Saba & Noname Turn The Church & The Liquor Store Into Symbols Of Chicago (Audio)

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This time last year, West Side, Chicago’s Saba got his big break as a featured artist on Chance The Rapper’s “Angels.” On “Church / Liquor Store,” he enlists fellow Chicagoan MC/poet and Chance collaborator Noname (a/k/a Noname Gypsy) to guide listeners through a tour of their hometown on a smooth, soulful track that may make you nod your head—both rhythmically and in agreement. The song provides a more three-dimensional and polarized depiction of the Windy City than the violent, gang-ridden reputation it has been given in recent years.

Although Saba does portray a place characterized by gun-toting teenagers who roam streets covered with the chalk outlines of dead bodies, where “a stray bullet’ll take your firstborn like the 10th plague,” at around 3:18, Noname juxtaposes these images with those of neighborhoods undergoing gentrification: “Look at the yoga pants, coffee shops and yogurt stands“—referring to the recently gentrified areas as “consumerism holy land.”

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Furthermore, the artists touch on the role law enforcement plays in creating the war-zone-esque atmosphere attributed to some parts the city, referencing phenomena like systemic racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. Following in the footsteps of hometown heroes like Common, newcomers Saba and Noname deliver some poised social commentary—and do so with equally graceful wordplay. For example, Saba opens the song using double entendres and fitness terminology to describe one way in which the police oppress people: “They ask you what’s the cause and effect of doobies packed in they fat / Now you callin’ collect, they booby trappin’ the trap / The police pullin’ a pulley, you fall for it, you silly / Putty, you out of shape, fuck running, you’ll catch a case.

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“Church / Liquor Store” is the first single off Saba’s upcoming Bucket List Project LP, which will also feature Chi-Town rap veteran Twista and Grammy-nominated singer Matthew Santos, among others. The album is expected to release October 27, 2016.