Sweden-based Saab began manufacturing automobiles in a World War II era aircraft plant towards the end of the 1940s. An unusual brand that looked like no other, Saab inspired a passionate (if never huge) following and carved out a significant identity in American culture. Jerry Seinfeld, for example, gets a deal on a Saab 900 convertible in the episode “The Dealership.” During that show, Kramer and a Saab salesman demonstrate the fuel efficiency of the car during a memorably long test drive, a scene shot entirely in the vehicle. The Saab 94, also known as the Sonnet, was first shipped to the US in 1956. US interest in Saabs continued to grow throughout the following decades and GM bought a 50% stake in Saab in 1990 and the remainder in 2000. Despite the apparent popularity of the brand, Saab was only profitable one year that GM held a stake in the company. During the financial crisis of 2009, GM sold Saab to Dutch-based Stryker Cars. Stryker continued to manufacture the 9-3 and 9-5 sedans and 9-4 SUV under the Saab name until it could not make payroll in May 2011. Saab is currently in limbo–with GM exercising its right to block sales of the Saab brand to rival Chinese-led automakers to protect its intellectual property.
But does anyone still want a Saab? Queens native Arian Asslani might. Asslani, a former cook, is better known as the rapper Action Bronson. Many of Asslani’s lyrics contain references to Saab. For example, on 2011’s “I Remember” he raps “and f*@k a new Benz I’d rather cop the old Saab.” His first major label album, appropriately titled SAAAB Stories, was released earlier this month on Atlantic. The album contains seven songs produced entirely by Harry Fraud, and features guest appearances from Wiz Khalifa, Prodigy, and an excellent verse from Raekwon. Topics include food, girls, cars, drugs, and ample references to the 90s. The highlight of the album, or song that has my most iTunes plays, is “Alligator.” The track begins with a bass-heavy beat with Bronson debating buying himself an alligator or lion for his birthday. (He had no such indecision, you’ll remember, between a Saab and a Mercedes!) At the three minute mark, the production switches to a minimalist beat and Bronson begins to discuss the downfall of one of his former romances with lines like “she was the daughter of a reverend, well thank god I don’t believe in heaven.” Probably a good thing, because the album cover is designed to infuriate all gatekeepers. Mercedes, you have to imagine, is pretty happy. // Owen Crowther, PhD