Ghetto Sage: A Midwestern Trifecta

Last week, Midwestern hip-hop supergroup Ghetto Sage released their debut single, “Häagen Dazs.” Writer Fiona Boler tells us what we need to know about this new group and their chill-inducing new song.

Why I am so excited to see what Ghetto Sage will do? These three artists — Noname and Saba from Chicago and Smino from St. Louis — are irresistible lyricists. They each have a unique voice that complements their ability to manipulate words; tell stories through sound and meaning. You can easily get lost in their individual vibe, but together, you’ll have to use GPS to navigate a way out — if you even want to be found.

The much anticipated coming together of Noname, Saba, and Smino has left me with chills after listening to their debut single, “Häagen Dazs,” produced by PRODXVZN. No, these chills were not inflicted by listening to a song titled “Häagen Dazs” in the crisp fall air of the Midwest. These chills were in direct response to the excitement I felt for the future of Ghetto Sage.

Smino starts “Häagen Dazs” off with the chorus:

I get the bands like the Roots
Black out all my thoughts, request the love, revenge the youth
Benz a coupe (Err), that bitch fast, how it’s a Dodge?
Ice cream on the inside, Häagen Dazs, SRT, huh

A mix of clever rhymes like Dodge and “Häagen Dazs,” along with undertones of Black empowerment, “request the love, revenge the youth” sets the tone of the song. One that will explore the range of human depth through the lends freedom. Freedom as tangible, in the form of mobility that is the Benz, to something that can also be taken away easily, and wrapping it all up with the fleeting escape intimacy brings in a world where, Noname writes, “my partner’s body is synonymous with death.”

This journey is exactly what I expected from the group and they delivered. Smino’s wandering drawls and witty punchlines never disappoint, inviting the listener onto a merry-go-round of his own design, colliding consistency with experimentation.

Smino spits:

Raise my shit, got range, I write with a rifle 
Rightfully, keep LED like a light-show 

Saba comes in on the second verse. He warms the track up with a couple of bars, giving us time to put the “Häagen Dazs” in the freezer before he melts it. At the last minute, fire — Saba goes in double time (I would expect nothing less) and blesses the beat with the high-energy, last-breath rawness that is Saba’s flow.

Saba goes in:

Make a couple dollars, split it with the fellas
Yeah, ice cream shoes, Ben & Jerry
Yeah, I’ma ice these fools, Tom & Jerry
I got pristine flows, bend and vary
N****, fourth and goal, Hail Mary (Ah)

Noname makes her appearance on the last verse, sending earthquakes beneath the track. Noname’s ability to cut herself open with a beat and paint her insides on the wall with her tongue is why she is one of my favorite rappers. Noname does not hold back but rather leans into the vulnerability of storytelling, leaving me hanging on her every word. Noname posted on Twitter an explanation of the verse, sucking down us even further into her ocean, she explains:

This is not the first time the trio has collaborated. On Noname’s album Telefone, Smino and Saba appear on the track “Shadow Man,” along with Phoelix. Here the three explore the tightrope of life and death we all walk on, some more closely to the Shadow Man than others.  Most notable is the song “Ace” on Noname’s album Room 25. The trio even performed “Ace” on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, proving the three bring sounds that complement, and challenge one another. They are exactly what a fan would hope for in a rap group.

I cannot wait to see what Ghetto Sage has in store for us. No word on an album yet but we know these three artists are hard at work creating music that speaks to what it is like to be human, to be Black, and to be conscious.

Fiona Boler is a sociologist, artist, and writer from St. Paul, MN. She is passionate about storytelling, and uses multiple mediums to do so. Fiona has a mixed media travel blog where she displays her short films and examines her adventures.

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