Saba is an artist that I admit I should have been paying way more attention to over the last several years. He originally came up with Chance the Rapper back in his mixtape days, contributing majorly to one of my favorite mixtapes ever, Chance’s Acid Rap. As soon as I heard Saba on this project, I should have known he is super special, but I directed all my attention to Chance instead of some of his wonderful contributors. Since coming up with Chance in Chicago in the early 2010s, Saba has been a staple in the independent Hip Hop scene. Along with making excellent music with his group, Pivot Gang, Saba has dropped multiple excellent solo projects. Saba’s debut album Bucket List Project was released in 2016 and received widespread critical acclaim. His second record, CARE FOR ME, was even further lauded than his first record. Many music listeners and critics alike called it one of the best records of 2018. Saba is a master of taking experimental Jazz Rap and making it extremely catchy while still making it sophisticated. Saba makes Jazz Rap that is as complicated, fun, and vibrant sonically as it is lyrically. Saba’s new album, Few Good Things, has been highly anticipated by the Hip Hop world for a while now. Everyone has been excited to see what he does next after how beloved his previous projects were. With that being said, here is my review of Saba’s Few Good Things. Please let me know in the comments below how you feel about this record, and also comment what your favorite songs from it are.
The record starts with ‘Free Samples,’ which features Chefflee. It is an interesting and colorful way to start the record. The song starts out with a distorted and atmospheric R&B instrumental which picks up a beat a soft beat as the song progresses. The melody has a twinkle to it which gives it a very nostalgic feeling. After some low-key and faded singing in the first half of the song from Chefflee, Saba raps on the second half. In his verse, Saba raps about how the success he has had in his career has not guaranteed any happiness for him. Even though he now has access to the finer things, had still struggles to find the things that truly make him feel joyful. Following this, we get ‘One Way or Every N****a With a Budget.’ This song has a funky and fun instrumental that is so smooth. The melody and tiff almost have an Alternative Reggae Rock sound that reminds me of the 1990s. In fact, everything from the sound of the instrumental to the flow Saba uses reminds me a lot of Bradley Nowell and Sublime. This track has a nostalgic feeling that old-school Hip Hop and Alternative Rock listeners should love. On ‘One Way or Every N****a With a Budget,’ Saba is boasting about how much wealth he has accumulated since becoming a rapper. Nowadays, he goes to buy whatever he wants and goes wherever he wants to go without even checking his bank account. He feels blessed because of this. The energy completely switches up with the next track, which is called ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ and features G Herbo. This is an intense, high-octane Trap track. This track has a menacing and foreboding beat with a harsh and dark melody. It has the type of tough and gritty instrumental I would expect to hear from artists like Young Nudy or 21 Savage. Both Saba and G Herbo have flows and cadences that match the energy of the beat super well. The contrast in the vocal fluctuations between these two creates an interesting juxtaposition; the higher pitch of Saba goes well with the lower pitch of G Herbo. On ‘Survivor’s Guilt,’ Saba and G Herbo are asserting that now that they have money, they will never let themselves live the way they used to. They don’t care if the people they grew up around hate on them for their success. They will let those people be bitter and do whatever they can to never be in a bad spot again.
After this, we get a short and sweet track which features Eryn Allen Kane and is titled ‘An Interlude Called Circus.’ This is a melodic Trap cut that is only one minute but still packs a ton of energy. The chorus has that weird squirrel-like auto-tune that reminds me of the late 2000s, and the melody has a computer-like quality which also reminds me of that era. Saba uses a rapid-fire flow on this track which brings the juice. On ‘An Interlude Called Circus,’ Saba is reflecting on his life before fame, seemingly remembering things were quite as bad as he made them be in his head. ‘Fearmonger,’ which features Daoud, is another track with an interesting and off-the-wall instrumental. Once again, I feel like this track was inspired by the 1990s Reggae Alternative movement. This is another track with a riff that I feel like Bradley Nowell of Sublime would have loved to split on back in the day. This weird level of funkiness brings out the best in Saba; he seems to thrive on these kinds of unique 90s-style instrumentals. On ‘Fearmonger,’ Saba and Daoud are expressing their fear of being broke. Both of them know what it is like to have money and to not have it, and they never want to be in a position again where money is an issue. Saba brings back the melodic Trap with the song ‘Come My Way,’ which features Krayzie Bone. This is another song that has a melody and feeling that reminds me of early 2010s Internet Trap. This song makes me think of the music Chance the Rapper became popular for back in the day. The rapid-fire delivery of Krayzie Bond goes well over this instrumental and gives the song texture. ‘Come My Way’ is another song about getting money by any means necessary. Saba and Krayzie Bone put themselves in the perspective they had before fame and rap about how they would do anything(from stealing or selling drugs to making art) to get some cash flow. ‘Still,’ which features 6lack and Smino, has a Jazzy R&B Trap sound that is reminiscent of Saba’s previous work. The instrumental for this one is very easy-going and has a calming nature; paired with the performances from Saba and features, this track almost makes it feel like you are floating. ‘Still’ has the kind of sound that has me wanting to go on a long burn cruise with the windows down on a warm summer evening. appreciate how Smino and 6lack have similar delivery styles but very different vocal styles, as it creates an interesting contrast. I guess the fact this song makes me want to smoke is on point because on ‘Still,’ these three artists are talking about smoking and trying to tell themselves that money and fans hasn’t changed them. Even though they are successful now, they didn’t lose the mentality they grew up with.
