Another Hidden Gem, another Chicago classic.
Despite only being released a year ago, CARE FOR ME is already a Chicago classic in my book.
Tahj Malik Chandler, the young Chicago lyricist known as Saba, used CARE FOR ME to deliver some of the most soulful and honest rap music exported from Chicago since early-Kanye days.
As the poetic frontman of the Pivot Gang collective, Saba has built quite a name for himself in the Chicago creative scene. Saba has been a long-time Chance the Rapper collaborator, most notably on Acid Rap’s “Everybody’s Something” and Coloring Book''s "Angels". Saba buzzed around Chicago all throughout its rap renaissance, making him a local rising star. After years of hustling in the underground he became a global rising star, partly thanks to 2018’s CARE FOR ME.
Critics loved it; CARE FOR ME has a Metacritic score of 93/100. Saba’s small cult following loved it; avid Chicago hip-hop fans loved it.
CARE FOR ME has gotten its share of praise, but I would still consider it a Hidden Gem. CARE FOR ME is one of the most special albums that doesn’t get brought up enough. Then again, Saba is one of the most special rappers that doesn’t get brought up enough.
Luckily, fellow Burbs writer Carter Ferryman and I are both CARE FOR ME aficionados and want to shed some light on this sophomore studio album from one of Chicago's brightest talents.
I have chosen three songs from CARE FOR ME that, in my opinion, are the best indication of the album's greatness. Carter and I put our music-enamored minds together and dissected what makes these tracks so special:
BUSY / SIRENS (feat. theMIND)
Evan: Saba uses this seamless two-part track to rap his ass off while being brutally honest and introspective.
The first part, "BUSY", centers around Saba's loneliness and his growing distance from old friends. He touches on the struggles of adjusting to new heights in his career while trying to balance friendships and romantic relationships.
However, I respect that the track's sentiment isn't one-sided. Saba gets brutally honest about his own flaws and toxic tendencies, examining where he gets them from and what he should do to grow past them.
"SIRENS" takes a bit of a turn, turning into a poetic rant of the environment that surrounds him- Chicago, Illinois.
"But they think I'm servin'
Or they think my cellphone's a weapon Heard that the robber wore a black mask I fit the description, a.k.a. "n***a" What is the difference? It's an enigma We so divided, I'm from Division"
Saba touches on Chicago's history of police misconduct, the socioeconomic divisions that exist between Chicago's neighborhoods, and the mentalities that exist within all of these different groups.
As the album's first track, "BUSY/SIRENS" is essentially a one-two punch to reel the listener in. "BUSY" sets the album's backstory, "SIRENS" sets the album's setting.
Carter: In tandem with "BUSY/SIRENS" outward duality, I'll divide this into two parts."
Let's start with "BUSY" (obviously):
From an instrumental perspective, the first half of CARE FOR ME'S intro record is supremely calming - striking chords that resonate heavily in a mixture of avant-garde production and an almost "retro" video-game soundtrack sound, like something out of a "Kingdom Hearts" title for Playstation 2. Fittingly, "BUSY" sees Saba outline the ever-increasing gap between himself and the ones he loves; he delivers this message in a beautiful, spoken word style.
"SIRENS" sticks to the "video game" description I gave earlier, but the smooth and subtle pivot between the two-parts on this intro make it seem as though the player has progressed to a new level in his/her quest. The second half, however, is considerably realer than "BUSY" - Saba changes his pitch and masterfully delivers a set of bars on the division in the city he calls home.
PROM / KING
Evan: I'd say this song is, without a doubt, Saba's realest track.
I've gotten goosebumps every listen.
For starters, Saba's storytelling on this song is GKMC/College Dropout level. No, I'm not reaching.
The song, even when off-topic, centers around John Walt- Saba's cousin and fellow Pivot Gang member who passed away in 2017.
The track's first part, "PROM", tells the story of a young and awkward Saba encountering prom for the first time. Not having anyone to go with, Walt sets Saba up with a girl from another school- Jada.
The night goes well, for the most part. At an afterparty, Saba got into a slight altercation with an overprotective "brother" of Jada. Saba notes that he avoided telling Walt because he knew Walt would go "beat his skull in" and "the night would end terrible".
The song then rapidly switches into part two, "KING".
"KING" basically recaps everything that happened after that prom up until Walt's untimely death. Saba tells us about their time in college, their struggles, their successes, the evolution of their careers, and ultimately, the bond that existed between the two and the other Pivot Gang members.
The suspense builds throughout the track, peaking when Saba recaps the moment that he found out Walt passed away.
It's heavy, but "PROM/KING" is a wonderful tribute to John Walt and the true brotherhood that he and Saba shared. Without this track, CARE FOR ME would not be nearly as impactful.
Carter: It's really hard going after Evan (lol) - everything you just read above holds true.
"PROM/KING" is indisputably Saba's greatest achievement in songwriting. I love the GKMC analogy above, as this track has serious "maad city" vibes - halfway through Saba switches cadences and gets tense and picks up his tempo, illustrating the moments leading up to a tragic ending.
That's all I got on this one.
This record is fantastic.
(Also, for whatever reason, when Saba begins rapping about the phone call he received from his friend on the highway, it gives me vibes of Eminem's "Stan").
LOGOUT (feat. Chance the Rapper)
Evan: As I mentioned in the intro, Chance and Saba have established themselves as quite a power duo over the past decade. The two Chicago born-and-bred creatives seem to always chef up a poetic masterpiece when they work together. "LOGOUT" is only further proof.
Some might argue that the sentiment of this track is corny and "fake deep", but I feel that Saba and Chance did a superb job of dissecting the toxicity of social media in our current climate. They touch upon the addictive nature of social media and the toll it takes on self esteem, mental health, and overall clarity. They note that you don't fully realize these things until you "LOGOUT", which is often true.
They also make fun of how hard some people try to make their lives seem exciting, which is commonplace on any given social media platform nowadays. We could all @ a few people.
Carter: On "LOGOUT", Saba and Chance take vastly different approaches to a relatively complex beat.
On one hand, Saba uses his flow and rhyme schemes as the driving force for the beat, essentially forcing the human voice into the spotlight for much of his verse - once again very "Kendrick-esque" in nature.
On the other hand, Chance speaks rather freely, rapping on the looming insecurities that numerous Social Media users feel on a day-to-day basis.
Both of them are right, however: When in doubt, LOGOUT.