Saba's music draws you into his world and it's real.
None of us are as bulletproof as we make it seem. This world that we are each growing up in is, at best, a minefield: filled with an innumerable amount of pitfalls that follow no patterns that can conceivably be called poetic justice. The good guy doesn’t always get the girl and the bad guy doesn’t always get caught. The youth of the Chicago area might know this as well as anyone. With 762 murders in 2016, over 650 people slain in 2017, and 554 homicides in 2018, it is clear that there is a very real problem in the city, without any veritable answers on how to solve it. Saba (Born Tahj Malik Chandler) is offering something a bit different than what the average rapper from Chicago is willing to provide us with, and that “something” is vulnerability.
The first words uttered on the album, “Care For Me”, are: “I’m so alone, but all of my friends, but all of my friends got shit to do…”. An admission of “awkward adolescence”, peer pressure, and depression soon follow, while letting us know that he is attempting to make sense of it all. I was overjoyed to be able to relate to an artist that, like myself, he doesn’t have it all figured out but is attempting to take the necessary steps to be able to, one day, attain that enlightenment that eludes us. Saba goes on to admit to his fondness for “Broken Girls”, confessing his enjoyment in using certain women and in being used by them, as some sort of fleeting satisfaction. One of the prevailing themes in “Care For Me” is that of John Walt, a Chicago area recording artist as well as Tahj’s cousin, who was fatally stabbed on Wednesday, February 8th, 2017. Saba details choice moments that they shared; like neither of them knowing that they were cousins, despite living “down the street from one another”, and growing up together.
On “Prom/King”, he tells of how he had no date to the prom but Walt helped him out, on short notice, by setting him up with a friend. He also details how hard they were working to hone their craft as artists by going to open mics and how his cousin, routinely, became the target of violent attempts on his life. After having listened to the album, I was left with an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the courage that it took to make this, and to allow everyone into his world. I believe that this effort should be studied by other artists. Not necessarily to tell all of their personal lives to total strangers, but to remind people that, at the end of the day, we are listening to a human being that possesses real flaws, and that goes through real turmoil, heartbreak, happiness, and pain. That although major labels may try to sell certain artists as though they were commodities, in search of a profit, that these very same artists are just trying to do the best that they can with what they have been afforded. For this reason, and many more, I am ready to say that “Care For Me” is a classic album. Saba deserves that. And John Walt deserved better. RIP.
Stephan George is a Montreal based writer. For more of his work click here.