Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
A lot of artists talk about money in their songs — about designer shoes, always buying the most expensive drinks at clubs, and name-dropping the biggest brands. Yet, when I say the theme of Saba’s album Few Good Things is money, those examples are not at all what I mean. In fact, Saba’s most recent album could be seen as more of a realistic commentary and story on what it is like to grow up in poverty and then finally get a taste of an expensive lifestyle, right under the limelight. And, boy, is it a great story from a great storyteller — from the artistry, wordplay, seamless transitions, and iconic features, to the thought-provoking, movie-like structure of the album. All of this, I fear, may be both overshadowed and underestimated because this isn’t the type of album that is too flashy. Each song has its own perspective on the themes Saba writes about, and each one is an important chapter in Saba’s album for a different reason.
1.“Free Samples” (feat. Cheflee)
This song serves as the intro to the album. Lyrics like “Hustlin’ candy bars to play basketball” and “Hand-me-downs I was given / I thought they were bought for me” are stark contrasts to the final lyrics, “I tried to spend a lil’ less like a minimalist / But then I can confess that gets harder the bigger you get.” This foreshadows the story, which is told in the rest of the album, about a black man from the west side of Chicago eventually getting rich after growing up in poverty.
2. “One Way or Every N***a With a Budget”
Before I listened to this song, I assumed it was going to be a solemn song about trying to stay afloat by keeping a budget. Saba completely subverted my expectations, however, creating a song with a sense of hope instead. The chorus may indicate this idea the most with the lyrics, “It’s a one-way street, though / It’s a round-trip when we fly / Never one way, one way / New crib by the seaside / On the one-way street, though / There’s a million ways to get by / Never one way, one way.” The last two lines reject the idea that there is one way to survive, live, and achieve, giving a sense of hope.
Perhaps my favorite lines from this song, “All the rappers and Tarzana, in the valley, Calabasas / All my n****s wanna crash here and my woman friends is ratchet / All my neighbors lookin’ at us, lookin’ different than they family,” represents a sort of juxtaposition, in which Saba and his friends bring their blackness to a predominantly rich, white neighborhood. I love this because, without saying much, it shows just how uncomfortable white people get when Black people are successful and “ratchet” in white spaces; even just being Black and existing in white spaces can make white people unsettled because they don’t feel like you belong there.
3. “Survivor’s Guilt” (feat. G Herbo)
Although I’m not much of a G Herbo fan, this is a song I can see myself putting on repeat, and G Herbo’s verse doesn’t ruin that for me. This song represents both the guilt and pressure of “making it out.” In making it out of Chicago, this song also represents staying alive. The first verse starts with Saba, “Even in the wintertime, they identfyin’ all these n****s dyin’.” Saba’s second verse starts with, “Even in the summertime, it be mothers cryin’.” These lyrics hint at this guilt of staying alive and leaving Chicago. More lyrics from the first verse highlight this guilt well, “My grandpa smilin’ with no teeth in / My cousin still supposed to be h–.” The line is a direct reference to Saba’s cousin, who died after being stabbed during an altercation. Perhaps Saba is showing guilt for not being able to save everyone, especially with the knowledge that people from his community and his family are still dying often (and young). When Saba sings, “We facin’ the pressure of family that we watched suffer / I gotta lift ‘em up out of the gutter / I make a check and send that to my mother,” it shows this pressure he feels, now that he has money, to be the primary provider for his family and to help others, as he puts it, “out of the gutter.”
Under the official audio’s description on YouTube for the song, Saba writes, “Sheltered and innocent. And guilty by association. When you see enough of your friends go, you learn the true difference money can make, whereas before you could only imagine.” The word “go” here can mean a couple of things: ‘go’ as in passing away, or ‘go’ as in leaving and beginning to make a name for yourself. Either way you read it, I think it shows this thought of having come from a place where you constantly see people in your community dying young, and feeling this urge to survive not only for yourself, but to help your community. “Sheltered and innocent. And guilty by association,” may at first seem like an oxymoron. However, it seems to say that willful ignorance makes you guilty because you are not looking at what’s going around in front of you, and therefore only hurting the situation.