Still missin’ my lady, still smokin’ like crazy.
Still can’t believe this is all real, still spendin’ per diem. Still lovin’ these hoes, I still don’t really need them. I’m still, our life is like a film, set in a different realm. I’m still tryna decide how I feel. I’m still rough as a rider, I’m still right here beside you. I’m still tryna find a beat to kill… – ‘Still’ feat. Smino and 6kack
‘a Simpler Time,’ which features Smino, has a similar funky Jazz Rap to the last song. This is one of the most low-key and relaxing songs on the record. The instrumental somehow sounds very simple and complex at the same time. It is driven by a soft beat and sweet piano melody, but it is full of sound effects in the background that give it an atmospheric feel. I have to shout out Mereba’s performance on this track, as she stands out. Her singing voice goes perfectly with the melody, and her flow rides the beat as well as it possibly could. On ‘a Simpler Time,’ Saba and Mereba rap about how it’s ironic that they spent their whole lives trying to make money to make things more simple, and it turns out life was more simple before they had money. The money just ended up giving them more things to worry about
‘Soldier,’ which features Pivot Gang, brings the old school funk in a major way. It also has an alternative 90s Hip Hop feeling to it. This instrumental is somewhat of a cross between the music artists like Stevie Wonder would make and the music they A Tribe called Quest was known for. I love how simple yet unique and eclectic this track is. This style of music fits the deliveries of each Pivot Gang member well. ‘Soldier’ is about trying to stay positive in life and how we need to keep fighting no matter what happens. Nothing is necessarily supposed to be simple or easy, and we do have to do whatever is better for us as individuals. ‘If I Had A Dollar,’ which features Benjamin Earl Turner, is another song that shows off Saba’s diversity as an artist. This track has a straight-up Emo-Trap feeling to it. The song is driven by a heavy and foreboding Trap beat and a somber, forlorn guitar melody. This is the kind of instrumental that makes the listener feel deep emotions when they hear it. It honestly reminds me a lot of Lil Peep(RIP). I never imagined before this point that Saba would make this kind of music, and now I want to hear more of it. Both his and Benjamin Earl Turner’s voices work perfectly for this instrumental. On this track, both artists are talking about how it is impossible to succeed all the time and we are all bound to fail. We just need to take everything with a grain of salt and live day by day. The tough and foreboding Trap sound we hear earlier comes back on the song ‘Stop That.’ Even though this song is only 2:17, it packs one hell of a punch. It has a creepy and dark melody which is set up a heavy, buzzing bass line. Saba matches the weird and harsh energy of the instrumental with his rapping style on this one. On ‘Stop That,’ Saba seems to be talking to those people who hated him growing up and how they like to compare themselves to him now. He is trying to make sure they know they are not close to his level.
One thing about Saba is the fact he can excel at so many kinds of Hip Hop, and he shows off another style he is good at with the song ‘Make Believe’ which features Fousheé. This one has a sound that is kind of tough to describe. The instrumental has a sort of theatrical Poo feeling to it. The beat, which kicks in about halfway through the song, has an old-school underground Hip Hop energy. This instrumental gives the song a bit of a monologue feel; it’s like the artists are talking directly to the listener one on one. On ‘Make Believe,’ Saba and Fousheé are expressing how appreciative they are of where they have gotten due to their hard work. They knew they have accomplished way more than what was expected of them and they are grateful. The sweet, melodic Pop sound with a theatrical feel carries on with the next track, which is called ‘2012’ and features Day Wave. This one has a sound that is very similar to the song that precedes it, albeit with a few key differences. ‘2012’ has more of a distinct Hip Hop best that feels influenced by the early 90s, and the song has an overall distortion to its sound which gives in an atmospheric feeling. The vocal delivery of this song has such a warm tone, and it goes with the instrumental well. In ‘2012,’ Saba is reminiscing on a relationship he had back before he was famous. He is appreciating how uncomplicated life was at that point, and how he did not feel so much pressure as he does these days. the album closes out with ‘Few Good Things,’ which features Black Thought and Eryk Allen Kane. At 8 minutes, this track is like three songs in one; there are two instrumental breaks, with each section of the song having a similar but distinct Jazzy old school underground Hip Hop instrumental. Saba raps on the first and third instrumentals, and Black Thought takes the second one. The melodies and beats in this track sound like something off of an album from the Roots back in the day, and Saba sounds just as natural on these beats as Black Thought does. In Black Thought’s verse and both of Saba’s verses, these two artists are reminiscing on their journeys to where they are today. They appreciate the grind and the struggles they have gone through, they know that they have put in all the effort they could have to get to where they are now. It is a very sweet and concise way to end this record, and it gives the listener motivation to go accomplish their own dreams.
With all that he has accomplished in his short but impactful career, there was a lot of pressure on Saba to deliver on this new record and prove how great he is. Fortunately, Saba totally delivered on Few Good Things. This record really shows off his diversity as an artist; he travels all throughout Hip Hop with the album, going from Jazz Rap to Psychedelic Trap to Emo Trap to traditional Trap to old school and underground Rap beats. No matter what the genre type, Saba’s vocal fluctuation, flows, and lyricism shine on Few Good Things. He keeps the same general themes on every song as the record progressed through multiple Hip Hop subgenres. With Few Good Things, Saba proves he’s one of the most interesting and exciting rappers in the game right now.