The midwestern trio of Saba, Smino and Noname have been making music together for a while now, whether in the form of masterful features on each other’s singles, or hopping onstage for backup vocal assistance; at the beginning of the year, all three gave a memorable Tonight Show performance of “Ace,” from Noname’s excellent 2018 full-length Room 25 (which was named one of NPR Music’s best of the year). They’ve now formalized this loose affiliation under the banner of a group they’re calling Ghetto Sage.
Ghetto Sage’s three members have quietly teased the new project through Twitter over the last week, sharing teaser-y photos and a rhetorical retweet of a simple question from XXL: Name an album you can listen to without skipping a single song. All three know that fans are hungry for a new project, after each released albums last year — though there’s no word of a Ghetto Sage record yet.
Cover art for the group’s debut single, “Häagen Dazs,” was first pinned to the top of Ghetto Sage’s Twitter profile Wednesday afternoon, depicting the three aboard an ice cream truck, each painted in neo-caricature.
Smino carries the song’s hook, “I get the bands like The Roots, Benz or Coupe / That bitch fast / Häagen Dazs: Ice cream,” (which sounds more like “Hahzen-Dahz” in his St. Louis drawl). Saba glides through the middle of the track with speed, rapping between each bass hit on the track’s slinky 808s. This is as close to trap as any three of these rappers have ever gotten — and it sounds good on them.
The best moments of the song belong to Noname, a consistent master of comical, non-corny, metaphor: “His body’s a casket, the lining cherry wood / The p**** turned him ashes to ashes.” Noname expanded on her verse in a tweet she posted after the song’s release. “There are times when I’ve had sex as a form of escapism,” she explains, “there is something very devastating about knowing there is nothing I can do to guarantee safety for my partner when he goes into the world.”