Review: Saba, ‘Few Good Things’

Chicago’s Saba is ready to count his blessings on his most radiant album to date, blooming out from the concrete he’s ground on.

Saba’s music has become synonymous with Sunday mornings, visceral in his writing and revolutionary with his neo-rap sound. Whatever Saba has translated into a track has always come from the heart. Though tragedy loomed over the content of 2018’s CARE FOR ME, his follow-up album avoids getting trapped in the trope.

On Few Good Things, Saba strolls towards the sunshine, continuing to be one of the most humane rappers of his generation.

Photography: C.T. Robert

As human beings, it is often hard to see the bright side. The dark aspects of our lives know exactly how to impose themselves. What Saba shows on Few Good Things is that if there’s therapy in sharing melancholy, there’s also therapy in locating joy, with the inevitable aim to erase irrational fears.

While that may be a mission, Saba is up for the challenge. Continuing with the usual Pivot team, the production on Few Good Things is extra colourful, turning the saturation up several notches. From the minute Saba jumps in the paint, the songwriting follows the lead, resulting in some of Saba’s best raps to date (the sensational closing verse and are just a few highlights). With these elements in place, Saba gives us plenty reason to care for him and hear what’s on his mind.

Although Saba may not evolve his sound on Few Good Things, there is still range across the 14 songs. “Come My Way” and “Still” are notable examples of Saba’s signature chill hop, finding ways to incorporate both stellar raps and sticky melodies. “Survivor’s Guilt” and “Stop That” dabble in booming trap beats while maintaining his vivid lyricism. It’s to Saba’s and the production team’s credit for making every track count; a recurring theme in Saba’s catalogue so far.

The peak of the album arrives in its final two gifts. “2012” with Day Wave epitomises Saba’s ability to channel emotion in its rawest form. He reminisces over the people that brought him joy during the days of struggle. Saba doesn’t make it clear whether he wants these days back, which is the most gratifying element of the song; being at peace with the past and the present (“We come from fifty-cent bags of candy and penny pitchin’ / It’s like a wishin’ well if we gave the concrete our wishes”).

Few Good Things ends with its title track, an evocative epilogue featuring flawless verses from Saba and Black Thought. The emphasis on “a few” good things is stressed to the syllable; the fact there’s not actually many areas of life that Saba’s satisfied with, but the ones that exist are ones he holds dear to his heart. His closing verse will go down as one of the best verses of the year, bringing full closure to the purpose and message of the album (“Glass half full, the other half was the emptiness / We turned a bunch of nothing to abundance… few good things”).

Saba acknowledges that not everything is good, but that is okay. Few Good Things finds the silver linings and embraces them as tight as he can. The glass is finally half-full.

8.5 / 10

Best tracks: “2012”, “Few Good Things”, “One Way or Every N***a with a Budget”, “Come My Way”