Nostalgic and rife with themes of self-actualization and realization, the third studio album Few Good Things from Saba digs deeper into his growth as an artist and what his art represents to him.
Accompanied by a captivating short-film, the album evokes sentimental and reflective themes and seeks to rivet in that validation from external sources holds little weight and that true growth comes from sense of self. He gets his message across by creating a diverse sonic world unlike any we’ve heard previously from Saba.
In his own words, “I challenge you not to come in with preconceived notions of what I’ve done in the past and use that to dictate what my next work will be”.
Saba uses the album as a means to acknowledge the full spectrum of black emotion, from joy to sorrow, from rising above adversity to moments of self-doubt. He crafts an impressive sound world through very organic beats with live instrumentation as well as his signature storytelling and versatile flow.
Coupled with the slice-of-life visuals from the film, Saba paints a poignant picture of not only his place musically in the West Chicago scene, but also the experiences of the black folk that live there.
“Few is a small number, but few is not lonely. In the face of all adversity, a few good things is recognizing and accepting blessings” – Saba
A significant portion of the album has that chill, laidback vibe and there are notable standouts within that. “Still” features very lush instrumentation and a driving bassline while 6Lack gives a smooth chorus that just floats over the top. All of this is neatly wrapped in Smino’s harmonies from the bridge and continues through his high energy verse.
On “2012”, Saba raps about young love, growing up, and more over an almost meditative beat. He even delves into more traumatic aspects of his younger life, rapping “All these bodies droppin’, same blocks that we played tag”.
But that duality of good and bad is still summed up by the final words of the track, “I had everything I needed, everything”. These words truly sum up the essence of the album, in that having a few good things truly makes the difference.
Some of the tracks feel deeply inspired by acts like Kendrick Lamar and especially OutKast, but Saba still finds his own lane despite the clear influences. Tracks like “Soldier” show that inspiration, but his storytelling makes it his own.
On it, he raps about being a new father while praying for safety due to the realities of his surroundings. The outro of the track gives a glimmer of vulnerability beyond his strong exterior, saying “If all of this can go bad / Then what’s the point of tryin’?”.
In a similar vein of storytelling, “Fearmonger” takes the concept of fear and creates a character, personifying it as a being that lives among us. The outro serves as a sort of “note-to-self” to remind the rapper and his compatriots of their position and to keep their wits about them, saying “Yeah, fearmonger lurk among us / I done clawed my way up / But that bottom’s callin’ me down / Slip and I’ll drown”.
“With big decisions to make, I was never sure if I was doing the right thing. Fearing if I was actually doing enough” – Saba
The album’s title track “Few Good Things” represents excellent artistic progression from Saba as well as a moving audiovisual tribute to Chicago. Saba extends his talents to the production as usual, bouncing between keyboards, guitars, bass, and drum programming with producing partners Daoud and daedaePIVOT truly creating a warm, organic feel to the album.
As he raps on the final track, “We turned a bunch of nothing to abundance”, showing how a few good things can mean the world.
Saba’s Few Good Things is out now via Pivot Gang, listen to it below and purchase it here.
Words by Mark-Anthony Pierre