The Lowdown: Care for Me is Saba’s second studio album and first since the death of his cousin and close friend Walter Long, Jr. Considering the songs are full of raw emotions, the emerging rapper is surprisingly patient. He sets up all the important ideas early and leaves them alone for a while. The music is lush and funky, and Saba has a lot of fun pirouetting around the beats, with friends Kaina, theMIND, and Chance the Rapper occasionally joining in. However, the same dark thoughts keep tripping up his stream of consciousness.
The Good: At 10 breezy tracks, Care for Me isn’t just a collection of songs; it’s an honest-to-god album that develops ideas at its own pace. On “Life”, which is also about death, different kinds of life and death just keep coming at Saba at a thunderous machine-gun clip. But the album reaches its emotional climax on “Prom / King”, a seven-and-a-half-minute tour de force of sweet remembrances, fresh grief, and expert storytelling.
The Bad: “Caligraphy” isn’t bad per se. It just lacks subtlety — a song with an obvious thesis on an album that is rarely obvious. Wedged in the middle of Care for Me, it’s surrounded by better tracks that make the same points with less fuss and more feeling.
The Verdict: Care for Me is about the woozy mix of city and family and friends and mental health … and grief. It’s about needing care and needing self-care … and grief, it’s about all this and more, but that grief is strong. And maybe it’s morbid to be so interested; maybe it’s emotional rubbernecking, gawping at the wreckage of someone else’s life. It’s a grief we hope to avoid and yet a grief we can’t help tasting. Saba makes it near impossible to turn away.
Essential Tracks: “Prom / King”, “Life”, and “Logout” ft. Chance the Rapper