4. “an Interlude Called ‘Circus’” (feat. Eryn Allen Kane)
In this one-minute song, Saba really focuses on where he was before his music changed his life. This song’s chorus includes Saba talking about just how broke he was, “Had a phone by Motorola, but that b**** was out of service / My car go in and out like you tryna resuscitate it.” This was a very clever way for Saba to say that he really couldn’t afford the luxuries he can now. The chorus ends with, “Ayy, we never say ‘Goodbye,’ no ‘See you ’round,’ no ‘See you later’ / Ayy, this Chicago, when you leave, we say ‘Be safe’ here,” reminding you that Saba came from a rough city.
5. “Fearmonger” (feat. Daoud)
Fearmonger is all about the fear of losing money once you have it. Saba’s pre-chorus shows this fear clearly, “Okay every n**** that I know is scared of goin’ broke / I know if I fall back down, ain’t no one there to lend me rope / Okay, and every n**** that I know takes care of so-and-so / So ain’t no option, option, option, you best go make more.” Saba also talks again about the distinction between where he comes from and where he is now, “From ‘We barely had a chance, left the crib on alert’ / To a crib with alarms and security perks / Insecurity hurts the same way jewelry works / So, if you payin’ to flex, pay your security first / No point in payin’ for whips to ride a funеral hearse / We bе prepared for the best, but also fearin’ the worst.” I really enjoy this song because it emphasizes that, if you’ve come from nothing, no matter how much of something that you get ahold of, you’ll be in fear that, one day, you won’t have it anymore.
6. “Come My Way” (feat. Krayzie Bone)
This song is about “daydreaming, thinkin’ how to get some money / and then we good. . . .” This seems to be a statement a lot of people need to tell themselves in order to make it to the next day. Saba says of this song, on YouTube, that “the focus is on work and survival.”
7. “Still” (feat. 6LACK and Smino)
“Still,” the halfway mark of the album, was definitely the song I was most excited about. One of the first songs I ever heard by Saba was “World In My Hands,” which featured Smino as well. I am a really big fan of both 6LACK and Smino, and had never heard them on a song together. I thought all three of their voices worked well together on this song, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. This song is more about staying true to yourself and where you came from, and still having a special someone back in your hometown. Smino raps, “Pullin’ my card, still where your momma live / Right off Parker road, it’s — / Still be callin’ to me, she love me still / Got a bond still, so what’s fuckin’ real?” The chorus, sung by 6LACK, includes the lyrics, “Still missin’ my lady, still smokin’ like crazy,” and “I’m still rough as a rider, I’m still right here beside you.”
8. “a Simpler Time” (feat. Mereba)
My favorite thing about this song is definitely the post-chorus, which is just Saba going “doot doot” repeatedly, which is terribly satisfying. In the chorus of this song, Saba says, “Woke up today, said, ‘I’m gettin’ it right’ / been up some days and I been up some nights / I caught the plane and I didn’t look twice / All for the simplest life.” Saba talks about leaving Chicago in order to have a simpler life; however, this is also contradicted by the second part of the chorus, “I put that pain in the shit that I write / Can’t get frustrated, gotta give it some time / Hop off the train at the end of the line / That was a simpler time,” suggesting that he not only still carries the weight of his community and where he’s come from, but maybe that was a simpler time than his life right now.
9. “Soldier” (feat. Pivot Gang)
This is probably the only song on the album that really still needs to grow on me. Although it’s not a personal favorite, it’s still an important track, talking about being forced to live life as a war, and having to be a strong soldier in order to survive. It also has the line in Joseph Chilliam’s verse, “Like beautiful girls that have dudes suicidal,” a refrence to Sean Kingston’s song, “Beautiful Girls.”
