I be up and I can’t lounge/Secondhand smoke, hitting blunts in the background

Yesterday, 17-year-old Chicago rapper RondoNumbaNine was charged with murder in the shooting death of livery cab driver Javan Boyd. The episode marks another ugly, public spike in a continuing crisis that has embroiled a city and its rap scene for almost a half decade. It’s an issue far deeper than can possibly be done justice by the bounds of a single blog post on a site whose primary goal is to serve up new music (for a more comprehensive overview of the complex underpinnings of the city’s epidemic, this article provides a solid overview). While it needn’t enter every discussion of Chicago rap, it’s important to remember that a grim pall haunts the background for even those who don’t rap about committing (or even necessarily observing) acts of violence.

Saba (whom you might remember from his guest appearance on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap standout “Everybody’s Something”) raps with a coiled energy that feels like the tense freedom of great horn solos–calm then explosive, on beat then off. On latest single “Secondhand Smoke,” his dynamism speaks to the dark constant of Saba’s embattled hometown.

It’s a performance that speaks to Saba’s growth since his appearance on Chance’s tape and his potential to become a formidable rapper in his own right.

Watch the video for “Secondhand Smoke” below.