. While pretty versatile and with a solid catalog, he really broke out with 2018’s cult classic Care For Me. Exceedingly downtrodden and personal, this album displayed next level lyricism in the form of storytelling and symbolism; At the same time, it was so heavy and even concerning to hear a man in that state. Well we finally have its follow up. Few Good Things is an ambitious project which takes Saba’s wisdom and lyrical talents while applying it to a much lusher soundscape and uplifting themes.

We just wanna breathe, we been drowning down here for centuries
Black and brown boy identity, families that depend on me
Art get turned to assembly line, every line my lineage
Glass half full, the other half was the emptiness
We turned a bunch of nothing to abundance

The most apparent changes on Few Good Things to any Saba fan are the production and hooks. The beats here are perfectly varied and quite dense; It all leans very lush, sometimes as though it were live instrumentation. Bright jazz samples and neosoul vibes are pervasive, often with some beat switches and subtle changes which make for a listen which demands attention. In fact, these production choices are highly intentional and match Saba’s themes nicely. This is not so dark an album as Care For Me; Rather, it is an observance of black culture as a whole and Saba’s place within it. Thus, these classic, upbeat sounds are fitting. We should also note the hooks on here; Generally, hooks have not been his strong point but they are vastly improved on Few Good Things. Rather than the repetitive choruses of past work, there are genuine ear worms on here which hold meaning and are simply beautiful – In addition to some help from features.

While we may only have a few good things, that just means their value is even greater. Whether it be coming up in Chicago, the industry, or his personal life today, Saba sets out to show love for what he has and break down the bad on this album. On tracks like “Fearmonger” and “If I Had a Dollar”, he speaks on how everyone in his community wants to make it big and get rich quick, but he knows from experience that money does not equate to fulfillment. There’s the standout banger “Survivor’s Guilt” (with Chicago drill icon G Herbo) where Saba gets into his signature theme of being the good kid in a mad city and growing up in such a demanding, dangerous environment.

Then we get into the meat of his themes on this album with “Come My Way”, “Make Believe”, and the stellar title track. Assisted by the legendary Black Thought and at an epic 7 minutes, “Few Good Things” really dives into Saba’s experiences since breaking out; He may not have been afforded much in the Chicago streets and as a black man in America, but it made him who he is now and there is a beauty in this struggle.

The album’s greatest highlight, however, is “2012”. Saba’s best quality has always been storytelling (a la “Prom / King“), and this track is a stellar example. With a touching, catchy hook, he recounts a young love grounded in hiphop and the sanctuary he felt with friends. While it was tough, Saba has always had everything he needed with his culture, loved ones, and within himself. Few Good Things is a great step forward for Saba and solidifies him as one of hiphop’s best young artists.

Listen to Few Good Things on Spotify

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