Song of the Week: SABA Stays Fresh as Ever on the Reflective “Ziplock”

Mykki Blanco, Mick Jenkins, and reggie also dropped stellar tracks in a solid week for hip-hop


Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Chicago rapper SABA returns with a double-single, his first new music of 2021.

Chicago rapper SABA has returned this week with another set of double singles, “Ziplock” and “Rich Don’t Stop”, continuing the dual-drop format he established throughout 2020. “Ziplock” was produced by D. Phelps and Coop the Truth and marks the first new music from the emcee in 2021. (He can also be found on the soundtrack for the Oscar-nominated film Judas and the Black Messiah, appearing on “Plead The .45th” alongside Smino.) A recent press release stated that SABA is working on a full-length follow-up album to 2018’s aching, emotionally raw Care for MeReaders may recall that Consequence touted Care for Me as the best hip-hop album of 2018 in a strong field and the third best record overall.

Despite the mid-tempo beat, the idea that “Ziplock” could be brushed off as a mellow, easy listen is quickly undercut by the story SABA is telling: one of a career trajectory that is far from over, but has put him in a vastly different space from where he began. The chorus highlights the rapper’s pride in the point he’s reached, attributing his successes to his hard work and hustle, rather than shortcuts. The accompanying music video, which bleeds “Ziplock” right into “Rich Don’t Stop”, shows him contemplative on a mid-century rooftop, sharing his thoughts in one take as if he were talking to a small group of friends.

SABA, at 26 years old, has certainly experienced his fair share of worldview-shaping moments. His conversational flow lends itself well to the way that he tells stories: personally, but with conviction. “Ziplock” shows him spending time in a moment he’s earned — he bet on himself, and that bet has paid off.

“I’m willin’ to bet it all, I’m willin’ to risk my life.”

–Mary Siroky
Contributing Writer 

Honorable Mentions

Serj Tankian – “Electric Yerevan”

Serj Tankian has unveiled his new solo EP, Elasticity, featuring five new songs he had originally hoped to record with his multiplatinum band, System of a Down. “When I conceived possibly doing another record with the guys from System of a Down a few years back, I started working on a set of songs that I arranged in rock format for that purpose,” Tankian explained in a press release. “As we weren’t able to see eye to eye on the vision going forward with an SOAD album, I decided to release these songs under my moniker.” It’s easy to see how these songs would have fit within the System of a Down mold, as they have a quirky metal vibe reminiscent of the band’s acclaimed musical output. And if you close your eyes while listening to “Electric Yerevan” and can’t quite picture System, at least you can always retreat to the band’s first new music in 15 years, which they put out last November. –Spencer Kaufman

DijahSB – “Overtime” (ft. Chris Castello)

Rising Toronto rapper DijahSB is back with more new music that packs plenty of atmospheric style. Earlier this week, they released “Overtime”, a slice of trip-hop funk featuring fellow Canadian artist Chris Castello. “Overtime” is an infectious, uptempo dance groove, especially compared to DijahSB’s previous single, “By Myself”. Whereas that track was a more straightforward hip-hop number meant to showcase DijahSB’s freestyle skills, this new one is all about smooth choruses, slick rap verses, and finding the perfect casual-but-energetic balance between a shimmering synth loop and a funky bass line. Needless to say, DijahSB pulls it off perfectly. Considering DijahSB is behind some of the best new sounds of the year so far, we’re eager for the MC to drop their upcoming album, Head Above the Waters, on April 23rd. –Nina Corcoran

reggie – “AIN’T GON STOP ME”

reggie adds some hip-hop seasoning to his neo-soul cooking on the new song “Ain’t Gon Stop Me”. The emerging Houston artist started heating up last summer after sharing the sweet vibes of “Southside Fade”, and in December, he mined new depths of pain on “I Don’t Wanna Feel No More”. “Ain’t Gon Stop Me” is the third taste of an album expected to drop this summer, and it’s his liveliest statement yet.

Produced by Kenny Beats and Monte Booker, the beat uses a soulful choir as its main melodic instrument. The crisp percussion manages to sound both energized and relaxed, capturing something like the mood of a sunset in summer on a Friday night. On previous releases, reggie stretched his voice upwards into a smoky falsetto, but this time around he settles into a tone closer to his natural speaking voice with a flow that blurs the lines between rapping and singing. “The drugs almost got me,” he coos, “My best friend was Oxys/ Shit got the worst of me/ My mama couldn’t stop it.” But the tone suggests he’s put that behind him, and the hook expresses pure optimism. “The pain won’t stop me/ The rain won’t stop me/ I know God could stop me, but he ain’t gon’ stop me.” Check it out below. –Wren Graves

Mykki Blanco – “Free Ride”

Mykki Blanco has released their first new song of 2021, “Free Ride”. It marks the rapper’s debut on Transgressive Records. “Free Ride” is co-produced by FaltyDL and Hudson Mohawke. Originally recorded in spring 2018, the song was set aside until the summer of 2020, when Mohawke added his contribution to the track. Carried by Blanco’s playful flow, the song combines elements of retro soul and trap sounds. In a press statement, Blanco reflected on being inspired by the music on which they grew up:

“Some of the most intimate moments and conversations I have ever shared were with my mother on long drives in the Southern countryside when I was a teenager. The music that soundtracked these memories on our daily journeys was the stuff of my mother’s generation. I would find myself daydreaming, reflecting and envisioning the kind of life I would like to create for myself. These memories and the music of Luther Vandross were the first inspirations behind the creation of my new song ‘Free Ride’.”

Blanco elaborated on the meaning behind the Hannah Rosselin-directed music on social media. “With ‘Free Ride’ I wanted to portray the very real situation of two humans being in love and creating a child without necessarily being the same sexuality, but a love of acceptance, the love created by creating a family and accepting wherever your lover falls on the spectrum,” they explained. –Eddie Fu

Mick Jenkins – “Designer Frames” (Prod. by KAYTRANADA)

It’s been almost a full year since we got a new song from Mick Jenkins, but this week he’s back with one called “Designer Frames”. What’s more, it was produced by the newly minted Grammy-winning producer KAYTRANADA. The track is a quick slice of Jenkins’ dexterous fast-flows over a percussive instrumental that’s unmistakably KAYTRANADA. The two have a natural chemistry, as Jenkins is able to find hidden pockets in the sort of off-kilter rhythm that many rappers would stumble over. Stay tuned for more information on a new Jenkins joint. As for KAYTRANADA, it’s unclear when we’ll get a new full-length from him, but he did drop a new song last month called “Caution”. –Eli Enis

Top Songs Playlist

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