WRITTEN BY: AnnaMarie Otor
This past Monday, Chicago rapper Saba celebrated the three-year anniversary of his critically acclaimed sophomore album, CARE FOR ME. To ring in the milestone, he pulled out all the stops: a limited vinyl repressing, merch run, and even a Twitch Q&A celebration stream featuring himself and the album’s other co-producers (Daoud and daedaePIVOT). Looking retrospectively, this work in particular takes a melancholic turn in comparison to the boisterous energy of his debut album, Bucket List Project. CARE FOR ME was heavily influenced by the murder of Saba’s older cousin, John Walt, who he was extremely close with. Each song carries bits and pieces of his memories, and the ways in which Saba processed his death – the grief, guilt, nostalgia, and everything in between.
Saba strikes a masterful balance of these themes. Songs like “BUSY / SIRENS,” “FIGHTER,” and “LIFE” fall into a somber pattern vividly illustrating bouts of vulnerability. “CALLIGRAPHY” offers a glimpse into how songwriting provides him with both a literal and figurative escape to his surroundings. The starkest contrast in mood is seen in “SMILE” as Saba thinks back on his childhood in Chicago. The climax of the work, however, is “PROM / KING,” in which listeners take a ride down memory lane as Saba reminisces on the time his cousin got him a date to his prom, memories of times leading up Walt’s death, and the sequence of events the day he died. But, CARE FOR ME is not overridden with choking, inescapable grief. It is a beautiful recollection of times, difficult conversations about mental health, and the importance of the relationships you cultivate with those around you.
Looking to the present, a lot has happened for Saba since this album’s release. Though he has yet to put out another full-length project of his own, in April 2019 he and other members of Chicago hip hop collective Pivot Gang put out their debut album You Can’t Sit With Us. Notably in 2020, he scored a guest feature on Aminé’s “Talk” off of the deluxe version of Limbo. So far this year, Saba made his way onto the soundtrack for Judas and the Black Messiah with Smino on “Plead The .45th.” This barely scratches the surface of an impressive array of singles he has put out on his own, collaborating with the likes of Denzel Curry and tobi lou, for example. Nonetheless, fans are still receptive and listening to CARE FOR ME as much as when it was initially released; the limited vinyl repressing of the album sold out in less than a minute earlier this week.
On the day of the anniversary, Saba shared the following message across his various social media platforms: “CARE FOR ME has become a moment in time. My thoughts in solitude have connected with millions, these stories live in all of us, and I’m extremely grateful for your ear and your hand in making this album all that it is. I know what this music means to me, but the fact that it can also mean so much to you is humbling. Hope to see you the next go round. Might be a few.”
What lies next in the cards for Saba is anybody’s guess. But it is fair to say that he’ll approach his next big project with a flair for raw honesty and striking storytelling.
- BUSY / SIRENS (ft. theMIND)
- BROKEN GIRLS
- FIGHTER (ft. KAINA)
- LOGOUT (ft. Chance the Rapper)
- PROM / KING
- HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME