While his features with Chance the Rapper on “Angels” may have been cheerful, Saba’s new album is anything but. 30 seconds into opening track “BUSY / SIRENS”, he informs the listener “I don’t know how long I had depression”. At first glance, it appears we’re about to get another dose of the “sad rap movement” à la XXXTentacion or Lil Xan. Saba uses the album to memorialize the 2017 stabbing death of his cousin, John Walt. John Walt was former incarnated on the LP “Walter”.
Much of CARE FOR ME has soft yet somber production. It backs up Saba’s recounts of times spent with his beloved cousin. But, the song “LIFE” is noticeably more aggressive. The opening lyrics talk about death, referencing the early demises of Tupac and Jesus before dipping into the tragic death of his relative. Whereas aforementioned rappers like X just rap about depression and misery, Saba takes it to a whole other level through his real-life experiences.
Another standout is the penultimate “PROM / KING”. The two-part song starts as a coming-of-age moment for the rapper, now 16 and about to go stag at prom when Walt comes through with a date for his little cousin. Unfortunately, the night ends with the date’s older brother threatening not to do her any wrong, otherwise he’ll kill him. In the track’s latter half, vivid storytelling touches on how Walt helped Saba get to where he is now. It closes on the melancholy tone of the exact moment when he found out his cousin was killed.
Chance the Rapper, our favorite mega-religious Chicago MC, makes a short-but-sweet feature on “LOGOUT”. The song takes a negative look at social media. Singled out by the rest of the depressing songs, “SMILE” points to optimism for the future. Saba reminisces about childhood dreams and hoping to “make a million dollars” and move his grandparents out of their low-class neighborhood. The cheery song contrasts well with the rest of the gloomy nature of CARE FOR ME.
Saba’s sophomore album capitalizes when it needs to. It beautifully serves as a shrine for his dear friend and cousin. Kendrick Lamar portrays Dave in his album Good Kid m.a.a.d. City much like Saba does for Walt. The former’s death drives this album’s narrative as hard and strong as “Sing About Me” did. CARE FOR ME is full of personal and revealing lyricism. It stands alongside Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” or Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me. All these are emotional records dealing with the death of a loved one.
Our rating for CARE FOR ME is an 8.5/10.