Review: Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told
“Clap your hands if your loving that Just Blaze shit, cause we don’t just make songs we make statements.”
Saigon’s story, after so many years of delays, is finally being told thanks to his first studio album, The Greatest Story Never Told. Don’t assume Saigon is a newcomer to the game just because this is his first studio album; he has been releasing original content for the past 10 years via mix tapes and street albums. While this is Saigon’s album, his child, the same can be said for producer Just Blaze, who executive produced the entire album. Together, Saigon and Just Blaze were on a mission to create a deep, lyrical album backed by intricate beats. They managed to accomplish this, and then some. Each track flows into one another with masterful flow, and Saigon’s story never really ends because of this. It’s not a jumbled collection of thoughts from Saigon with some slick beats; it is more of a culmination of Saigon’s efforts to become a serious recording artist, but at the same time signifies his jump-off point to finally gain the respect he deserves. He may deserve the praise and attention, but because of numerous delays and loss of interest from some, Saigon’s story might be a few years too late.
It’s hard to pinpoint a climax for the album because of how strong each track truly is. With that said, it is easy to identify the albums greatest weakness, which can also be its greatest strength. Almost every song and skit transitions into one another with ease. This makes for a unique experience that keeps the listener on their toes, anticipating how the end of one track will tie into the beginning of the next track. Just Blaze’s beats are great in their own right, but the way he tied them all together is what makes them special. This comes with a negative, however, in that it sometimes makes Saigon’s lyrics seem like they are just there to carry the beats along. Just Blaze is the executive producer, which of course lead to a lot of the beats sounding similar. It was expected. This is fine, because of the production quality, but it puts listeners in a trance that takes away from the meaning of Saigon’s lyrics. The beat of “It’s Alright” transitions into “Believe It” so well that by the time you get to the second track you aren’t really paying attention to the lyrics, unless that is your sole intention of listening at the time. Which is a shame, because “Believe It”, like many other tracks, feature some strong lyrics: “The rap figures throwing money in the air like it’s pizza dough/people in the hood ain’t eatin’ though/I try to help the label see the vision, but they lower me to a sub-division, you gotta be f-cking kidding/they rather me pretend to be something I’m not/I’m the new Public Enemy, I’m different than Young Joc…”
The album kicks off real strong with “The Invitation” featuring Q-Tip and Fatman Scoop. The drums and various sound samples in the background give the track a real old school sound; something the whole album possesses. Then comes a transition that flows so smoothly into the next track, “Come On Baby”, that some might think it is the same track or a ‘part two’. The beat switches up in favor of something that sounds even more old school to accommodate features from Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz; easily the two highest profile names on the track list. It is definitely one of the most memorable tracks on the album thanks to some incredible verses from both Saigon and Jay-Z along with some catchy word play from Swizz. Cut to a skit where Hot 97’s Miss Info talks to a happy-go-lucky white guy who describes his amazing life. Then we are given a perspective from the “colored side of town” where police sirens and gunshots are constantly heard. It could be Saigon’s way of showing the fans and listeners what his life was like growing up. Or it might just be a reflection of the struggles of many communities in our country. Either way, it’s a very entertaining skit that ties into the next track, which is when things really pick up for the album.
“Bring Me Down” is, to me, the best song on the album. It has a powerful hook that escalates with the beat and verses that feature powerful lyrics from Saigon: “I’m too high but it’s not from a drug/It’s not from a drink, it’s not from a night at the club/It’s not from abroad, it’s not what I caught from the dealer/I would tell ya, but if I tell ya, then I gotta kill ya/the greatest story is me and now I’m kinda scared…” A small skit plays and then ties into the next track, “Enemies”. Towards the end of the track background vocals sound off over Saigon’s raps chanting, “Watch out for your friend”. This is directly tied into the next track, which is conversely titled “Friends”, but is another track where Saigon raps about the people in life that will turn into back stabbers with the flip of a switch. Then comes the title track, “The Greatest Story Never Told”, with a beat that is a little too familiar to the previous track but features some more tight lyrics.
The entirety of The Greatest Story Never Told is an album that cannot be, and should not be, written about in the span of a review. The album feels a bit weaker towards the ending tracks but is still fantastic in its own right. The 12-minute combination of “It’s Alright” and “Believe It” escalates as the beat(s) carries on, adding in tons of different effects and background vocals. “It’s Alright” also takes the title as the only song on the album that wasn’t officially produced by Just Blaze; those rights belong to Kanye West, but Just Blaze probably had a hand in the production of the track seeing as how it ties into the next song on the album without flaw. Then there is the mesmerizing transition from “Better Way” into “Oh Yeah” with piano keys playing over a short dialogue from a child describing a gang shoot-up outside his home, which is then followed by more compelling bars from Saigon. Some might say Saigon’s story is outdated. Sometimes this plays in Saigon’s favor, and sometimes it does not. It’s interesting to see the release of an album that has literally been completed for years now but couldn’t find its way out to the public. If it was released when it was originally planned to be, it would have attracted a lot more attention for Saigon, something he isn’t getting much of with the release of his debut album in 2011. Now Saigon, and Just Blaze, are getting the chance to deliver this album to the extremely patient fans the way they wanted to, albeit a few years late. Listen to some of the songs before purchase to see if it’s for you. Repetitive, but incredible, beats might annoy some people, but in the end it all comes together and results in one of the most interesting rap projects in recent memory. A hidden gem for sure.