Saba dives deep into his demons, and he isn’t scared. Full of pain, loneliness, depression but, ultimately, authenticity, the album, “Care For Me” has the level of honesty only found in one’s private journal entries. Saba’s pain meets his pen which comes crashing down hard onto the page. In “CALLIGRAPHY,” the fourth track on the new album, Saba explains “I just got tired of runnin’ away, runnin’ away” so instead he sat down to “write it away, write it away.”
“Care For Me” is exactly that, a loose leaf torn out of Saba’s diary, personal struggles made public songs, written in his own carefully crafted “CALLIGRAPHY.”
West-Side Chicago rapper Tahj Malik Chandler, better known as “Saba” released his second album “Care For Me” on April 5. The album was listed at number 45 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts within its first week and already has heads spinning all over the hip-hop community. Even this early in 2018, it is on my list as a serious contender for Best Rap Album of the year.
Twenty-three-year-old Saba, who got his start on the vibrant Chicago open mic scene alongside big names like Vic Mensa, Noname and Chance the Rapper, has finally come into his own with this project. No longer is Saba “that one rapper featured on Chance’s song.” With “Care For Me,” Saba has solidified his persona as the tortured poet who isn’t afraid to take a hit in order to produce a more accurate picture. In the song “GREY,” Saba asks us not to label him with those who have “infatuation with plastic” instead “I wanted it to be realer.” He sings about the nature of radio hits and money making singles. For Saba “the best song is probably on the B-Side.” Saba distinguishes himself; he is speaking from the heart.
Saba raps over piano-based ballads and jazz inspired beats, reminding the listener of the intimate place from which the album was born. The jazzy chords on “GREY” speak of long nights spent hunched over the piano, pouring one’s heart out into ivory. The thumping upright bass in “LIFE” alludes to the bluesy depression felt by many jazz musicians and singers of the past. The music provides a melancholy space which set the tone for Saba’s flow and thoughts to shine.
The album feels more like a broken landscape with a singular narrator than a journey accumulating in a single message. Saba is our tour guide, taking us through a haunted city where he maintains the power to temporarily inhabit the voices of different ghosts. The album’s opening song BUSY/SIRENS makes references to the unfair deaths of Tamir Rice, Philando Castile and Stephon Clark, deaths resulting from police brutality. Saba then sees them as phantoms, singing, “Now you’re lying where angels lay.” The project ends with the song “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME,” where the soul of Chadler’s dead cousin, Walter, watches paramedics try to resuscitate his own body, and cries out to his mother and brothers, “I know you hear me…/ [but] Regardless how loud, they don’t hear.”
The album seems void of hope and speaks of sadness, stepping inside the lost dreams and unrealized futures of Saba’s dead loved ones. “My best friend obituary really hang on my wall, by the dresser.” However, the hope in the album lies in what it does for the listener. The experience ends up so accurately embodying what it means and feels like for humans to live in a broken system that it forced me as the listener to come to terms with my own anxieties. The album brings me towards feelings I don’t want to have to explore, but the honesty and bravery with which Saba travels gives me the strength and ability to voice my own hidden fears and look my demons straight in their eyes. Saba pushes me to go where I can’t or where I won’t. The album asks its audience repeatedly, “Can’t you care for me?” But instead the album cares for me, the listener.