CARE FOR ME - Saba
One of the biggest independent rappers in the game, Saba, has been held in high regard for years, especially with CARE FOR ME being one of the most respected albums to come out in the last five years. When it came out in 2018 and until about 2020 it was revered as an underrated cult classic, and it still holds cult classic status, but is not underrated as many people know the greatness that comes with Saba's second studio album. Saba has been fairly quiet since its release, releasing singles here and there but nothing definite or long lasting, and his fans have been waiting patiently. It is fair of him to take his time as there is no real rush, because CARE FOR ME will be around for years to come.
The minimalist, cloudy instrumental of the intro track, BUSY/ SIRENS is complemented perfectly by theMIND's dreamy chorus. Saba flows strongly, rapping about his misfortune with women and other struggles he's currently dealing with. When the SIRENS half of the song starts the instrumental is given more life, and theMIND gives an energetic, passionate verse and is a good send off to the ethereal laid back opener. The following BROKEN GIRLS has a dynamic but melancholy instrumental. Saba's chorus is repetitiously catchy, and in his verse he raps about feeling broken, and thinking a girl he deems broken could help him feel better, but it usually ends poorly. Saba's pen is clever here and he is able to illustrate the toxic and harmful cycle that he is participating in.
The eerie instrumental on LIFE is accompanied by some potent strings and Saba's flow is raw. He delivers a fun, dynamic chorus that is also riddled with pain, rapping about his vices and their negative effects on him. Like the rest of the record, Saba makes you feel his suffering through his minimalist but heavy instrumentals, his graphic storytelling and animated way of rapping. CALLIGRAPHY has a beautifully depressing instrumental that features some pleasant piano keys and fits the sound of the rest of the record. Saba's chorus is sung super well and like the rest of the tracks, is written super well. He raps about how he doesn't want to run away from his problems anymore, but that seems to be the only thing he can do.
FIGHTER starts with Saba rapping about the fights he's been in, winning one but being jumped by someone else after. Then later on being jumped by the guy who he beat up and his friends, and the guy who initially jumped him actually helped him fight the guy and his friends. This quickly progresses into Saba depicting non physical fights, the battles he fights daily whether they be verbal altercations or the mental fights he puts up, Saba describes them here, with an even more depressing end as he raps about fighting to get out of his bed. The instrumental on SMILE is strikingly more upbeat than the rest of the record thus far, with the instrumental sounding just like springtime. Saba raps about what makes him smile from what he has, what he wants and the connection with his family. His flow is fun and fast, and he's still able to paint detailed pictures with every lyric he raps.
The spacey, dreamy instrumental on LOGOUT is home to some more fast paced flows from Saba. Rapping about how he uses social media and how it causes him to seek validation among other negative effects it could have he depicts it in a way this is something he enjoys while also being addictive. The chorus is catchy and reinforces the negative impacts of social media, and so does Chance The Rapper in one of his last decent verses. On GREY, Saba raps about the power record labels have and assesses the negatives of being an artist over this heavy, jazzy influenced beat. He dives into themes of having your ideas be rejected and the difficulty of not being able to please everyone. The end of the track switches to a more positive sounding beat where Saba doubles down on his struggles as an artist and proclaims everything is grey.
PROM / KING is one of the best storytelling hip-hop songs of all time, and there is no denying that. At first glance it seems as if Saba is just rapping about his anxiety about his prom and his trouble finding a date. As he describes his prom experience in exquisite detail the song quickly turns into an ode to his late cousin Walter, and the close bond they formed. They start off not knowing that they live on the same block, hanging out everyday, and the instrumental is paced perfectly to match the highs and lows of their adventures. Saba raps about him and Walt pursuing rap together, going to open mics and even attending neighboring colleges and seeing each other nearly everyday. Saba says he feels safe with Walt, which is big considering the various tales of violence not just on this song, but CARE FOR ME as a whole. He recounts a story of Walt calling him to tell him he was shot at while driving and Saba panicking as his career is beginning to pick up steam and not knowing how to help him at the moment. The song concludes with Saba and Walt going to find their friend whose mother reported him missing, solidifying how the two went from near strangers to sharing a bond as strong as brothers. The outro, HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME leaves some room for closure as Saba raps about all the good things and opportunities around him. He also raps about feeling numb, distant and like he's going through the motions while recognizing everything great around him and just not being capable of appreciating it. It is a sad end to an even sadder album as Saba leaves it almost accepting his fate and feeling like he's doomed to this life.
CARE FOR ME is nothing short of amazing. The progressive, minimalist and melancholy instrumentals allow for Saba to put his grief on display for everyone to see, in a way that is smooth and skillful. Saba's lyricism in general is top notch, his songwriting ability is incredible but his storytelling is his best skill as an artist. Lyric after lyric, song after song Saba gives us vivid imagery where you can picture nearly any scene he describes. The way each of the ten tracks represents a different part of Saba's pain, a different struggle or set of hardships that he has to deal with is very impressive. Aside from his storytelling, the way Saba is able to make the listeners feel his pain and make them relate to it is the most impressive thing about this album and is just a testament to the thematic and sonic cohesion of this record. Despite all of the beacons of greatness here it is held back slightly by Saba's inability to stay on topic at times, and a lack of variety in the instrumentals at times.