Saigon – The Greatest Rapper You Never Heard

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It’s sad that it’s come to this. It’s been almost 10 years since I first heard of Saigon. I covered his first vinyl single “Say Yes” back in 2001 for a now-defunct underground hip-hop website ran by a fat fuck with a Napoleonic complex and imaginary wife. It was also the year of the Jay-Z-Nas beef and a million subliminals, but there was something to Saigon that kept me intrigued. He had a certain intangible quality that made you wanna track down everything he’s ever done and cherish it. Back then I described him as “An artist whose whole style is throwback with a razor-sharp new millennium swagger.” Maybe it’s the rap nerd in us (me) that makes us (….me) compare all new rappers to those that came before. The desire to designate lineage, to determine who influenced who, and how. With Sai, he combined everything that was great about hip-hop to me: the street storytelling techniques of Kool G Rap, the intelligent lyricism of Nas, the intricate rhyme patterns of Rakim and the unbridled passion of 2Pac. To boot, he even had the undisputed credibility to speak about the lifestyle he vividly detailed in both sorrow and glorification.

In my own opinion, he was the most talented rapper to debut in the 00s. And perhaps that’s been part of the problem – the expectations of his first release (and subsequent lack of). The response was always the same – “he’s a nobody til he drops an album,” or some variant phrasing. I have to admit that I’ve never truly supported that standpoint. I almost feel like artists these days should be judged on their mixtapes over their albums, because it’s the only true platform they have left where they hold complete creative control. Their project won’t be micromanaged by the label, nor is there a need for them to compromise their sound in the search of that elusive hot single. There’s a reason the “mixtape was better” criticism is so common (Jadakiss and Fabolous stand up). But in reality, there’s also a reason why distributed albums are held in a higher regard. They create tangible statistics (Soundscans to track impact), their official release dates garner more critical scrutiny (media junkets/albums reviews, both key in constructing an artist’s legacy) and while there are exceptions (Drake, 50 Cent), you will be remembered first and foremostly for them. And perhaps that’s where the true tragedy lies. For despite the plethora of dope music Saigon has released, he’ll never be remembered as one of the great MCs because of this. Not even of his own generation. He’ll be relegated to a footnote in hip-hop history. Canibus 2k. All the talent in the world but no classics to show for it. And to a degree this is unfair.

Saigon was a standout student in the class of 2001. A class whose varsity lettermen included names like Joe Budden, Grafh and Ali Vegas. Unfortunately, they never graduated. Held back through a mixture of shifts in major label talent scouting due to the death of independents, boutique deals for veteran acts and the downloading boom, the door was firmly closed to developing new artists. In return, this hampered hip-hop as a whole. Well, at least in terms of New York. Renowned for its survival of the fittest mentality, where rappers without juice get pushed off the roof, the scene became sterile. No new artists being developed meant no new styles to cultivate, and when one happened to get signed (50 Cent), he instantly duplicated the existing formula of a previous rapper (Ja Rule). As a response, listener’s voted with their ears and opted for the brand new sound 700 miles to the south. Atlanta displaced NYC as the new hotbed for hip-hop and R&B.

As for Saigon, he linked up with Just Blaze in 2004, but despite the combination of one of the hottest producers in the game and rumors of a New York messiah, a debut release to this day remains difficult to secure. Since his signing, he’s been plagued with a series of false starts, negative blog attention and publicized run-ins with his former label, Atlantic Records. And still no major debut. 10 long years. Recently, I`ve wondered how his career would’ve turned out if… say he’d arrived on the scene in the late 90s instead, or if the aforementioned label meltdowns didn’t take place. Could he be on his third album right now? Would the joints have actually been any good? Did he have at least one classic in him like all the greats do? Using the music he’s promoted and released, I’ve tried to piece together an LP for each stage of his career thus far. Production includes Just Blaze, The Alchemist, Ayatollah, Scram Jones, Nottz, Heatamakerz, Mark Ronson and 9th Wonder. Greatest rapper of his generation, or just another nondescript NY mixtape rapper who never lived up to the hype? Using this collection, make your own minds up. Now, can anyone explain to me what the fuck a papoose is?

— Snoop Bloggy Blogg

Saigon - Abandoned Nation

Saigon – Abandoned Nation (2001-2005)
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01 Saigon – Intro
02 Saigon – The Color Purple
03 Saigon – Say Yes
04 Saigon – Contraband
05 Saigon – The Letter P ft Kool G Rap
06 Saigon – The Raw ft Inspectah Deck
07 Saigon – Bust Yo Guns ft Tru Life
08 Saigon – Come Again
09 Saigon – Ay Ay Ay Nigga
10 Saigon – Bin Laden on the Hook
11 Saigon – DiDuntDiDunt
12 Saigon – Stocking Cap
13 Saigon – True Story
14 Saigon – The Corner
15 Saigon – Out There
16 Saigon – Shok TV
17 Saigon – Contraband rmx

Saigon - Greatest Story Never Told

Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told (2005-2007)
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01 Saigon – Top 5 Greatest Alive
02 Saigon – Don’t Do That
03 Saigon – Saigon
04 Saigon – Do the Damn Thang
05 Saigon – Contraband 2
06 Saigon – Pain in my Life ft Trey Songz
07 Saigon – Change the Game
08 Saigon – Breathe Through the Years
09 Saigon – Trans-Atlantic Slave Deal
10 Saigon – Do You Know
11 Saigon – I Ain’t No Joke ft Grafh
12 Saigon – Eat
13 Saigon – No More ft Razah
14 Saigon – Pain in my Life rmx ft The Game & BG

Saigon - Within Arm's Reach

Saigon – In Arm’s Reach (2007-2010)
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01 Saigon – Anybody Can Get It
02 Saigon – C’mon Baby
03 Saigon – The Rules ft Busta Rhymes
04 Saigon – Gotta Believe It ft Just Blaze
05 Saigon – Saigon Meets Just Blaze
06 Saigon – World War 4 ft Lil’ Fame
07 Saigon – Who Can Get Busy ft Grand Puba
08 Saigon – Spit
09 Saigon – Say Yes 2
10 Saigon – Change Gon’ Come
11 Saigon – Dreamz
12 Saigon – She Knocks Me Out
13 Saigon – What a Life ft Tre Williams
14 Saigon – For Some Pussy
15 Saigon – C’mon Baby rmx ft Jay-Z & Swizz Beats

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