Tahj Chandler, better known as Saba, has been has been making waves since his critically acclaimed release Comfort Zone and has no intention of stopping anytime soon. We sat down with the Pivot Gang representative to find out what makes the man tick before he lives the dream on tour with NoName Gypsy and Mick Jenkins.
GLM: Today, we have with us, the one, the only Saba. How you feeling Saba?
Saba: Pretty good, pretty good. How are you feeling?
GLM: I’m feeling great! I’m alive!
S: That’s beautiful man.
GLM: To kick this off- who are you and how did you get here?
S: I’m Saba. My parent’s had sex (laughs).
S: Everybody just walked off! They won’t be able to see everybody just walk off but they need to know that everybody walked off!
GLM: But seriously- who are you?
S: Man, that’s such a hard question. That’s like some college essay shit (laughs). I’m Saba. I am a hip hop musician. I am from the West side of Chicago. And how I got here- outside of my parent’s doing each other- I don’t know man! There’s so many questions inside of that question, I don’t know which one to answer.
GLM: Go with the one you want to run with first. First answer best answer!
S: First answer- we’ll bring this to my parents. My dad is a musician, so as a young boy, I’m like, “Hey, I want to do what he does.”
GLM: And what kind of musician is he?
S: He’s a Neo-Soul singer so I’m like “Tight, let’s get it.” So you know, a lot of the chords I play are very influenced by what what i was hearing being younger and stuff. Just being on the West side of Chicago, it’s like a lot of the things that I want to make songs about are very inspired by that.
GLM: Now were your parents fans of Hip Hop growing up or was this more of a struggle, like, “Oh no you should listen to this!” or were they more accepting of the genre from the jump?
S: No, no, my dad- like Neo-Soul and Hip Hop aren’t far from each other. I have an older brother- Hip Hop was always a thing in my house. Like, I was always raised by my grandparents so it was- it wasn’t really weird but we always got all types of music; from my dad, my mom, my brother my grandparents- it was kind of everything.
GLM: Have you had the opportunity to work with your dad in the studio or is that to come in the future?
S: He’s actually on Comfort Zone (Saba’s project that dropped July, 2014). He’s on the outro.
And then me, him and my brother recorded a project, but it hasn’t come out. But yeah- we’ve worked a lot.
GLM: Fantastic. How would you say, speaking of Comfort Zone, how would you say the response has been to that project? Did you anticipate that it would go as far as it has or has this been a pleasant surprise? Traveling around the country, playing festivals, etc.
S: I think we’ve been- me and my close friends- we kind of all know what we want to do. We believe in ourselves enough to feel truly that every thing we envision for ourselves is going to happen. So, when things go really good, to me it feels like things are going as planned.
GLM: As they should be!
S: Yeah, it’s not a surprise as much as a, “Step 1 complete.” As far as the reception it’s been pretty good so far. I haven’t seen to many shitty reviews. Just in general, it’s been getting a decent amount of recognition. People are being touched in some way by the music, it’s going! It’s going pretty good.
GLM: One thing I know, having been to your shows, I’ve really appreciated the live music element and the inclusion of instrumentality. Today, it’s really easy for someone to click play on an iPhone; unless you really build it up, it’s lacking! Would you say that’s something you plan to build upon as you move forward?
S: Yeah, and even in the actual recording of the music.
GLM: Moving away from samples, actually having live instruments?
S: Yeah. Playing the piano is what really got me into music. We always wanted to approach the music from a more musical stand point. As dope as samples are- and sometimes you can’t redo that, sometimes it’s called for, necessary- I wanna be sampled!
GLM: Someone else to sample you?
S: Yeah. I want to keep everything as original as I can and have it be musical enough for my grandparents to enjoy it, people my age to enjoy it. Obviously, you can’t please everybody but I want to have a sound that is universal enough in the actual music, in the actual chord progressions and the drumming of everything to where you can enjoy it even if you can’t relate to it.
