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Kickin' It With: Saba

Kickin' It With: Saba

Amongst some of the toughest times in his life so far, Saba found solace in music and pieced together one of my favourite releases of 2018. A rapper/producer hailing from Westside Chicago, Saba is now heading to our shores for his first ever Australia & New Zealand Tour thanks to the team at Astral People and Handsome Tours.

Saba heads down under on his ‘Care For Me’ tour performing from his critically acclaimed sophomore album titled ‘Care For Me’; a project packed with raw emotion that serves as an ode to his late cousin and best friend Walter Long Jr.

A long list of collaborators with the likes of Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins and Smino, Saba looks set to take his career to new heights and Kicked It with us to chat about music, touring and life as one of the most promising sounds in hip-hop. For more info and tickets, click here!

Can you give our readers a little outline on who Saba is and a little about yourself?

I’m from the Westside of Chicago, I’ve been making music Since I was about 8 and I’m 24 now so the majority of my life I would say. I’m a producer, I’m a rapper, I do a lot of my own music and I dropped an album called ‘Care For Me’ and this is why I’m coming out to Australia now.

Why music? How did you find music or how did music find you?

My father did music so I think I just naturally kinda leaned towards it because it was what I kinda saw him doing. I saw his father do it and I saw my uncle doing it. I come from a very musical family so it was kind of like a no bno-brainert I would end up doing music.

I first came across your music way back after seeing a track you did with Mick Jenkins called 'Heaux', can you talk a bit about your sound back then and how it’s changed over the years?

So back when I did that track that was probably like 2012, I think musically my main concern was just rapping, rapping really good, trying to our rap everybody. I think over the years I kinda... I kinda started focusing more on the musical elements and by the time I started putting out my own albums and my own mixtapes and stuff I just wanted the music to be good. I didn’t really care much about whether it was the most amazing verse anyone had heard or whether I was rapping super fast or anything like that, I just wanted the music to be good and to be honest so I kinda had to find my sound over the years. But yeah, I still listen to some of that stuff, I still like it, I’m still a fan of it but I would say the sound kinda matured a lot over the last what? 5 or 6 years since that track.

Do you have a creative process you try to follow when writing or when you’re in the studio?

A lot of times I let the music kinda take it there, I very rarely start without a beat so I like to be in the studio like I don’t like rapping to beats that are already done, it’s like my least favorite thing to have write to a beat that’s already finished. So, I like to be in the studio when the music is like blank when there’s nothing there and I kinda like to watch it happen from scratch. If I’m producing that’s easy to do but sometimes I work with other producers and what not so I like to be there. When I get to watch it kinda turn into what it turns into it’s easier for me to write that way when I understand the production a little better and then I kinda just go, I still write on paper for the most part so I’ll have my notebook and my headphones or something like that and I kinda just go and see what I come up with and I usually just go with the first thing that comes to mind and i just write it out and see where it takes me and that’s a lot of times what usually ends up on the song, I don’t do a lot of editing or nothing like that.

Touching back on Mick Jenkins you have collaborated with a number of amazing artists along with Smino and Noname to name a few, do you feel that the process of collaboration comes easily to you as an artist?

I think it depends on the artist like certain artists I think we collaborate a lot easier like if we might have a similar idea for a song or something like that or with those 3 specifically. We’ve all been working together for like 3, 4, 5, 6 years so it’s really easy for me to play them a song and they’re just ready to hop on it or something like that. With some artists, it is like a thing where you have to just work at it you know and develop a relationship before because I always think that the relationship with the artist is more important than the sound of the song. So, I just have really good relationships with all of those artists so when you hear the music you’ll be able to hear that.

For those types of projects do you always manage to get in the studio together or does it sometimes tend to progress organically over the internet?

I mean it’s a little bit of both, every now and then there’ll be like some internet stuff. I did my verse for her [Noname] album over the internet and I just sent it to her but it was just because think they were touring and I was in like Oakland, California or something so we was all over the place and her deadline was approaching so I just emailed them the verse. Generally if we’re all in the same state we try to just get up get in the studio and work on something from scratch which is a lot harder now that everybody’s touring and everyone is in different places, but it used to be very normal for us to all be in the same room and all in the same studio session.

This is your first time out to Australia and NZ, tell us a bit about how you’re feeling leading up to these shows and what the crowds out here can expect from you on this tour?

Well, one I will say is that I’m just super excited because Australia has always been one of my top listened countries even since I was just dropping things on SoundCloud. Australia has always been kinda like at the top so I’m excited to finally go meet a lot of the people that have been supporting me for so long and I just haven’t had the means to get over there. Especially knowing that when I just get on Twitter and Instagram and I see how excited people are to see this show because a lot of these people have never been able to catch a show or anything so that’s one of the reasons I'm super excited to just get over there.

I hear that it’s gonna be warm there and it’s freezing here so that’s another reason; we about to hit the heart of winter in Chicago so you know it’s gonna be super nice to be able to escape that. I’d say all in all the live show it’s really like the album brought to life I think one of the things about being a performer is that it’s make or break for a fan. Sometimes you might be a fan of someone and then you see a live show and then you’re like, ‘Ehh maybe they’re not that good’ but I think for us it’s the exact opposite where you see a live show and you’re really sold on what everybody does because we put a lot of time into the rehearsing and just making sure we bring the best show we can bring, especially to a place that we’ve never been so you know, first impressions always count.

Let’s get into your latest album, 'Care For Me', you touch on some heavy subject matter and it’s hard to ignore the rawness and the emotion especially across the project. What were your thoughts when the project was coming together?

I feel like all of my thoughts, for the most part, are pretty much there [on the album] it was an interesting time in my life where I was just thinking of all of these heavy things you know dealing with grief, dealing with loss and dealing with the pain of all of these different topics and ‘Care For Me’, well it kinda just happened very organically I didn’t really set out to make a super serious album or anything like that. It kinda just happened because it’s what was on my mind.

I wanna take a second to offer my condolences for the loss of your cousin John Walt. Do you mind talking Pivot Gang and your cousin and how it all started back then?

Pivot Gang was kinda a thing that had been going on for a few years and by the time my cousin came around it was like we were trying to figure that stuff out, so I’d say around 2011 is when that kinda became a serious thing that we were pursuing. It was perfect timing because all of us just joined forces together and started hitting open mics and things like that and meeting a lot of the people who you were just naming that we were collabing with. Pivot was kinda the first initiative behind us moving locally, getting that attention in Chicago to where people knew that we made music and things like that so Walt had a lot to do with the groundwork getting out locally handing out cds and mixtapes.

What’s in the future for Saba with John Walt day coming up soon; where are you headed next and are there any projects on the horizon?

John Walt day is this Saturday, it’s gonna be our hometown Chicago show before heading out to Australia and I would say as far as upcoming projects it’ll be as part of the pivot gang because that’s really what we’ve been working on as a group project so that’ll be the next thing that comes out from us which will probably the top of next year or something like that. Then it’s just staying busy, we make a lot of music so we’re just gearing up to have a crazier 2019 is the plan.

Words by Jacob Pedersen & Zoe Taylor

Images by Blair Brown / @blairbbrown

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