Saba Explains The Real LIFE Behind 1 Of 2018’s Realest Songs (Video)
Back in early April of this year, Midwest rapper and producer Saba unveiled, arguably, his most personally revealing project to date with, CARE FOR ME, an album which was included on Ambrosia For Heads‘ 14 Best Hip-Hop Releases of 2018, so far. The 10-track record annotates many of the grittiest and darkest details of his past experiences as a young Black man from the Austin neighborhood of Chicago’s West Side, scribing sullen stories including the loss of his brother, uncle, and close friend and MC John Walt, to coping with depression and anxiety.
One of Saba’s most heartfelt, albeit heart-wrenching, records from the album, “LIFE,” received the visual treatment just days after his album’s release. Utilizing dim black-and-white visuals and a dark, dribbling Boom Bap production as the foreground, Saba splashes colorfully downtrodden lyricism in his hometown streets to detail the aforementioned struggles of his past. Recently, Saba sat down with Genius to dissect the record further, providing more insight into its creation and the deeper meaning behind it.
“They want a barcode on my wrist (barcode on my wrist) / To auction off the kids / That don’t fit their description of a utopia (Black) / Like a problem won’t exist if I just don’t exist”
“LIFE” pulls no punches from the jump, as Saba expresses his understanding of Blackness in America, “that line kind of really represented to me, like, Black, you know? By being Black, you are an abomination to someone else’s utopia.” Lines like these undoubtedly contribute to the themes of social anxiety and depression expressed throughout the album, for Saba’s existence is burdened by the idea that the color of his skin is the reason for the world’s, and his own, problems.
Possibly Saba’s most influential subjects in the song are the members of his family, as his mother, father, brother, cousin, girlfriend, and grandfather are mentioned throughout, and the stories behind them are cause for some of the deepest pains he reveals. “My mom and me are really close, but just watching her struggle, you know, was a thing that then made me struggle. Me and my cousin were super close, so when he got killed, again, I struggled. My uncle was super close with me, and then, my dad, you know, my dad just not being in the same place as I was another thing that I struggled with. So I think, like, those are like the obstacles in a sense that I had to overcome.”
Further in the video, Saba extrapolates on the loss of his cousin, and how his death brought out ideas of worthlessness that were woven into this song, “The concept that I had been kind of thinking about since my cousin had passed was just life in general, and life not meaning sh*t. And I thought about, like, how somebody could, like, not value a life. To just take someone’s life. What could have drove this man to do what he did? That’s all answer that I could think of, “never had sh*t.”
In connection to all of the loss he’s experienced, the fear of forthcoming, or potential loss of a loved one also contributes to the song’s residential uneasiness and angst, as Saba worries about losing his girlfriend amidst the rubble of a depressed state of mind. “Losing somebody, it can just make you feel alone, and I think that’s one thing that, you know, I lost somebody but, I’ll always have my girl by my side. And there’s always a fear, like, what if she wasn’t?”
Later, Saba expounds on the difficult relationship with his grandfather, one that began his connection and later, career, in music as a whole. “Me and my granddad had an interesting relationship, man. It was so interesting because he was the reason I did music in the first place. Once I started pursuing music he kinda wanted to take a step back, and wanted me to go to school, and do all this other sh*t, so we dropped communication. It was just weird to me, you know, I thought he would be happy with this, and damned near, don’t want to anything to do with me now. He also passed. He passed a month a two after [John] Walt passed. Granddad went to war, you know, Granddad had to do a lot of different sh*t than I had. But my war was with myself.”
“I made what I made in allotted / Amount of time the same amount of time you was watchin’ / So stop comparing me to people, no, I am not them / A lot of people dream until they sh*t’ll get—*gunshot*”
Lastly, Saba wraps up the annotation by describing one of the last lines in the record, a line that juxtaposes people being forced to quit on their dreams in two ways, whether it be due to being shot down by their peers as an idea, or being, literally, shot down by the barrel of a gun. “Once your dream is shot down, is it just no longer your dream anymore, or are you like, then I’m about to still do this sh*t. I know so many people who gave up and then there’s the quite literal, a lot of people dream until they are shot down. I know so many people who was the hope for their peers, the hope for their family, and literally were just murdered, you know? That breaks so many people. It breaks their dreams. It breaks their hearts. It breaks a lot of what they wanted to do.”