Songs We Love: Saba, 'Church / Liquor Store (Feat. Noname)' With ethereal production from Cam O'bi, the Chicago rapper takes a hard look at how the prison system affects the West Side of his hometown.

Songs We Love: Saba, 'Church / Liquor Store (Feat. Noname)'

01Church Liquor Store (feat. Noname)

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    Bucket List Project
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Saba's new album, Bucket List Project, comes out Oct. 27. Bryan Allen Lamb/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Bryan Allen Lamb/Courtesy of the artist

Saba's new album, Bucket List Project, comes out Oct. 27.

Bryan Allen Lamb/Courtesy of the artist

Ever wondered what it's like on the West Side of Chicago? Just ask Saba.

It look like funeral home

Church church

Liquor store

Corner store

Dread head deadly

Ditto 10-4

Ten foes from Cicero to Central

Saba, whom you may recognize from Chance The Rapper's Coloring Book highlight "Angels," falls in line with Chance's hopeful outlook about their shared hometown. Unlike his drill-music counterparts Chief Keef and Lil Reese, who have been known to paint a grim and dark picture of what life is like in Chicago through violent lyrics and darker production, Saba makes it clear that there are two sides to every story.

As "Church / Liquor Store" opens with airy, euphoric harmonics, Saba reminds us the world around us is full of choices that have very real consequences: "They ask you what's the cause and effect of doobies packed in they fat / Now you calling collect / They booby-trapping the trap." While Saba speaks of the dangers of making the wrong choices, Las Vegas native Cam O'bi provides production that's ethereal. As if trying to accommodate the madness of the world, the angelic backup vocals create a sense of tension when accompanied by Saba's declamation that it's "funny, kids that I hoop with end up in county."

The picture becomes more vivid when fellow Chicago rapper Noname, who released the highly anticipated mixtape Telefone this summer, delivers her verse. While her unconventional flow often ducks between the beats and goes against the grain of the melody, Noname's message remains clear as she takes shots at America's prison system: "They so prison the way they pipeline / Systematically lifeline / Erase all niggas." In a society that has the world's highest incarceration rate, she recognizes the irony that her neighborhood becomes less policed as soon as it becomes gentrified ("They kept the melting pot inside the slave plot, watch / They gentrified you neighborhood, no need for cops, watch") and describes what the neighborhood looks like afterward: "Look at the yoga pants, coffee shops, yogurt stands, consumerism holy land."

Ultimately, "Church / Liquor Store" is a song about the ramifications of people's actions and, more specifically, the effects the prison system has on the environment people live in. While the song doesn't provide a solution, it does force the audience to consider the question: Are these changes positive, and if so, at what cost?

Bucket List Project comes out Oct. 27 on Saba Pivot, LLC.