Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told

written by: March 9, 2011
Saigon Greatest Story Never Told Album Cover Release Date: February 15, 2011


Saigon is a great example of an occasionally clever rapper (take a peak at the chorus of “Enemies”) who spouts about the things he lives (the rest of “Enemies”). He’s lived a large part of the things that he raps about. Sure, he’s probably never murdered someone, but the fact that he vacillates between self-titled “murder rap” and “Jesus Walks”-isms would’ve seemed logical. But now? Now Saigon’s long-anticipated debut album, The Greatest Story Never Told, seems like a gelatinous smattering of meaningless verses piqued by perhaps the greatest work Just Blaze has ever done.

This is not meant to ask Saigon to assume a character and stick to it completely. That only works for talented character actor/rappers: Kanye plays Hedonist, Andre 3000 plays turn of the 19th century minstrel, and Jay-Z won’t stop insisting that he’s still a gangster.

Saigon isn’t in that stratosphere and will never be. But TGSNT could’ve resembled something like T.I.’s Trap Muzik, a boisterous popular introduction to a powerful force in rap. Instead, Saigon alternates between the persona he knows his compatriots want him to assume (a caricature level thug rapper) and the reality of his situation (a socially conscious 32-year-old that just wants to talk about the slums). When he sticks to the latter, Saigon can be inadvertently brilliant, somewhat akin to Wale (“Clap,” the joyous and ebullient socially conscious bouncer, is a high watermark).

But, more often than not, he falls back into doing what those want him to do. Ironically enough, the times he falls back into stereotype alternate between earnestness and “fuck you” swagger. “Better Way” is a sad acknowledgment that Saigon has gotten where he is now by assuming a character. He may not be that character, and he certainly tries his hardest not to be. But when push comes to shove and the hits have to get made and a character has to be built, Saigon does what the greats don’t—he folds.

Look no further than the ludicrous “What the Lovers Do” for confirmation. The entire song feels like Saigon is trying to say something different about the sometimes painfully misogynistic romantic practices of most rappers. Then, when the target of his affections refuses his most “heartfelt” advance, he leaves because she won’t back that ass up. Whether Saigon wanted to write this, or whether it was a sort of pressured effort to assume an identity is irrelevant; it pulls the curtain away from Saigon’s altruistic character, and his Robin Hood voice never recovers.

For what it’s worth, Saigon absolutely rips Jay-Z to pieces on “C’mon Baby,” providing yet another confirmation that Jay-Z should probably bow out of the rap game. But even if Saigon were sticking to a specific frame of reference, Just Blaze is still stealing his show. In the annals of underrated beatmen, listeners probably wouldn’t include Just Blaze. But, after TGSNT, he deserves to be in the conversation.

Producing the first 10 tracks of the album, Blaze handles the reins of Saigon’s most important record with confidence and gusto. Powerfully choral, Blaze employs live percussion, guitars and an undercurrent of bass that never overpowers enough to weigh into the subwoofers too much. Part of the reason TGSNT seems so long is that Blaze lets others take over the last half of the record, and the energy he brought to it never returns. Blaze’s beats from a chapel-style approach to Saigon’s record makes a convincing case that the man who really screwed his shot up is Saigon himself.

It should be mentioned that the “Bring Me Down, Pt. 2” beat treads the finest line between excellence and abject shit. The chorus rips off Eminem’s new “rap-rock” fetish, while also providing a classic hip-hop backdrop.

Saigon certainly seems like he has a lot to say, but for a man who has been running the mixtape circuit for almost six years now, he should know that just because he stepped up to the LP game doesn’t mean he has to compromise his core statements for generic piss-ant clichés. He’s better than that and he knows it. Blaze probably knows it, too, or he would not have tried so hard to bring The Greatest Story Never Told to where it—unfortunately—must fall.

Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told tracklist:

  1. “Station Identification (Intro)”
  2. “The Invita Saigon”
  3. “Come on Baby”
  4. “War”
  5. “Enemies”
  6. “Friends”
  7. “The Greatest story Never Told”
  8. “Clap”
  9. “Preacher”
  10. “It’s Alright”
  11. “Believe It”
  12. “Give It to Me”
  13. “What the Lovers Do”
  14. “Better Way”
  15. “Oh Yeah (Our Babies)”
  16. “Bring Me Down”