I was introduced to Saba through Chance the Rapper’s “Everybody’s Something” where he was featured as a guest artist that rapped an attention grabbing verse, “Concoctions for the bad days and a condom for the good ones.” There’s something naturally humane about the rising hip-hop scene of Chicago. The city’s native rapper, Saba, has dedicated his creativity towards a positive attitude in a city so menacing. Much like Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Saba too follow in the footsteps of Kanye’s early material and Common’s conscious storytelling that roots from the Windy City.
“ComfortZone” is an overlooked mixtape of 2014. Acts like Vic Mensa, Chance the Rapper, Isaiah Rashad, Vince Staples were blowing up during this time last year through media exposure. It seems to me that Saba was somewhat ignored by the public. Which was a huge mistake since “ComfortZone” succeeds in so many levels, more so than most rapper’s projects.
The mixtape tracks that were constructed by different producers and Saba himself flow fluidly like Mick Jenkins mixtape, “The Waters.” These Chicago rappers are on the come-up by channeling a different energy into Hip-Hop, reminding fans of the New York based conscious rap era with artists like Talib Kweli and Mos Def(now Yasin Bey), and Lauryn Hill.
The first two tracks like “TimeZone” and “Burnout” (feat. Eryn Allen Kane) are perfect introductions. The production of both tracks foreshadow the overall sound of the project. His hooks are incredibly well written; they’re catchy, rhythmic, and completely removed from cliché. “Who do you wanna be like? Who do you picture me like?” Lines like this in his track “TimeZone” capture the emotions of Saba himself and connect the listeners with his lyrics without being narcissistic. Tracks like “Burnout” which features the Detroit native Eryn Allen Kane (who has been finding success recently featuring on a Prince track, “Baltimore”) nails her hook by singing and moderately rapping her part. The outro of the song continues in to the third track, “Butter,” saying “Wake up, yea wake up everyday feelin’ good,” and relentlessly continues and let’s the listeners forget about songs standing out as individuals. The cohesive production and intricate details of continuation sonically make the mixtape sound comparable to a studio album.
Saba is also a rapper who doesn’t shy away from history. “Welcome Home” and “401K” capture the violent nature of his hometown, Chicago the metropolis known for its statistically high crime rate. In the midst of the chaotic nature of his urban surrounding. Saba doesn’t neglect the beauty of his roots. Chicago may be a war zone in certain areas yet it is the only place the rapper considers home, a place of comfort. His inner city roots are held as pride on “Scum,” the more intensive tracks. The song makes a change through a slightly sped up beat structured with heavier drum noises compared to the earlier tracks on the project. “ComfortZone” is very much an ode to his city, and shifts between Chicago’s chaos and serenity. Saba’s lyricism actively accommodates his openness of sharing his internal thoughts without being selfish. Tracks like “Westside Bound (feat. Benjamin Earl Turner)” and “Westside Bound Pt.2” are a good example of Saba’s ability. The last three songs off the project conclude the mixtape smoothly and are neither underwhelming nor overwhelming. Instead “ComfortZone” finds the right balance with tracks like, “Comfort food (feat. LEGIT)” which has an incredible ending with an amazing verse from the guest. The final two tracks “Tell You” and “United Centre” (feat. Chandler and Ken Ross) shifts away from the despairing beats from earlier songs into jollier sounds accompanied with optimistic messages from the artist.
The end to the project marks the overall theme of the Saba’s project. Chicago is Saba’s “ComfortZone,” despite the dangers that the city can possess. Chicago, the place Saba grew up and lived in is the only place for the rapper to call home, comfortably.