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Both death and hope fuel Saba's latest work, "Bucket List Project"

The rapper talks to REVOLT about taking life for granted, humanizing Chicago beyond its tragedies, and the toughest song he had to write.

To some death is simply another phase in life, while for others it is a fearful entity that is both uncertain and puzzling. However for the Chicago artist Saba, it's a concept that was used for his latest project Bucket List Project, sparked by the untimely passing of his uncle. While on a month-long trip to Los Angeles with his friends, rapper Noname and producer-singer Phoelix, Saba created an emotional, music-filled capsule, full of both determination and hope for life itself. We wanted to find out more about the tracks and the collective meaning.

Why did you feel it was important to have such a title for your project?

It just felt like it was the right thing to do. It's just one of those things, you know, where you take people for granted. Like, my uncle had been locked up and he got out and I only saw him once. I kept saying that I was going to go see him, then he passed. And it's just that feeling: felt like there was so much life left, so many more things I'm sure he wanted to do. And then it just got me thinking of all of the things that I want to do and what other people wanted to do. These series of thoughts followed. The passing of my uncle led me to making the Bucket List Project.

Why do you think it's important to continue to showcase Chicago? Not only do you have features from other Chicago artists, but you also rapped about the environment that you grew up in.

To me I guess it's a part of who I am. It's one of those things especially if you go out of town, if you leave Chicago, people have pre-established ideas about the way life is in (this city). And all of these rumored kind of things like a lot of people think that if you go to Chicago you'll die if you just walk outside. It's just a crazy thing. Chicago has its violence, things are going on of course, but I mean it's also home to a lot of people.

But for even being in Chicago, a lot of people that already live here have pre-established ideas of different parts of the city. The part that I'm from, the west side of Chicago, a lot of people have these thoughts like, Why would anyone go over there? You only go over there to get killed. So I wanted to bring a human-ness to the west side specifically. That's what I wanted to do with a lot of the songs. There are things going on in Chicago but, like I mentioned before, it's home to a lot of great thinkers and great people. That's really why I wanted to keep it Chicago but more specifically, keep it west side of Chicago. Just to show that different side. I feel like it's one of those sides that hasn't been really brought to light in a real way yet. That was my real goal I guess, beyond just doing the bucket list thing, bring the west side to the light again.

What song struck a chord with you personally?

Probably "American Hypnosis," that song was the hardest to write because...dealing with your family in a bunch of different ways. You kind of take the good with the bad a lot of times when it comes to family. In Chicago, a lot of tragedy is normalized and a lot of people grow up with this insensitiveness...we're like immune toward...our feelings when bad things happen. For me it's like, being from where I'm from I think people expect me to be a certain way and I'm not that way. And I think "American Hypnosis" is me kind of venting but at the same time telling my side of it and how I perceive things. I think for my parents, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, it's going to be a hard track for them to hear and it was a hard track to write. But, it was one that felt the most therapeutic to just let go.

What is on your personal bucket list?

(Laughs) I've been getting asked that a lot now, and I never really know what to say. It's one of those easier said than done things for me. I asked everyone to send me one and I'm trying to piece mine together. I couldn't think of anything that's grand enough to feel like this is it. But I've thought of a lot of normal things to do. Well one, I want to find the ancestry.com thing, where you find what tribe your [family] is from and all of that. I don't really know my family's history. I want to find more about my family, see where we come from, past Chicago and past the South. That'll be one of the most important things, just because it's that sense of pride in knowing who you are as a person. I think that's a problem that a lot of people have not knowing who they are, and I think that's one of the things that if we knew where we are from it would solve a lot.

Second thing would be that I want to write a book. A book about my relationship with my dad and a book with a bunch of things that I've learned from him and things that he taught me in various different ways. Life lessons. I also want to have an art gallery one day. I haven't painted in a really long time but that was what I wanted to do before I got into music. Do something with art via cartoonist, via painter, something crazy like that. It would be really dope if I put some paintings together and just had an art gallery one day. Super low-key but super raw. These are three new ones for me.

Listen to the Bucket List Project below:

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