Saba Returns Home From First European Tour

Photo by Aris Theotokatos

Words by Brent Butcher • Interview by Eric Montanez

For any artist, heading overseas for a tour or string of shows is a dream realized, a hurdle crossed, yet another checkmark on a long list of accomplishments. For Saba, his trip overseas over the last month did much to continue his rise from the city's west side and underlined a busy three years that led him there. This week, Saba, DJ Damnage and the crew returned home from a six-city run opening for Jazz Cartier that saw the ComfortZone MC visit wide-ranging locales such as Athens, Greece, London and Paris before landing back in the Chi. 

Photos by DJ Damnage

From talking to the team and following all the action on social media, it seems that the trip was a huge success, with photos and videos pointing to crowds thousands of miles removed but wholly invested in the music, regardless if the lyrical content is even understandable. More than anything, this trip across the pond continues to support the manifest destiny of the Chicago rap scene, which has found few borders as it has permeated culture across the globe via handfuls of social media platforms and media outlets. It's the digital age and Chicago is finding itself central to pacing the culture in that era, Saba's foray into other continents is just a furtherance of that sentiment.

You know Sab in Austria, lol who'd a thunk it

A video posted by SABA (@sabapivot) on

Regardless of that though, it's impossible to not recognize Saba's relevance to the city and the scene on a national scale. After appearing on the Late Night Show alongside Chance and in the accompanying video for "Angels", the first and only single off the upcoming full-length, Saba appears primed to make plenty of noise in the coming months as we desperately wait on a follow-up to his now-classic 2014 sophomore project ComfortZone. It was a thought he addressed on Instagram as well, promising new tracks soon in the wake of everything that's come his way in recent months, it'll be interesting to hear how he digests it all.

okay ya boy just sent some shit up in Paris...

A video posted by damn damn (@damnagehere) on

Saba might be back home, but you won't be catching him performing in Chicago until he takes the stage at Lollapalooza at the end of July. Joining previous Lolla veterans like Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins, and Vic Mensa, Saba has been given the opportunity to get up on one of the biggest stages in his career. Those who've been to a Saba show know that he has no problem bringing energy to the stage. Europe just experienced, and he's sure to have brought plenty back with him for what's sure to be a monumental homecoming performance later this summer.  

These Days: Talk to us a bit about how the trip kicked off.

Saba: We landed on an off-day, and I was just with Damnage. As soon as we walked out of the airport the runner who was picking us up was like "Hey Saba" and I was like "How'd you know I was Saba" and he's like "Dude, you're in Germany, you got dreads and you black as hell. You still out a like a sore thumb" (laughing). So yeah, that was a thing I didn't really think of, but it was cool though. There were actually way more black people in Germany than I thought there would be. But yeah the first few days were really chill. We were just getting used being in Germany, everyone speaking German. The thing is most people there also spoke English, so that wasn't one of the crazy stops where the language barrier had it so that we really couldn't talk to anybody.

The first show was actually like whatever really, it wasn't all that great, but it was dope to just be performing in Germany. It was also just us realizing, 'Oh okay, they can't fully understand us so we got to just slow down the pacing of the slow a bit. After that, Damnage and I regrouped and set up a different show for the rest of the tour. We figured it out, and we were blessed enough to figure it out the first day and not like half way through the tour.

These Days: How many shows did you end up doing out there?

Saba: Hold on one second, I can google this. (Begins counting) 1, 2, 3... 10, 11. We did a 11 shows.

Which was the favorite?

Saba: I didn't really have a favorite, but I think the most surprising place to me was Leeds in the UK. Prior to this tour I had never heard of Leeds in my life, I didn't know this place existed, but when we got there for the show there were hella people there who knew every word to everything I was doing. I was doing old shit too, stuff from GETCOMFORTable, and they were keeping up with everything that I was doing. That was surprising as fuck to me, that was the place they best knew the material. That was really dope to see. 

These Days: I know they have a big music festival there every year called Reading & Leeds, so that probably has a lot to with them being a really aware music city. Both Chance and Vic have played that before too actually. 

Saba: Yeah they were hella on the Chicago shit out there. They were talking to me about Supa. They knew about Noname. They had went to the Mick and Kirk Knight show. It was just hella people I knew that they were hip to. But, as far as the best actual show, it'd probably be the Paris show. That was probably the most packed show, the biggest venue and overall just turnt show. But yeah, Leeds stuck out the most because I wasn't expecting that.

These Days: So you were out there with Jazz Cartier, who also has a wild live show. What was it like matching that energy?

Saba: Yeah it was intense as fuck trying to match the energy. It was a lit ass tour. In places I didn't expect to be lit, we were turning it up in Brussels and shit. It was cool seeing people in all these places having similar reactions to the music. This man Jazz is insane though, he just be walking on people, and I don't know if I'm ready for that part of my live show yet (laughs). It's crazy to witness though. Damnage actually did it once, I wasn't brave enough to do it, but Damnage did that shit in Austria and was just walking on people (laughs).

These Days: One of the things I think is so beneficial for a young artist when they start to tour is just the perspective it gives them. Is there anything particular you took away from the trip that has you looking at the world a little bit differently now?

Saba: Damn, that's a dope question. I wish it was one of the questions I was thinking about (laughs). Just being on the other side of the world by itself, before you interact with anyone, eat anything, etc, just being on the other side of the world is such a different experience already in itself. And it's crazy to get to go over there to do music, it's dope. Perspective-wise, I think it inspired the music I'm writing right now a lot too. I came back hella inspired. Everyone's talking to me about the jet lag, but no one is talking to me about 'damn you're going to make hella songs.'

These Days: So your next show in Chicago is at Lollapalooza. What are you up to in the meantime? 

Saba: Just working on the mixtape, trying to finish the next one. Just getting my life together haha!