Saigon - The Greatest Story Never Told

Posted February 16, 2011
Tags: Saigon,

It was the second season of HBO’s hit show Entourage and the writers had cooked up a...

The Greatest Story Never Told Album Review

It was the second season of HBO’s hit show Entourage and the writers had cooked up a storyline that demanded Turtle, the crew’s amiable but always ineffective sidekick, to become the manager of an aspiring rapper. But who would play the rapper? At first it looked like Young Jeezy would take the role, but concerns about Mr. Jeezy’s, um, “reliability” squashed that idea. No, they needed a rapper with more depth, a rapper who was dope enough to believably be about to blow, hungry enough to take the part, but with the intelligence and confidence of a seasoned vet. They needed Saigon.

It wasn’t that long ago that the aforementioned Entourage spot and an impressively growing catalog of lyrically intense mixtapes had many proclaiming that Saigon would become the next east coast rap savior. Add in legendary beatsmith Just Blaze, who signed on to produce almost all of Sai’s debut album, and the hype behind The Greatest Story Never Told had reached a fever pitch. And then….nothing. A combination of label politics and self-inflicted wounds (that “retirement” clearly didn’t stick) pushed the album back again, and again, and then yet again; until today. More than four years after Greatest Story was originally slated for release – a time period that’s seen the election of a black president and David Banner dropping a nearly identically titled project – we finally have Saigon’s historically delayed album in our hands, and while it may be too late for him to become the hip-hop heavyweight he was once poised to become, incredibly the wait sounds like it was worth it.

It doesn’t take long for Saigon to prove that he is indeed capable of the kind of aggressive lyricism that first had hip-hop nation so hyped. On The Invitation he takes the pounding beat and chops it with precise syllables, flipping between narrative flows and overarching commentary, and on Clap he speeds up the flow and adds a triumphant note to his voice, providing listeners with an optimistic but always unflinchingly real sound. Fittingly considering he blasted Atlantic for treating him like a “jingle writer,” there’s not an empty, auto-tuned club hit to be found here. Instead, be it the call ‘em out Preacher or the deeply autobiographical Oh Yeah, he never says anything he doesn’t feel, and that can’t be said about many anymore. Saigon may not do any one thing the best, there are certainly deeper lyricist, better storytellers and sharper flowers, but there aren’t many who do as many thing as well as Saigon does.

What always troubled me about Saigon was his inconsistency, both in terms of quality and topic. As we heard on his previous mixtape Warning Shots 2, one minute he’d be rhyming about the power of hope in a place of hopelessness, the next he’d be grabbing OJ Da Juiceman for a For the Love of Pu**y Remix. (Yes, that really happened.) Thankfully, there’s almost none of that inconsistency here. Instead, Greatest Story is one of the most cohesive albums I’ve heard in a minute, thank in no small part to Just Blaze’s always on point production. Kanye’s “old school Kanye” beat on the soul-sampled Alright aside, Blaze almost entirely controls Greatest Story, and the result is more than a couple stellar beats, including the rocking Bring Me Down Pt. 2, the softly pouncing Enemies and the cinematic Better Way. More importantly, Blaze’s presence ensures that there’s not a single truly skippable moment on Greatest Story - well, I’ll probably never listen to Give It To Me again – but still, that’s a level of consistency that’s now sadly rare. The one producer, one rapper renaissance continues.

In the end, the trials and tribulations of The Greatest Story Never Told may have benefited Saigon. Instead being flooded with a viral marketing campaign and absurdly hyperbolic praise or scorn, listening to this album feels like a discovery, like finding a dope album in your friend’s collection you’d never heard before. “Oh yeah,” he’d say, “that album’s been one of my favorites for years now.” In fact, between the skits and the steady stream of features (Q-Tip, Jay-Z, Black Thought, etc.) in many ways this feels like an album from a different time, you could tell me it came out in ’04 and I’d believe you, and I mean that in the best way. Who knows where Saigon will go from here, but at least for this one moment, he’s on top, and deserves to be. Let the story be told.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted February 16, 2011
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