Chicago Reader print issue cover of February 3, 2022 (Vol. 51, No. 9). Cover story: On his new album, Saba reimagines failure and abundance as he draws on ancestral lessons to build new worlds, article by Janaya Greene
Cover featuring Saba, Chicago Reader print issue of February 3, 2022. On the cover: Photo by Qurissy Lopez

“Saba’s releases are such special moments for Chicago and the west side,” Reader contributor Tara C. Mahadevan posted to Twitter this week. His previous album, 2018’s Care for Me, claimed the top spot when we polled 57 local critics about their ten favorite Chicago records of the 2010s—and Saba has three releases among the 338 on the combined list. His third studio album, Few Good Things, arrives on Friday, and it seems sure to continue his remarkable run.

The Reader first covered Saba almost eight years ago, when he was 19 and still living in Austin, where he was raised. Much of what we’ve written lately about him and his crew, Pivot Gang, has foregrounded loss: Saba’s cousin, Pivot cofounder John Walt, was stabbed to death in 2017, and that same year the crew helped launch an arts nonprofit to build on his legacy. This past summer, Pivot DJ and producer Squeak was fatally shot. But Few Good Things isn’t first and foremost an album about surviving grief. Saba also draws on his experiences to help himself understand failure as something he can define out of existence and abundance as something he can find anywhere. It’s a record that uses intergenerational dialogue to create a through line that connects past, present, and future: honoring your roots, cherishing what you have, and imagining a world that could be.

Our staffer Janaya Greene, who talked to Saba for this issue, discovered him at about the same time the Reader did. Though she writes for the paper consistently, this interview is her first cover story here, and her thoughtful questions will help you feel like you know Saba’s music as well as she does.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid, and he’s also split two national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and one in in 2020 for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.