Saba says he hates video shoots because they often run too long and rarely go off without a hitch. Today turns out to be no different. Two girls who were supposed to be in the video never showed up, and Rashad spends the afternoon finding replacements. After the rappers get their takes out of the way, everyone waits for several hours, mostly on their phones, waiting for the new talent to show up. Discussion topics include the XXL freshman list and ISIS. People filter in and out of the room, Jake and Blake leave for the day and place their jewelry in Jon’s care. Saba gradually splays out on a couch in the back. He wakes up as the ladies finally arrive.
It turns out these girls will be used only as hand models in the video, which makes the afternoon feel a little bit more tiresome and looks ridiculous. Saba throws his fur back on and poses for the camera, as the girls, wearing black leotards, kneel and paw up at his coats so that their arms, coated in baby oil, are their only visible body parts in the shot. They’ve never been in a video before, and it’s not clear if they even know who Saba is. The results are predictably awkward. Rashad attempts to coach them, mimicking their movements with added emphasis. “Y’all gotta stroke the mink!” There’s an audible, brief pause, until Saba chimes in.
“Y'all can't say a better word?” Suggestions, and intermittent laughter fly in from around the room.
Saba, ever-articulate, comes up with “run your hands through the fabric.” Both girls smile and appear to relax a bit. After several more takes, the director appears satisfied, and, somewhat mercifully, wraps it all up.
As Saba removes his jewelry, his phone, plugged into a wall outlet, sounds off in the corner. Jon points this out, and Saba makes his way across the room, but in the opposite direction of the ringtone. "It's good,” he says, heading for the bathroom, sweatpants in hand. “Ain’t nobody tryna talk to me, bro. Let me go put my normal-person clothes on.”
Two weeks later, Saba’s West Side doorstep is caked in snow after a night of heavy Chicago winter. He lives too far to walk from any train stop. Visiting requires catching a bus down Division Street from downtown, and really riding it. Saba’s grandparents’ house is a short two-story abode on a street lined with others just like it. He shows up at the door in black sweats and black, thick-rimmed glasses beneath a black beanie and heads down a narrow set of rickety stairs, into the basement that functions as his home studio.