10. “If I Had A Dollar” (feat. Benjamin Earl Turner)
This is one of the catchiest songs from the album, as well as one of the more hopeful ones. The chorus is as follows: “If I had a dollar every time I failed, I’d be a rich n**** / Take a loss, take a win, take a breath / Take it in, take your time.” This song shows that you don’t have to let failures define who you are, and that you can fail and still end up successful — you have to be patient and “take your time.”
11. “Stop That”
This is one of the only songs on the album that doesn’t have a feature, possibly to emphasize the theme of this song — that of getting in one’s own way. The repetitive lines, “Stop that, stop it please / Stop that, stop it please,” in the chorus reflect Saba telling himself to stop the negative thinking patterns. This is one of the many songs I’ll be playing on repeat because of how much I thoroughly relate to it.
12. “Make Believe” (feat. Foushee)
This song expresses what it is like to live the wealthy life that Saba gets to live, which feels “make believe.” As he is living this dream, some people, who he wished could have witnessed him grow, “ain’t walking this earth, and that shatters [him].” He also raps, in the chorus, “Look, ‘ma, I made it, it’s like we dreamed / Look, ‘ma, I made it, it’s make believe / ‘Cause black boys on this side of town not supposed to be on the front page of the newspaper / For doing greater.” These lines hit hard when you think about the young, Black boys who don’t believe they could “be on the front page,” and those who never had a chance to.
13. “2012” (feat. Day Wave)
“2012” could be considered the nostalgic love song of the album. This song depicts a ride-or-die, friends-to-lovers, us-against-the-world kind of love. In “an Interlude Called ‘Circus’” Saba raps the line, “Back in 2012, before our record hit the surface,” showing that “2012” is about a love he had for a girl before he really had anything. The post-chorus is a simple two lines, “I had everything I needed, everything / Yeah, I had everything I needed, everything,” but says that this person Saba sings about is all he ever needed, even without the money.
14. “Few Good Things” (feat. Black Thought and Eryn Allen Kane)
The album’s titular (and longest) song is separated into three parts. I am only a fan of longer songs when it seems necessary to include them, and this three-part song ends the album beautifully.
In Saba’s first verse in the first part of the song, he raps, “Nights spent sleepin’ on the floor, need a bed or at least a cot / Since his dreams startin’ to define him / The grind never stopped for the workin’ class, fuck a Birkin bag / I learned my colors, then I had to watch what color shirt I had / Like a concierge, I show the way of our concernin’ past / But everybody can’t come along, I come to terms with that / I ain’t never been one to burn bridges or burn a bag.” There’s a lot going on here; Saba talks about having to be careful of what he’s wearing because of gangs, and having to come to terms with the fact that he won’t be able to save everyone or take everyone with him on his road to success.
In part two of “Few Good Things,” Black Thought’s verse talks a lot about his mother, the verse ending with, “As I reflect on what got me this / How I’m one of Cassie kids, we from S.P. and we come in two’s / I’m unenthused, but good things come in fews.”
The last part includes lyrics from the first song of the album, “Free Samples:” “I tried to spend a little less like a minimalist / But then I can confess that gets harder the bigger you get,” and expands this concept with lyrics such as, “Don’t ask ‘bout my independence, we not financially literate / Dangle a million dollars when oxygen was the mission / We just wanna breathe, we been drown down here for centuries / Black and brown boy identity, families that depend on me,” emphasizing what this entire album has been about this urge and pressure to help his community, which only deepend once he got his hands on some money.
This is definitely an album with lyrics I truly think deserve to be listened to. I’d give this album a 9/10. My favorite songs from this album are “Still,” “Fearmonger,” “Survivor’s Guilt,” and “2012.” I would also recommend watching Few Good Things (A Short Film) on YouTube after listening to the album; it gives visuals to and emphasizes the cinematic elements that the album provides.
Featured Image Courtesy of Pitchfork