411 Music Interview 02.18.11: Saigon
Saigon is an artist who has had his share of ups and downs in the music business. He spent much of his childhood in prison being convicted of first degree assault at the age of 15. After being released Saigon met Just Blaze and a friendship blossomed which resulted in the young rapper being signed to Atlantic records. Saigon was put out some great mixtapes as well as gained notoriety playing himself on the TV show Entourage. Despite the hype and publicity, Atlantic refused to put out the album unless Saigon added some mainstream artists and more radio friendly tracks. Not wanting to bend on his artistic integrity Saigon refused, and his battle with Atlantic records continued for over 4 years. Saigon eventually was freed from his record contract and given the masters to his album after a long battle.
Saigon quickly signed with SubNoize Records who gave him complete freedom to put his album out the way he wanted. His album was given a proper release date and it has remained basically unchanged from the version he recorded 4 years ago. With some tracks from the album being leaked long ago, the album has been on hip hop fans most wanted list for many years, with the anticipation increasing with each delay. With the recent release of the album (The Greatest Story Never Told), we recently had the chance to talk to Saigon about the album, as well as how he met Just Blaze, and the situation with Atlantic.
Q: How are you feeling about finally seeing the release of tha album after all the delays?
Saigon: Umm I am feeling good man, the energy’s good, you know we streamed it on MySpace and it has been getting great feedback so far, people are feeling the electricity, people appreciate the effort. I felt this album deserved the light of day, deserved a proper release, and its finally getting one and I am excited man, very excited.
Q: I’m am not going to talk too much about the Atlantic situation, as you have spoken about it many times, but when you first turned the album in to Atlantic many years ago, to the album that is in stores, has the album gone through some changes or has it remained similar to the album you originally turned into Atlantic?
Saigon: The album is pretty much the same album, we just took off one song, and added 2 more. Other then that it is the same exact album, and we added a bonus cut at the end, so the album is pretty much how it is supposed to be.
Q: When you first got your release from Atlantic, what made you sign with SubNoize records?
Saigon: I signed with SubNoize, because they said all the right things, I talked to those cats, Brad and everybody and I told them I had a vision and the only way I was going to do the deal was if they let me follow my lead and let me bring what I wanted to bring to fruition. We sat, and they was with it and we made it happen.
Q: Do you think with the emergence of this independent labels, that the power is shifting out of the hands of the major labels, and back into the hands of the artists?
Saigon: Hh absolutely because, they are not selling their records themselves now and a lot of artists they need that empowerment and the majors ain’t giving it to you. The majors want a piece of your publishing, they want a piece of your merch, a piece of your tours, they want everything so it kind of doesn’t make sense for a human being to go down that road. That’s how artists make money. They are already making all the money on the royalties, because you don’t really make money off the record sales, and they want a piece of where we make our money, which is on the road.
Q: Do you think the delays that the album has gone through, may have actually ended up helping it?
Saigon: Absolutely. If this album does remotely well I look like genius. You know what I’m saying? The album is pretty pricey, but they invested in me and they recorded it, they paid for me to record, but they didn’t like what I recorded so they just made me sit around for a long time. They let me leave with my music because I was passionate about my music as long as you let me have my music I am going to be ok, you know what I’m saying?
Q: It seems rare that when you leave a record label that they would give you your masters to your album, how did you manage to work that?
Saigon: It was just paperwork. They still have some invested interests in the Greatest Story Never Told, so it’s not 100% free. Its mine but we still got an understanding with Atlantic records you know, but its good, I just wanted to get the music out. At this point I just wanted to get the music out without just leaking it and disrespecting everyone that worked so hard on it, so it was more like ok lets go.
Q: Did you ever almost leak it?
Saigon: Oh ya ya, many times, probably 10 times, I had it ready, where all had to do was press enter, it was all set up on sendspace ready to fly (laughing), you know what I mean, but I was like nahh something’s going to happen. Out of respect for Just Blaze and out of respect for all the other people that worked on it, I thought better of it. You know a lot of work went into this album, which people can tell when they hear it. So I didn’t want to be that selfish.
Q: Speaking of Just Blaze, how did the two of you meet?
Saigon: Through a DJ named Sycamore, DJ Sycamore, he was helping me out when I was doing the mixtape thing, he and Just established a relationship and he was like ‘yo would want to work with Just Blaze?’ I was like man, of course I would, who wouldn’t want to work with Just Blaze? So like that’s the way it happened and things transpired, I went and met him and he gave me a cd with 5 beats on it. He was like ‘Sai, pick one of these beats and do a song’. Just to impress him I took the cd and I did 5 songs that night, I did a song to every beat and brought it back the next day, like I’m hungry, I ain’t playing, you know (laughing)?
I brought it to him like ‘I’m hungry ‘and he was like, ‘damn kid you are real serious about your business’. From that point on we have been working together ever since, that was almost 7 years ago.
Q: You can actually feel that hunger on the album. Sometimes I feel that after an artist’s debut record, they somewhat lose that hunger. How are you going to keep that hunger?
Saigon: I am only going to get hungrier, now my first album is out and everybody knows my album is a classic, now I feel that I can go out there and make another one and try to top this. I got to try and top this which is not going to be easy, but I think we can pull it off.
Q: You had a role on the TV series Entourage, how do you feel that has helped your career?
Saigon: It just introduced me to a different group of people that might not have heard of Saigon. A lot of people that watched the show would go online and Google me and find out that I am really an artists, so it just kind of put my name out there and helped me get different kind of jobs because people know me from the show and acting gigs and things that are coming up, so you know it did wonders for me.
