‘Few Good Things’: The vulnerable side of hip-hop

Saba reveals everything he is, and was on his third -full- length album


Courtesy of Saba’s official Facebook.

By Lucas Ruud, Collegian Staff

Coming off of a four-year break from his last LP, rapper, songwriter and producer Saba released his third full-length rap album, “Few Good Things,” on Feb. 4. Featuring hip-hop legends Black Thought and Krayzie Bone alongside modern R&B mainstays Smino, 6LACK and Mereba, “Few Good Things” is studded with smooth production, unique samples and introspective lyrics.

“The concept of ‘Few Good Things’ is the realization of self after a search for exterior fulfillment. It is the satisfaction and completeness you gain by simply living a life that is yours,” Saba said in a press release. Saba has always been transparent both inside and outside of the studio, which provides him with a unique quirk in a heavily saturated genre.

Alongside the new LP, Saba released a short film highlighting some of his music and the inspiration that went into the album’s production. Scenic shots of Chicago’s West Side, family and friends cycle as the narration and music echoes in the background. The themes of loss, anxiety, success and fatherhood within “Few Good Things” are all reflected in the thoughtfully produced companion film.

“Few Good Things” begins with the track “Free Samples” featuring Cheflee—a soulful, orchestral track. “Samples” slowly builds into Saba’s first verse about providing for his family and reflecting on his troubled past in Chicago. While it serves primarily as an introduction, it sets the tone that Saba has undergone a great deal of introspection since his last LP in 2018.

The first full-length track, “One Way Every N**** With a Budget,” glides along the same soulful tone as the introduction with a melancholy guitar sample and harmonized vocals layered on top of unique percussion. The drums are slightly cluttered-sounding, but there is a lot to appreciate in his upbeat lyrics about finally being able to provide for family.

“Survivor’s Guilt” immediately transitions the tone of the album from smooth neo-soul rap to a bassy trap-inspired sound. Fellow Chicago native G Herbo is featured on the track and provides a solid performance, but his vague lyrics about gang violence seem to counteract the message that Saba portrays in the first half of the song.

For example, Saba speaks on the pressure to give in to violence: “I plotted on everything, said ‘I’ma kill everything’ / Survivor’s guilt rhetoric, I could’ve been a B / But that thinkin’ deadly / We facin’ the pressure of family that we watched suffer.” While it is popular in the genre to use violent connections as a source of pride, Saba is grateful for choosing a different path.

The three-track stretch of “Fearmonger,” “Come My Way,” and “Still” is the strongest of the album, featuring three solid, simple beats and introspective lyrics about the fear of failure, poverty and heartbreak.

Saba flexes his technical ability on “Fearmonger” with a quick, upbeat flow while reinforcing the motif of losing it all in his lyrics: “I’m just scared to go back, didn’t have s*** to eat / Half my bread go to taxes, the actual thieves.”

“Come My Way” is a somber, thoughtful inclusion to the LP with a rare feature from Krayzie Bone, a member of the prolific hip-hop group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and a personal inspiration to Saba. He and Krayzie Bone deliver solid bars about personal struggle and supporting their families, and the track serves as a transition into the slower, more purposeful portion of the album.

The most popular track at the time of the album’s release, “Still,” perfectly captures the anxiety and uncertainty following a breakup. Featuring 6LACK and Smino, the track is full of heartfelt lyrics and contains one of Saba’s best verses on the album.

The lines, “What’s the real world? / When you with me, you take off your cool / Admittedly, yeah, I do too,” show Saba’s vulnerability, which he expands into a complete verse about his personal struggles in a relationship that he had to put on hold until he was in the place to properly appreciate it.

Saba’s tenderness makes a return in “Soldier,” in which he reflects on being a father over a smooth, driving soul beat. His lyrics form into a flow akin to André 3000: tight, punctual and heartfelt. Saba is able to blend his anxiety about being a father with the love he feels for his new child in a way that encapsulates the reality and human understanding in his music.

The album closes with the title track “Few Good Things”, a seven-minute-long experimental piece featuring hip-hop legend, Black Thought. While Saba delivers another two passionate verses, Black Thought carries the track with surprisingly personal and gentle bars considering his usual upbeat, punctual style. The ambient transitions between verses are slightly awkward in execution, but they do not detract from the meditative tone that Saba aimed to close the album on.

Saba plans to perform in Boston at the Paradise Rock Club on April 29, 2022.

Lucas Ruud can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @LukeRuud.