GLM: Well, that’s how you crossover- being able to appeal to those people who’s preferred sound might not necessarily be Hop Hop or jazz but they’re able to find a happy medium.
GLM: Did you go to college?
S: I went to college for a year and a half. I owe hella money so I can’t afford to go to college right now.
GLM: Is that something you plan on doing in the future?
S: Yeah, I enjoy college for what it was. I did feel like I was learning, which is tight. Learning is cool. I was doing really well in school. I don’t want to waste that. A lot of people study and study and study and still get F’s! I was like passing by- A’s and B’s and not really doing shit. So I don’t want to let that go to waste.
GLM: Were you able access certain facilities or groups on campus that would push you forward?
S: I definitely went to Columbia.
GLM: Rock Star U.
S: Right. I was able to meet a lot of people going to Columbia. It’s whether or not you continue to have a relationship with them outside of Columbia. A lot of people have helped me to get to here. A college relationship can really only be “Hi” and “Bye” if you let it or it can be “Hey, we’re helping each other.” I met Thelonius (Martin) at Columbia. He was on my first mixtape. I met Alex Fruchter (DJ RTC) who was running Ruby Hornet. He helped push my first mixtape. What I was learning at Columbia was actually really tight, I was just paying a lot.
GLM: Who would you say have been some of your favorite people to work with musically? I know you mentioned Thelonious Martin. I also know you have a long list of collaborators- I know I first heard you because of Sev Seveer, I trust his taste. Who would say have been some of the exciting people to link up with and craft something?
S: NoName (Gypsy)! It’s always tight working with her. There’s a production team named Chad that I’m doing my next- all my new shit has mostly been with them.
GLM: And what does that consist of? Is that more of the live instrumentation that you were mentioning or…?
S: It’s new.
GLM: Area51 bunker, not ready for public consumption?
S: (laughs) First Chad track dropping tomorrow (hear “Next Door” here).
S: Yeah! Those are probably my favorite people to work with. And Pivot. Working with my dad is cool too. My dad- you know the 2Pac syndrome? Like, “NO don’t mix it! Let me record it! Put on the next track!” It’s like that. He wants to do EVERYTHING right now. And then when you’re done doing something, he’ll say, “Well let’s do some more!” (Laughs)
GLM: What have been some of your favorite places to visit? I know you were just out in California recently.
S: So far- I haven’t been a lot of places for real. My favorite place so far has probably been Oakland. The people out there are hella chill and it just reminds me a lot of Chicago with nicer weather. And you know, it’s obviously really different- that’s California, this is the midwest but it’s really chill. It’s kinda like LA but like it LA were to take a chill pill (laughs)… My LA experiences have been pretty good so far. I hear about it going sour but mine have been pretty tight.
GLM: Outside of dropping this internet shattering song with Chad, what are your immediate plans for 2015? Where would you like to see yourself by the end of next year?
S: Immediate plans for 2015- continue making music. I’m definitely dropping a new project. I don’t have any info on that (laughs). But I know I want to do that. Performing- to just continue the patterns that we made for ourselves in 2014; to continue establishing ourselves and our names, to continue the positive feedback from the live shows and help our situation, other peoples situation. To continue this Chicago alliance…
S: Renaissance! That’s the word I was looking for. The word that kept popping in my head was revolution.
GLM: I mean, hey, call it a revolution!
S: Yeah, yeah.
GLM: What would your dream event be? If you could put together a live show what would that look like?
S: It would be- ok ok- it would be long ass sets and every fan we’ve ever had there! And the lineup would be NoName Gypsy, myself, Mick Jenkins.
S: Boom! (laughs)
GLM: I would fork over some dough for that.
S: I would go to that show!
GLM: Last but not least- in one word…
S: Challenging already, ok….
GLM: In one word, describe…
GLM: What you….
GLM: …want to leave the world? One word.
GLM: Respect. Best of luck to you!
S: Thanks man.