Introducing Saba: Chicago‘s Thoughtful Hip-Hop Storyteller
|Full Name||Tahj Malik Chandler|
|Birthday||July 17, 1994|
|Associated Acts||Pivot Gang, Noname, Chance the Rapper, Smino, Mick Jenkins|
As a longtime hip-hop fan, I‘ve eagerly followed Saba‘s career from the beginning. Over the past decade, the Chicago native has steadily built a dedicated fanbase with his soulful blend of hip-hop, jazz, and R&B. Saba‘s introspective lyrics and detailed storytelling have rightfully earned him critical acclaim as one of the most promising young voices in hip-hop today.
Early Life and Musical Beginnings
Saba was born Tahj Malik Chandler on July 17, 1994 and grew up in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago‘s turbulent West Side. He was raised in a highly musical household, with his older brother Joseph Chandler (stage name Pivot Gang) heavily influencing Saba‘s passion for hip-hop. According to Saba, he began rapping himself at just 7 years old, dropping his first mixtape "Get Comfortable" in 2011 at the impressive age of 13.
As a determined teen, Saba would regularly skip high school to record music, refine his craft, and collaborate with his brother Joseph as well as other local artists like Smino and Noname who were buzzing around Chicago‘s underground hip-hop scene. In 2012, Saba and his brother Joseph formed the hip-hop collective Pivot Gang, named after Saba‘s childhood nickname "Pivot" which his grandmother gave him for always pivoting from one thing to another. Pivot Gang served as a tight-knit crew of rappers, singers, and producers in Chicago‘s underrated hip-hop landscape.
Early Releases and Record Deal
In 2013, a 19-year-old Saba independently released his debut solo mixtape titled "GETCOMFORTable". Songs like “Burnout” and “Charlie Brown” illustrated Saba‘s natural penchant for soul-baring lyricism and established him as a promising young talent among hip-hop heads.
Saba‘s big break came in 2016 when he released his first studio album "Bucket List Project" at age 21. The introspective concept album chronicles Saba‘s personal struggles and coming-of-age experiences with remarkable honesty. Standout tracks like "Church/Liquor Store" featuring Noname and "World in My Hands" featuring Smino generated significant buzz online. The album peaked at #5 on iTunes hip-hop charts and #16 on Billboard‘s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, proving Saba was an artist on the rise.
The immense success of "Bucket List Project" earned Saba a recording contract with independent label Closed Sessions. In 2017, he signed with hip-hop superstar Chance the Rapper‘s imprint label Social Experiment, which re-released "Bucket List Project" and paved the way for Saba‘s major label debut.
Mainstream Success with ‘Care For Me‘
On April 5, 2018, Saba released his sophomore studio album "Care For Me", which in my opinion is his magnum opus so far. The deeply personal album documents Saba‘s intense grieving process after tragically losing his cousin and Pivot Gang collaborator John Walt in 2017. "Care For Me" was rightfully met with widespread critical acclaim, with reviewers praising Saba‘s raw emotional vulnerability and masterfully detailed storytelling.
Songs like "LIFE" and "PROM/KING" meticulously illustrate Saba‘s mental state as he grapples with overwhelming grief, depression, and his sense of purpose in the aftermath of Walt‘s death. "Care For Me" peaked at #5 on Billboard‘s Top Rap Albums chart and #17 on the Billboard 200, proving Saba had broken through to the mainstream. The album received a well-deserved Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album in 2019, though it ultimately lost out to Cardi B‘s "Invasion of Privacy".
After taking time to process the monumental success of "Care For Me", Saba returned in 2020 with the surprise release of his EP "Few Good Things". The 7-track project showcases Saba‘s growth both personally and musically as he explores new lyrical themes and a smoother soul/jazz-infused sound. Songs like "Something in the Water" and "Stop That" blend lush live instrumentation with his signature mellow flows.
In September 2022, Saba announced his highly anticipated third studio album "Few Good Things" set for release on February 4, 2022. The album‘s lead singles "Fearmonger", "Come My Way" featuring Krayzie Bone, and "Survivor‘s Guilt" featuring G Herbo and Black Thought indicate Saba is continuing to refine his trademark reflective, story-driven style, which always keeps me eagerly coming back for more. As a devoted fan, I can‘t wait to hear the next chapter in Saba‘s flourishing career.
Artistic Style and Influences
Over his decade-long career, Saba has cultivated a distinctly soulful, introspective sound and versatile artistic range:
Lyrical Themes: Saba‘s lyrics often focus on coming-of-age, relationships, mental health, grief, and the harsh realities of inner-city life in Chicago. His detailed storytelling ability allows listeners to vividly visualize scenes and empathize with his experiences.
Flow: Saba‘s rapping utilizes a smooth, conversational style combining melodic flows with quick spurts of percussive lyrics. His cadence and delivery perfectly complement the introspective nature of his writing.
Production: As a skilled producer himself, Saba crafts lush, jazz-tinged soundscapes blending live instrumentation and soulful samples. His beats provide a rich, atmospheric backdrop for his vocals.
Influences: Saba cites hip-hop artists like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and Common as major influences. The poetic lyricism and musicality of jazz artists like John Coltrane has also shaped his style.
Impact and Legacy
At just 27 years old, Saba has already cemented himself as one of the most talented, impactful rappers of his generation in my eyes. His vulnerability and attention to detail have garnered him devoted supporters within hip-hop‘s inner circles. He frequently collaborates with close musical friends like Chance the Rapper, Smino, and Noname, who are also trailblazing a new wave of conscious, socially-aware hip-hop.
While Saba is not necessarily a mainstream chart-topping rapper yet, he has quietly become a critical darling, earning co-signs from rap legends like Black Thought and Lupe Fiasco. His early success illustrates that conscious, substantive hip-hop still has an audience hungry for it. For an artist just beginning to hit his stride, Saba‘s future certainly looks incredibly promising.
Fun Facts About Saba
- Saba got his nickname from his grandmother as a child because he was always "pivoting" from one thing to another.
- He learned to produce music using the popular DAW FruityLoops.
- Saba was high school classmates with fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper but dropped out of school to pursue music full-time.
- He cites his older brother Joseph Chandler as his greatest mentor and supporter.
- Saba is left-handed.
Where to Listen
You can find all of Saba‘s incredible music on major streaming platforms like:
Be sure to also follow Saba on his social media to stay up on the latest:
In just a few short years, Saba has established himself as a dynamic, socially-conscious voice in hip-hop‘s new generation in my perspective. His soulful production, vivid storytelling, and heartfelt vulnerability have resonated with critics and fans alike. As he gears up to release his highly anticipated new album, there‘s no limit to how far his immense talent can take him. Saba represents the bright future of substantive, independent hip-hop music, which we could use so much more of. I can‘t wait to see what he accomplishes next!