During the time between the release of the Yardfather mixtapes in the early 2000s and his 2011 debut album, The Greatest Story Never Told, Saigon has squeezed in every important event in a rapper’s life.
Attempted chain snatching? Check.
Beef with Prodigy? Affirmative.
Felony weapons charges? You bet.
A retirement that didn’t last? Oh yes.
Issues with the record label? Of course.
An album that just kept getting pushed back time and time again? Please believe it. Throw in the seven-year prison sentence and an acting gig and he’s an endorsed liquor away from hitting every rapper cliché. And after years of delay after delay, Saigon can finally add “Rapper Who Dropped A Much-Anticipated Debut Album” to the collection.
The Greatest Story Never Told has left Detox behind in the mythical world and has entered the realm of reality, and not a moment too soon. Just as Joell Ortiz was preparing his acceptance speech for the “2011 Album that Brings New York Back” award for Free Agent, Saigon rushes the stage like Kanye West to let him know that he’s got competition. Prison-tested yet Hollywood-approved with a delivery honed by the street albums, mixtapes, and radio freestyles, Saigon wastes neither time nor bars in establishing The Greatest Story Never Told as an album that deserved the hype. “The Invitation” is the sampler platter to let you know what you’ll be listening to for the next 80 minutes: some drug talk, some political thoughts, a little social justice, and a healthy distrust of law enforcement, backed by Just Blaze’s hard-hitting-meets-churchgoing heaters that complement Saigon’s New York-to-the-core style. Just Blaze deployed his stockpile of top-shelf beats for The Greatest Story Never Told, a necessary tactic in that Saigon is a talented storyteller and does not throw out empty bars, preferring to keep the pressure on throughout the album, which can be a challenge for the listener if they’re stuck with less-than production. Saigon can be a heavy listen, but real talk isn’t something meant to be taken lightly; you can’t drop and get your eagle on to lyrics about corruption in the church (the standout “Preacher”) or backstabbers (“Friends”).
For all the bad news that Saigon brings, he makes sure to do the socially responsible thing and taps Faith Evans to lead the choir in “Clap”, a contender for the “Keep Ya Head Up” for this new generation. Saigon uses the age-old technique of putting the fire at the front of the album to draw us in to the deeper stuff in the middle and end. Just minutes ago I was listening to lyrics about the yard, now I’m knee-deep in saving the children. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just from the guy who snuffed Prodigy in the face.
The Greatest Story Never Told is just as much about Just Blaze as it is Saigon, but for much different reasons. For Saigon, it’s the fulfillment of prophecy, the album rumored to be one of the hottest hip-hop has seen since 1994. For Just Blaze, it’s the last wake-up call for anybody who doesn’t mention him in their first breath when discussing hip-hop’s best producers. While Just Blaze rationed out the heaters like “Exhibit C” and “Why You Hate The Game” that would be right at home on Greatest Story, he empties his clip and dares any detractors left to shoot back, save for the blank that was fired, the guitar-driven “Bring Me Down Pt. 2”, the latest in this rock-influenced movement that Eminem and Dr. Dre are doing now that I fear is going to be on Detox. Pardon my incessant need to thug, but when I want to hear some rock music I’ll throw on some Deftones, thanks.
Similar to Free Agent, Greatest Story is what the New York diehards were waiting for, though the two albums are remarkably different. Ortiz on Free Agent is witty and can be imagined delivering some of his lines with a smirk. Saigon is a tough product of the pissy stairwells offering cautionary tales while wearing the screwface, but it’s not dark and grimy like Wu-Tang or other celebrated New Yorkers. It has a feeling of triumph and celebration, a three-way party: Saigon celebrates the fact that this album finally saw the light of day and that it lived up to the considerable hype. Just Blaze can celebrate a piece of work that will become synonymous with his name, much like Doggystyle and The Chronic have become for Dr. Dre and the Gang Starr albums for DJ Premier. And the long-suffering New York rap crowd can embrace and rally around an album that may finally prove to be what they were waiting for.[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/09-Saigon-Clap-Feat.-Faith-Evans-RGF.mp3|titles=Saigon – Clap (Feat. Faith Evans)]