Four years after the release of his second studio album, the pain-ridden CARE FOR ME, Chicago-based rapper Saba has returned with Few Good Things, released on Feb. 4. This new project takes a refreshing step away from the despair of its predecessor, with Saba reflecting upon what he loves and appreciates in his life through his lyrical storytelling. Although the songs lack musical cohesiveness, Saba’s exploration of new themes and emotions makes up for it, creating a stunning album packed with stories of his life.
For most of the 48-minute project, Saba remains in his comfort zone of melodic beats and rhythmic flow. In “Still,” guest features Smino and 6LACK flow well with Saba as he explains his fast-paced life, over airy percussion and a mellow bass line. However, Saba does occasionally venture into uncharted territory. Unlike his more mellow tracks in past albums, Saba successfully creates a joyful tone in “Fearmonger.” Here, he juxtaposes the bright beat of the song with an amusing monotone flow, a perfect addition to the playful character of the track. While Saba’s mix of style is generally pleasant, his experiments with rhythm and percussion in “A Simpler Time” are sloppy at best. Saba’s verses provide some stability in the song, but overall, the beat feels disjointed, with just a few ad libs, drum beats, and sound effects thrown around randomly.
The lack of sonic consistency in Few Good Things ideally paints Saba’s changing emotions and perspectives, despite the new musical endeavours not always succeeding. Saba contrasts hard-hitting, drill inspired songs like “Survivor’s Guilt,” which vividly details his adolescence in disadvantaged, marginalized Black communities, with ambient pieces like “2012,” where he candidly reflects on his meaningful and affectionate childhood. Thematically, the album is very consistent, exploring the topics of money, gratitude, and fame. On “Make Believe,” one of the most stunning songs off the album, Saba raps solemnly over fluttering synths about making it in the music industry: “Cause Black boys on this side of town not supposed to be on / the front page of the newspaper / For doing greater.”
Few Good Things feels like a scrapbook. Saba experiments with new sounds and instrumentation, sometimes succeeding and other times falling short. Although the album is slightly disjointed, overall it is an honest reflection of Saba’s emotions, capturing him doing what feels right musically.