Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Saba: Care for Me [Saba Pivot, 2018]
Like Noname, Donnie Trumpet, and pathfinder Chance the Rapper, Saba makes humanist hip-hop like few outside Chance's Chicago orbit--Homeboy Sandman, Atmosphere, and fellow Chicagoans Serengeti and Open Mike Eagle come to mind, not many others. I don't mean color-blind or race-neutral--no humanist with a brain would make that race-negative mistake. I just mean what these days is called, well, relatable. Every song on this official debut is rooted in Saba's hood and brushed if not haunted by his murdered cousin and partner John Walt--"Jesus died for our sins, Walter got killed for a coat." But it's also haunted by the sexual stress most male rappers are too fake to admit, by the career anxieties of someone who gave up an Ivy League scholarship to pursue music like his absent father. And it's warmed by an unassuming, conversational flow fitted to beats that favor naturalistic keyboards and percussion. A gorgeous and affecting record. A-