Q: Do you have any other acting gigs lined up?
Saigon: I have a lot lined up, but I have put it to the side so I can focus on getting the situation for this album, but now that the album is out the way, we are going to go forward full steam with the acting. You are going to be seeing a lot of Saigon coming up.
Q: One of my favorite songs off the album was Bring Me Down Pt. 2, it has a somewhat different feel from your other songs, how did you go about making that sound?
Saigon: Just me getting in that zone, that triumphant, where I feel like I am Rocky running up the mountain, like don’t bring me down, because a lot of people be counting me out. You know they say that I got dropped off the majors, that the majors ain’t messing with me anymore, once they put that word, that stigma on you, people start to believe it. I fought for my release, I didn’t get dropped, they actually wouldn’t drop me. I was begging to get dropped; I was like drop me please…! I just got off Atlantic in 2010, people don’t realize I was on Atlantic all these years. When I got out, I just felt like nothing is going to stop me.
Q: I heard rumours there is other parts to the song.
Saigon: There is a part 3 with Joe Budden and there is a Canadian version that I did with Swollen Members, we about to do another version with Yelawolf.
Q: Why are so many people drawn to that song?
Saigon: I think people can relate to it, you know what I’m saying, you ain’t going to bring me down, no matter what, we here to stay, you know what I’m saying. It can be a regular person, it can be an athlete, it can be a bully is picking on you, it’s so relatable, you aint going to bring me down, I think that is the reason why people gravitate .
Q: The song Believe It on the album has some real powerful lyrics, but a question I had was who was that singing the hook?
Saigon: Justin Blaze. Justin Blaze with that machine on his throat (laughing). We recorded this record 5 years ago, before the auto tune craze. We planned on doing it with T-Pain, but T-Pain wanted too much money, he wanted like $80,000. So I thought it sounded dope with Just Blaze doing the hook so we kept it.
Q: Which songs do you like doing live from the album?
Saigon: Bring Me Down, I like to do the Greatest Story Never Told, I haven’t performed a lot of songs from the album yet, mostly just bring me down, that’s it.
Q: Do you have plans for a big tour in support of the album?
Saigon: Ya, ya, we going on the road starting next month, I’m hitting the road, getting busy, spreading the gospel, the greatest story never told. I can’t wait to perform Oh ya, that one of my favorite songs on the record.
For an album that I have been listening to for 5 years, for people to accept it, I know it can stand the test of time, I still listen to it, I still got it in my car. I am glad that people are receptive to it and showing me that love.
Q: The title to the album was somewhat ironic, as the album was almost shelved, along those lines, do you have a title for your next album?
Saigon: People kept asking me if this was all a hoax, I was like nahh, but it was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy (laughing). I think I might call the second one Thank God. Thank God, because that is the first thing we should do when we wake up and the first thing we do when we rest our eyes, thank god you know?
I think the next album theme, the whole theme is going to be triumph, I overcame a lot in my life, so my next album is going to be more about Bryan then Saigon.
Q: You have gone through a lot in your life, even being in jail, yet on the album you don’t really glorify that part of your life, is that something you made a conscious effort not to do?
Saigon: I try to not glorify and just keep it honest, because the life I come from, but these rappers try to glorify but they never really lived it. Anybody that really lived it, that street life and that gangsta lifestyle, knows that there is nothing but death and darkness around it. That’s nothing to try and act like its cool, when you are looking over your shoulder every five minutes because there is people that want to kill you and there is police that want to lock you up. That is nothing to glorify, especially when the music is marketed to children. They market hiphop to kids and they tell you 35 or older you are too old to be a rapper, you know what I’m saying? Hip hop got an early out, it ain’t like rock were you can be a 35 year old rock star, hip hop wants you out by 25. They market it to young people but it has adult content and that s the thing that throws me off.
Q: Will you ever make an album without Just Blaze?
Saigon: I will never, me and Just had this conversation just a couple days ago, I will not make an album without Just Blaze at the helm of it, I refuse to. If somebody else calls me up and says I want to do something special, I am going to respond ‘can Just Blaze be involved?’ (laughing). Is there some way we can ask Just and come to him humbly. Just Blaze is going to go down so big in history. This guy started the scene, we are just starting to see how great this dude is. Trust me he has some stuff that is coming out that is really going to blow people away. The stuff I rapped over is 5 years old. He build up a lot of stuff since then so I can’t wait to get to work on the next one.
Q: Since long delay of your album, while you have put out some mixtapes, do you have a bug backlog of songs that you recorded during that 5 year delay?
Saigon: Ya I got a bunch of stuff, I have been working with another producer, his name is DJ Corbett, he did the original Bring Me Down. He did part 1 and Just and him went in and remixed it together and Just Blaze added the Just Blaze effect to it and it turned into such a big record. He also did the song Too Long with Black Thought, the bonus track, which is another one of my favorites; I liked that one a lot.
Q: Saigon, thank you for your time, and congratulations on a great album. Is there anything else you would like to add before we go?
Saigon: Thank you guys man, I appreciate it man. Everybody please go support that masterpiece that genuine, real, from the heart hiphop. I know everybody said they got real hiphop but I got true hiphop, its true. Any hiphop purist, I don’t care who it is or what era they come from it could be Cool Herc he will tell you that this shit is pure hip hop. I also want to thank 411 for all the love and support. Peace.