“I started writing to it and the song, it felt special and it felt like something the album didn’t have because the album was so serious and kind of dark, especially compared to my other music that I put out. It was like, this production, before there were even words on it, it felt like a way to brighten the album up a little, like a sprinkle of hope in there. And while ‘Smile’ is not super happy-go-lucky, despite the lyrics including ‘smile, smile, smile’ – the music still has that element of nostalgia. I think that’s something that the album explores a lot just with these dreamy chord progressions.”
It’s long been obvious to anyone paying attention that the diverse Chicago hip-hop scene is going through a moment. You’ve got guys like Lil Durk and G Herbo representing what are perhaps the dying embers of the once mighty drill scene. There’s the weirdo virtuosos like Chris Crack, Vic Spencer and Tree, rapping over soul samples with a personal sense of buggy irreverence. Queen Key makes brutal tunes for the club. Then there are stars like Saba, Noname, Mick Jenkins and Chance The Rapper.
They make passionate, spiritual music with a focus on the heady topics of love, life and religion.
“I love Chicago so much,” says Saba. “Because you can kind of do what you want, in music you can go as crazy as you want or as subtle as you want and do as you want to do. I think artistically, meeting Mick, Noname and Chance and all these people, it was like a connection of a friendship level that led us to making music… But I still consider what we all do to be very different, but I think it works well together. Chicago is just a really diverse scene, especially from the hip hop norm, like what hip hop is supposed to sound like, a lot of people in Chicago are pushing it further.”
Right now, Saba is one bright celestial body in Chi-town’s mighty galaxy. But as that star grows, would he want to be as popular, as iconic, as, say, the man whose spirit he evokes on ‘Care For Me’ , Tupac Shakur? Is that the ultimate goal?
“I think the goal is to always get bigger,” he tells me. “If we didn’t want to get bigger we wouldn’t be in Dublin doing shows. It just wouldn’t make sense. I would just stay in the studio and put out the music and that would be it. But I want to be as big as I can get, y’know?”
He continues, “I think an interesting thing about that is if you’d have asked me a few years ago I probably would have had a different answer, so I think I’m learning as I go and that’s the cool thing about being an artist now, you don’t have to be something you don’t want to be, you can just do what you want to do and be what you want to be. And I think that’s what we’re doing, but we’re kind of just figuring it out as we go. But seeing that many people out there in Dublin just makes me want twice or three times as many the next time we come. I definitely would like to keep growing.”
‘Care For Me’ is out now.