Death of the Critic

Bucket List Project - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich


Saba is an interesting artist. Mired in the thick of Chicago rap, yet relatively unknown for his solo efforts. His 2014 debut mixtape ComfortZone was a quiet and meandering exploration of what life is like for a young black person. And since I reviewed it back in April, it has grown on me a lot. A fantastic way to wind down after a long day of something harder. So I knew I had to listen to Bucket List Project.

Something has changed in that young man since then. In those two short years he has gotten a whole lot older and there is a quiet sense of mortality running in the background of every one of his songs. Ostensibly it is an album about celebrating your life but I feel something more. Something deep. About appreciating what you have before it is gone, because it might be gone any second.
In that two year span he experienced the loss of his uncle and the loss of his creativity, a devastating blow for a young artist like him. Writer’s block isn’t a new thing in the rap industry, with Chicago native
Kanye West celebrating the end of his struggles with it in this spring’s The Life of Pablo. But instead of being a celebration, Bucket List Project feels more like a message in a bottle capturing a portrait of these young artists as they try to find themselves and follow their dreams, from grand, like ending gentrification or winning a Nobel Peace Price to the more mundane, like eating at In-and-Out , smoking blunts with Beyonce, and learning how to play the drums.

It is an album about a group of young people in a dangerous but beautiful place that they can’t help but love. About trying to realize who you are in life and accepting it so you can do something great with the opportunities that you are given. It has a quiet intensity that
ComfortZone lacked, a darker and richer tone with the smooth synths of the beats pulsing in the background.

But as with ComfortZone he bounces back and forth between styles, from trap to rap, and humor in between, which gives the album a whole lot of breadth, but in gaining this broad focus, it loses some of the depth. I really wish he would pick a place and set up his roots. He is enormously talented, but it increasingly seems that he is more jack of all trades, master of none. His delivery is top notch and his lyrics are solid, I just wish he could really dig into one of his styles. It’s a survey in album form, covering so much ground with so many different artists, a primer in Chicago music.

He is almost too willing to experiment while trying to nail down his message. It is cohesive than ComfortZone for sure, but still lacks something. And once he finds that ephemeral something, he will certainly carve his name in our minds for a very long time.


1. In Loving Memory
2. Stoney
3. GPS
4. Church / Liquor Store
5. Westside Bound 3
6. Most
7. Symmetry
8. Photosynthesis
9. The Billy Williams Story
10. Bucket List
11. American Hypnosis
12. California
13. World in My Hands

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Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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