In the cosmography of Chicago rap, Saba and Noname are the poet savants, the voices that float into so many of their peers' songs to offer grounding wisdom, a slowed down view of the world around them, a deftly painted image that sums up all the ideas that came before. That's why you hear one of both them both all over the frankly incredible output from Chicago this year, from Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book, to Joey Purp's iiiDrops, to theMIND's Summer Camp to just about every other relevant release from the city you can think of.
But the two are perhaps most logical fits alongside each other: Longtime friends from their days at Chicago's You Media (of which Chance is also an album), Saba and Noname holed up together in an LA rental earlier this year with producers Cam O'bi and Phoelix, recording their respective debuts, Bucket List Project and Telefone. And on Bucket List Project's "Church / Liquor Store," which premiered on NPR, they weave together particularly harmoniously, describing the run-down neighborhoods of Chicago and in particular of Cicero Avenue, on the West Side of the city where Saba grew up. It's reminiscent of the vivid, world-weary rasp of Kendrick Lamar and the sharp eye of Lupe Fiasco—who tackled this same topic a decade ago on his debut album Food & Liquor. It also takes a similar form of one of Danny Brown's best songs, "Fields," detailing the scene that you see as you drive down the street: "it look like funeral home / church / church / liquor store / corner store."
Saba addresses his own biography in this world with lines like, "I can't relate to half of my relatives / my genetics is felony / buying low and reselling it" and "I'm still the same kid that didn't speak when we were in the school / I just got a mic now," and then he sums things up with a casual suggestion: "think I'm lying then plan a trip to Chicago today." Noname offers a contrast to the neighborhood picture, invoking images of yoga pants and yogurt stores, and as always she leaves a few indelible phrases behind: Here it's the astute observation that "sometimes the Bible tastes like marmalade." It's a dense song, but it's easy to sink into, too. It also promises good things for Bucket List Project, which is out October 27, and about which Saba told Noisey over email,
The Bucket List Project deals with a bunch of different topic, mainly death and in a lot of different ways. I think rather than focus on death though, I wanted to celebrate life. The project was inspired greatly by the death of my uncle, and in that comes the telling of many stories, some lighter than others of course. For me, I wanted to focus it around not just myself but others, learning what other people wanted to do with their life before they died, hear some of their goals short term, long term, no matter how realistic or crazy they thought they were. I wanted the project to inspire hope, especially for myself and for people who live in neighborhoods similar to the one I describe in a lot of my music. A lot of people are afraid of doing things just because of how they were conditioned and that conditioning affects a lot of other aspects of your life, including how you view the world. I wanted to inspire a fearlessness in all the dreamers. It's there, in all of us, and the neighborhood and the schooling system, and the jobs we have shuts it down. I just wanted to make a project that I know I needed to hear when I was younger.
Get ready for the album and listen to the song below. Plus, catch Saba on tour in November on the dates listed here.
Photo by Bryan Allen Lamb, courtesy of Saba
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