Almost five years after the fatal stabbing of his cousin and Pivot Gang collaborator John Walt in 2017, Chicago rapper Saba – real name Tahj Malik Chandler – is still grieving. In 2018, he responded to the tragedy with the album Care for Me: a complex, melancholic paean, hot with denial, sometimes sunk under by depression. Few Good Things sees Saba resurface, moving beyond the acceptance stage on an album that sounds and feels like one long exhale.
The “Few” in the title doesn’t point out a lack of something, but an appreciation for those things – home, family (Saba’s appears in recorded snippets throughout), happiness – that he does have, and he paints this, on 2012, in shades of youthful innocence: snips of birdsong, rolling snares, and a blissed-out chorus of “I had everything I needed, everything” – all tales of bunking school in pursuit of friendship and first loves. The title track is a highlight, and ties knotty emotions into a neat bow: “Glass half full, the other half was the emptiness / We turned a bunch of nothing to abundance.”
Sometimes, his long, healing exhale gets caught in the throat. On Survivor’s Guilt, Saba mean-mugs in the mould of Kendrick Lamar’s more pent-up moments; A Simpler Time is less potent, and sees him tangled in off-kilter percussion (he can be guilty of the “word salad” he raps about). But when he glides on a beat – as on the Outkast-esque Soldier, or the soaring If I Had a Dollar – it’s hard not to be swept up in the euphoria.