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In 2006, Saigon had everything going for him.  Coming off a stint on Entourage where he played himself, Sai was co-signed by one of the most revered producers in the game and given a major record deal.  Just when Saigon appeared invincible, he was actually most vulnerable.  His label deal with Atlantic quickly disintegrated amidst creative conflicts, not only delaying what he proclaimed to be The Greatest Story Never Told, but putting his career in jeopardy in the process.  Bouncing back was hard for the Yardfather, but not impossible, as he solidified his status as a lyricist by creating one of the most acclaimed records on 2009, All In A Day’s Work, a collaborative album with producer Statik Selektah, recorded in a single day.  After five years of waiting, Saigon is giving the streets what they’ve been waiting for and finally telling his tale independently.

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Backed by an upper-echelon of producers such as Just Blaze (who handles the bulk of The Greatest Story) and Kayne West, Saigon manages to touch on various topics, some of which we wouldn’t expect from the New York emcee.  With that said Saigon doesn’t tell the Story by his lonesome.  He’s assisted by a jubilant list of features ranging from Jay-Z to Bun B.   The opening passages of The Greatest Story indicate that Saigon is both book and street smart as he narrates the sketchiness of street-level drug trades (“the pessimists outnumber the optimists/on the block in this, coppers they got binoculars cuz I can feel em watching us“). “The Invitation” also contains an utterly soulful instrumental courtesy of Just Blaze, which is somewhat unbalanced by Q-Tip attempting to be more lively than usual on the hook.  The Just Blazed-produced title track is nothing short of magnificent.  Sounding hungrier than ever, the Yardfather delivers social commentary along with a heaping portion of braggadocio over smooth medley of horns and jazz guitar,  spitting, “we was brought here to pick the cotton/now we pickin the music the master listen to, the clothes in which he rockin.”  Earlier in the album, Sai proves able of making a commercial record on the Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz assisted single, “Come On Baby.”

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“Enemies” is a breakthrough track that exemplifies Saigon’s unprecedented story-telling ability.  On the song, he uses a friend-turned-enemy as an allegory for the streets, which is remarkably clever.  Over a walloping snare-driven instrumental crafted by D. Allen, Sai remarks, “if you really had G/you’d have those white kids like you had me/it was they great granddaddy’s that created you, daddy/they was the ones that flooded you with gats and liquor stores/matched pimps with the whores and trade cash for intercourse.”  ‘Giddy recruits Faith Evans for the uplifting anthem, “Clap.”  The song serves as a to-do list for the ‘hood, consisting of variables to do away with, ranging from unhealthy diets to prisons.  A song like this reaffirms Sai’s claim that he and Just Blazedon’t just make songs, [they] make statements.

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The duo reiterates this point by delving into conscious territory on “Preacher,” as Saigon puts the financial exploitation of churches under a microscope.  He then draws comparison between preachers and politicians as false profits.   Saigon slips from his state off consciousness on “Give It To Me,” when he brags, “b*tch won’t f*ck me, then she must be celibate/Brad Pitt couldn’t f*ck that chick.” Somehow Saigon uses this as a stepping-stone to offer a perspective atypical of rappers on “What Lovers Do.”  Assisted by Devin The Dude, Saigon speaks on trying to respect his lady who refuses to give him some cut-up.  Not only is this song lyrical, the vibe provided by Just Blaze’s piano keys makes this a keeper.   The keys stay in line for the incredibly dope “Better Ways” which is tied together by Layzie Bone on the hook.  “Too Long” featuring Black Thought is a glorious making-it-out-the-hood tale that is another strong cut despite being a self-proclaimed a bonus track.

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The highlights of The Greatest Story vastly outweigh the pitfalls, which are seldom heard. Saigon misses a step with “Bring Me Down Pt 2,” which lacks the punch of the original mix and sonically sticks out like a sore thumb in contrast to the rest of the album.  Surprisingly, “Believe It” is the only song from the nearly four year-old album that sounds dated due to its inclusion of Auto-Tune.  “It’s Alright” (produced by Kayne West) would potentially sit better if the vocal sample was omitted from the chorus.  Otherwise, this is another strong outing for Saigon as an emcee, as he serves up social awareness by bearing a letter to God on behalf of the ‘hood before channeling his inner-Pac.  On “Oh Yeah (Our Babies),” Saigon states, “all the real gangster’s either dead or in jail/they don’t make records that sell.”  While The Greatest Story Never Told likely won’t top the best seller list, nor will it earn Saigon a Pulitzer Prize, it’s worthy of several bookmarks.


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4mics

4.0/5

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