If you take anything away from the epic tale that was getting Saigon’s debut album out, learn that some album titles might become unintended foreshadowing. Saigiddy’s Greatest Story Never Told almost went untold, due to everything from retirement, sample clearance and just meshing of relationships. And realistically, isn’t the fight to get an album titled The Greatest Story Never Told a bit odd, considering that once the album’s out, the story’s now told? What’s the follow-up? Well, What’d You Think? But I digress. The fruits of Saigon’s skill and labor (and bitching) is out for the masses. Oddly enough, this very site proclaimed The Greatest Story Never Told to one of the Albums That Will Shape… 2005. Saigon’s left the game and Atlantic, and STILL hadn’t had the album out.
Now, one has to wonder if the idea of the Internets being an easy avenue that allows artists to deliver their voice directly to the people was a direct cause of this. How many lengthy MySpace posts had Saigon delivered about his frustrations? When you figure out that number, then consider how many of those posts should’ve been relegated to a conversation with Just Blaze over a turkey and cheese, or a blunt and some cognac? While it’s great to be able to speak to the people, there’s an air of responsibility and, well, privacy for your business that should be maintained. Especially if you’re prone to fly off the handle, while the fucking president of your record label was handling sample clearances! It also feels like this put a strain on Just Blaze, an accomplished producer who has a certain way he likes to work.
One has to wonder – if there was no ready access to the Internets, could Just have kept a tighter lid on Saigon’s antics, and when the time was right, start feeding information? Everyone was on the edge of their seats, waiting for the album to drop, and Saigon’s impatience (at times) could’ve added fuel to the fire. Blaze has stated that he wants to secure a relationship with an artist before properly making a masterpiece, which many want Saigon’s album to be. Dude marries the street and the conscious – an heir to the Illmatic throne, many feel. “No self-respecting Southerner makes instant grits”, and no Hip-Hop purist wants to feel like the proverbial Second Coming rushed his project out. Let that pot simmer, make sure all the ingredients are in a row, then start giving out testers. Internets x impatience x a label that might not know how to handle this kind of project, one that might be heralded a classic without much in the way of singles – that’s what made many turn the burns off and regroup. But, with that story told, we have the album now… why not actually give what we’ve been waiting for a proper taste? – Khal
It is hard to determine what critics would have said about The Greatest Story Never Told if it had been released five (six?) years ago on Atlantic Records. The album has serious positives, from the expressed volatility of the front man to the array of respected rap veterans providing back-up, and it somehow managed to finagle its negatives into a very successful marketing campaign. I include that only to say that the corporate misfortune surrounding the release of Saigon’s debut studio album in addition to the freakishly ominous name has the potential to sway public opinion regarding the music.
Speaking of the music, The Yardfather and Just Blaze team up to deliver a rare gem on GSNT that seems to serve as a proof text for a few musical theories emerging in the rap landscape. First, the interplay between Just’s musical emphasis as a certified crate digger and Saigiddy’s focus on the lurid details of lower living creates a near perfect balance between the two elements that set the genre apart. While too often an artist will lean too far in one direction, this long awaited album seems to have mastered to tug-of-war by splitting the responsibilities between two equally involved parties. Secondly, the one emcee and one DJ model used on this album harkens back to the formative years of the music to great success by creating a chemistry that provides the album with a consistency of tone which is too rarely found today. While Saigon did forfeit the ability to shop around with whichever producers are getting the most spins in clubs, he also allowed himself to easily brand his album in a different way with a well respected music-man.
Lyrically, Saigon is the product of a strong New York tradition and it shows on each track. But his focus goes beyond life in the New York streets to the yards of Department of Corrections’ facilities right off the bat. He purposefully appeals to the “other half” as a point of personal identification but also shows the ability to rise above his own circumstances in order to shine a light not only the way each chess piece moves, but also to provide his theory as to why. From the starting gun, “The Invitation” features an oft-repeated strophe: “The party is in the pen, the blow is the invitation”. Later he elaborates with “the party is in the pen, and the government is promoting it. That’s the reason I don’t be believing in all this voting shit”. Throughout each song, we see a consistent pattern of storytelling that follows this model. At its peak, this album shines as a piece of muckraking journalism and at other points it shows signs of fledgling with under-developed “preachiness” on tracks like Clap, Believe it, and the Untitled additional track. While this may bode well for the life of Brian (government alias: Brian Carenard), it will take some more tweaking before it reaches its potential. In contrast to what we might call “punch-line rap”, there aren’t many moments during this now told story that give you the screw-face. You won’t find meticulously crafted, triple-entendres (or even the claim of such ridiculous things) on this album, nor do I expect to hear it each weekend at the club. (Then again, I was surprised to hear it on Entourage.) What you will find is the recently unparalleled sincerity of songs like “Enemies” and “Friends”, mixed with gritty descriptions of the drug-laced, sex-driven, criminally-attached road to success in urban entertainment. The result, in a word, is Saigon. The musical narrative about the best that can be expected of circumstances so dire is represented the man on the cover of the album and his is the greatest story, now told.
Whether 2006 or 2011, this album will make an impact. And although some may hold the opinion that the time allowed the fire to go out on this project (and possibly Saigon’s career), this album proves that the test of time is a measure of quality. The next phase of Saigon’s life in music will be a place that many artists find themselves in after releasing an elite debut offering. The overwhelming burden of success is unfamiliar territory and pressure that comes with maintenance of a position is altogether different than the pressures of first attaining it. This is the moment where the temptation to team up with a pop-star or do a Chrysler commercial is germinated. To follow his metaphor, if the mission of this album was figuring out how to sell the Greatest Story Never Told, this next phase will focus on the rights to the movie. – Nahshon