Chicago’s smooth and sentient wordsmith Saba drops off “Church/ Liquor Store,” a track dedicated to showing the duality of his Chicago.
The song opens with an airy and soulful melody that leads into the dizzying harmonies in the back of the mix as Saba brings in themes of “cause and effect” and life on the West Side. Saba paints a crisp picture of his city with staccato bars: “it look like funeral home/Church church/Liquor store/Corner store/Dread head deadly/Ditto/10-4/.” He mentions kids he used to “hoop with” ending up in prison. Saba brings in these pillars of community and contrasts them with the mentions of police presence and brutality, all to a point of showing Chicago as a beautiful and multifaceted city that’s being suffocated by the prison system.
Noname’s verse only expands Chicago’s image, tackling the issues of incarceration and gentrification with her hypnotic flow. Noname layers her lyrics right into the melody of the beat, having you hold on to every word as she shows off the irony of a gentrified neighborhood with “no need for cops, watch” when a neighborhood is turned into a “consumerism holy land.” Yet the incarceration rates in Chicago are staggering.
The track boils down to being a sobering look at cause and effect, and at the systemic failures of the prison system. Both Saba and Noname force the listener to take in these issues, and ultimately push for a better tomorrow in Chicago.